Arrow Heads Vol. 54: CRIMSON PEAK Gets a Sumptuous Release (Review and Unboxing)

Guillermo del Toro’s Gothic romance gets the treatment it deserves

UK version pictured above. The (15) rating insignia does not appear on the US release.

Arrow Heads — UK-based Arrow Films has quickly become one of the most exciting and dependable names in home video curation and distribution, creating gorgeous Blu-ray releases with high quality artwork and packaging, and bursting with supplemental content, often of their own creation. From the cult and genre fare of Arrow Video to the artful cinema of Arrow Academy, this column is devoted to their weird and wonderful output.

Crimson Peak. Misunderstood. Underappreciated. Both? While some including director Guillero del Toro suggest it was hamstrung by a big budget and expectations, the film still garnered a cult following, one which recognizes its distinct aesthetic, and marriage of Gothic romance and horror. Now Arrow films, purveyors of boutique home video releases, have put together a collectors edition that reflects how cherished the film is by some, one stuffed with extras, and housed in a package as resplendent as the film itself.

Crimson Peak tells of young Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), an aspiring horror writer residing with her wealthy father Carter (Jim Beaver) in Buffalo, New York, in 1887. Her literary leanings stem from a supernatural encounter she had as a young child, a visitation of her recently deceased mother as a young child, one that carried a warning. She encounters Baronet Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), an English nobleman who has intentions on securing a loan from her father to reinvigorate his family home and source of income, Allendale Hall. It’s a manor sat atop a mine which is the source of a unique type of clay, vibrant in red color, thus giving the estate its nickname “Crimson Peak.” A bond quickly forms between the two much to the disappointment of fellow suitor and long time friend Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam). The sudden death of her father precipitates a dramatic move to England, where as the new wife of Thomas she seeks to make a new home, but the chilly presence of his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) makes things difficult. Matters are further complicated when Edith starts to see ghostly figures walking the halls, figures that soon lead Edith on a path to discovering a macabre mystery surrounding Allendale and the Sharpe siblings.

Crimson Peak has elements of a ghost tale, but the backbone of the film is really a period romance, a love triangle formed between Edith, Thomas, and his Machiavellian sister Lucille. It’s a dark but captivating tale, entwined with the mystery surrounding Allendale and its inhabitants. The tropes are there: a flighty young thing swept up by a charming gentleman, the foreboding house with the off-limit floors, the unhinged family member, repressed sexual tension, the characters that fit into expected roles. Despite this feeling of familiarity, the del Toro influence and an engaging cast (Hiddleston and Chastain especially) elevate it and provide some welcome texture and surprises.

The film revolves around Edith, an independent woman who seeks to rally against her natural place in society but only finds herself caught up in the machinations of others. Portrayed as a strong but at times passive creature, as things become increasingly stacked against her she strengthens her resolve to discover the truth behind her circumstance and the dark history of this estate. Crimson Peak is essentially a love letter from del Toro to multiple genres and sources, incorporating facets of Bronte, Hitchcock, and even the horror tropes of the Hammer film classics. These are blended with the director’s own unique traits, notably his potent visceral punches of violence, and distinct visuals, aided by cinematographer Dan Laustsen. A vibrant blend of romance, horror, and intrigue.

The Package

There is nothing in the package that suggests this is a new transfer of the film, still the image quality is very nice indeed. Plenty of detail showcasing the incredible production design. Vibrant colors, and generally deep blacks, although some of the darker moments do seem to lose a little definition though. As for the packaging of the release, well dayumn…

The release is designed by Crimson Peak concept artist Guy Davis. The box housing appears like a book, one when opened reveals a fabric tab to pull and lift out the inner contents, and the disc of the film itself.

Inside the housing is a series of art cards depicting the main cast, a folded, double-sided mini-poster, and a hardback book.

The book is of good quality, with over 80 pages filled with various collected articles and essays on the film, an interview with del Toro, production and behind the scenes photos, as well as a host of original conceptual art from Guy Davis and Oscar Chichoni.

Extra Features:

Arrow looks to have brought over the extra material included in the original Blu-ray release, and added a selection of their own too, making for a rather stuffed release.

  • Audio commentary by co-writer and director Guillermo Del Toro: Any commentary from del Toro is a treat, this is no different. His insights and love of film is genuine and infectious
  • The House is Alive: Constructing Crimson Peak: Labelled as ‘newly edited’, so seemingly a reworking of an existing featurette, which largely delivers interviews and behind the scenes footage
  • Previously unseen Spanish language interview with Guillermo Del Toro: As with the commentary, hearing the filmmaker speak is always worthwhile
  • The Gothic Corridor, The Scullery, The Red Clay Mines, The Limbo Fog Set; four featurettes exploring different aspects of Allerdale Hall: a more in depth focus/look at four main sets for the film used in various set-pieces
  • A Primer on Gothic Romance, the director and stars talk about the key traits of Gothic romance: A nice retrospective piece on some of the aspects of the genre that inspired the film, and are paid homage to
  • The Light and Dark of Crimson Peak: Cast and crew discuss the films look and color palettes, which surprisingly include crimson, and the two main locations depicted in the film
  • Hand Tailored Gothic, a featurette on the film’s striking costumes: Some of the costume design is phenomenal, intricate and stunningly detailed. Worthy of its own featurette
  • A Living Thing, a look at the design, modelling and construction of the Allerdale Hall sets: Another overview of the structure that dominates the film. Attention to detail and period authenticity is truly impressive
  • Beware of Crimson Peak: a walking tour of the Allerdale Hall set with the ever charming Tom Hiddleston
  • Crimson Phantoms: a featurette on the practical effects, and CGI enhancements, used to bring the ghostly apparitions of the film to life
  • Kim Newman on Crimson Peak and the Tradition of Gothic Romance, a newly filmed interview with author and critic: Just under 20 minutes in length, he discusses the genre elements of the film as well as del Toro’s endless fascination with them
  • Violence and Beauty in Guillermo Del Toro’s Gothic Fairy Tale Films, a new video essay by the writer Kat Ellinger: A nicely built visual essay that is both eloquent and insightful
  • Deleted scenes: five segments, sadly no commentary or context added for exclusion
  • Original trailers and TV spots:

The Bottom Line

Crimson Peak is a film that is brimming with creativity while also being a throwback to an older era of movies, and a love-letter to genre film. A supernatural Gothic mystery married to a twisted love triangle. It exudes macabre style and that undeniable del Toro flourish. Kudos to Arrow for offering up a package as resplendent as the film itself.

Crimson Peak is available via MVD Entertainment from January 15th.

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