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Crimson Peak: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Review

Crimson Peak (2015) movie poster Crimson Peak

Theatrical Release: October 16, 2015 / Running Time: 119 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Guillermo del Toro / Writers: Guillermo del Toro, Matthew Robbins

Cast: Mia Wasikowska (Edith Cushing), Jessica Chastain (Lucille Sharpe), Tom Hiddleston (Thomas Sharpe), Charlie Hunnam (Dr. Alan McMichael), Jim Beaver (Carter Cushing), Burn Gorman (Holly), Leslie Hope (Mrs. McMichael), Doug Jones (Edith's Mother, Lady Sharpe), Jonathan Hyde (Oglivie), Bruce Gray (Ferguson), Emily Coutts (Eunice), Alec Stockwell (Finlay), Brigitte Robinson (Secretary Jane)

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Though titled and marketed like a surreal horror film, Crimson Peak actually offers a distinct change of pace for Pan's Labyrinth,
Hellboy, and Pacific Rim director Guillermo del Toro. Crimson is primarily a Gothic romance, recalling such works as Jane Eyre and Rebecca. Of course, this being a del Toro film, though, you can expect some fantastical supernatural elements to be fully realized through the mix of effects and production design that defines and distinguishes the filmmaker's work.

Crimson opens with our protagonist, Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska, picking up her 1,000th costume drama credit), recalling a visit from the ghost of her mother as a child. The ghost warned of Crimson Peak, a place not yet meaning anything to us. Edith is fond of literature and is even attempting to break into fiction herself. Her life changes when she meets Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), a "baronet" with a clay-mining pitch for her tycoon father (Jim Beaver).

Mia Wasikowska strikes a classic gothic romance pose with candelabra in hand as "Crimson Peak" protagonist Edith Cushing.

Thomas begins to fall for Edith, which upsets Mr. Cushing and prompts him to write a check for both Thomas and his strange sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) to get out of town but not before Thomas is to break Edith's heart. Instead, there is a murder and then a wedding, which sees Edith moving into the Sharpes' haunted family mansion in England, where she is visited by disturbing red otherworldly presences as she tries to make sense of the skeletons in the family's closet, her husband's connection to a woman named Enola, and the bright-colored sludge that pervades the grounds.

In Crimson Peak, del Toro, who shares screenplay credit with Hollywood veteran Matthew Robbins (*batteries not included, Mimic, Dragonslayer), shows greater interest in story and characters than he typically does. The director forgoes his signature obsession with surreal imagery and design minutiae. There are still opportunities for him to build a compelling world that isn't short on design. But in this instance, the details are serving a story. That story is deliberately derivative of other Gothic novels and films, only with the unsettling CGI and violence you expect of a 2015 del Toro movie.

There's something off about the Sharpe siblings Thomas (Tom Hiddleston) and Lucille (Jessica Chastain).

The film goes off the rails somewhat in its final act, as it scrambles to surprise us with subversive twists and comeuppances to modest effect. Still, the whole affair is stately and opulent enough to value as something a bit different than what is being offered elsewhere around Hollywood, residing somewhere in between Wasikowska's usual period literary adaptations and generic contemporary thrillers.

Underperforming in theaters with a $31 million domestic gross on a $55 million production budget, Crimson Peak drew mixed reactions from critics and moviegoers alike. The film hit DVD and Blu-ray combo pack this week from Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

Crimson Peak: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

1.85:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 7.1 DTS-HD MA (English), 5.1 DTS X (English Headphone), DTS 5.1(Spanish, French)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish)
All: Dolby Surround 2.0 (Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish, French
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: February 9, 2016
Suggested Retail Price: $34.98
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Blue Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as standalone DVD ($29.98 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Even if you're not bowled over by Crimson Peak's storytelling, you've got to admire the film's technical credentials. Those are on perfect display in Universal's vivid, highly detailed 1.85:1 Blu-ray transfer, making it easy to marvel at the sets and supernatural imagery and to cringe at the film's few bursts of violence. The default soundtrack, 7.1 DTS X (DTS-HD master audio for those without the ability to experience Dolby Atmos' biggest competitor), is also a feast, with its fine distribution of atmosphere, dialogue, and music.

Ophthalmologist Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam) picnics with Edith (Mia Wasikowska) and the Sharpes in this deleted scene. Guillermo del Toro looks at a model of the Sharpe mansion in "A Living Thing."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's all-HD extras begin with a section of five deleted scenes (4:26). They offer a picnic between Edith, her doctor love interest (Charlie Hunnam), and the Sharpes and more at the Sharpes' mansion.

Many of the remaining features are curiously prefaced by a Guillermo del Toro quote or fact, starting with "I Remember Crimson Peak",
a section consisting of four behind-the-scenes shorts that focus on the production design of different locations: "The Gothic Corridor" (4:06), "The Scullery" (i.e. kitchen) (4:24), "The Red Clay Mines" (5:18), and "The Limbo Fog Set" (5:42). These pieces and others find del Toro sitting one-on-one with one of his leads or two of the actors sitting down with one another.

The most general of featurettes, "A Primer on Gothic Romance" (5:36) lives up to its name with information on the genre and Crimson Peak's adherence to it.

"The Light and Dark of Crimson Peak" (7:53) considers the film's two main settings and their opposite color palettes.

"Hand Tailored Gothic" (8:58) delves into the film's costumes, which del Toro considers an integral part of production design.

"A Living Thing" (12:11) looks at the design of the Sharpes' mansion and the construction of the ambitious set.

Tom Hiddleston takes us around the Sharpes' mansion in "Beware of Crimson Peak." "Crimson Phantoms" shows us that the film's red ghosts are real actors in extreme prosthetics.

"Beware of Crimson Peak" (7:51) lets Tom Hiddleston take us on a tour of the Sharpes' mansion and point out some of the subtle details in the design.

Video extras draw to a close with "Crimson Phantoms" (7:02),

which looks at the design of the ghosts and the use of real actors to portray them.

Finally, we get an audio commentary by director/co-writer Guillermo del Toro, who starts the proud track by calling it one of his three best films. He reveals his knowledge and history of the genre, personal elements of the story, his thinking on colors and visuals-driven storytelling, and his literary and cinematic influences here. Even if you're not crazy about del Toro's work or priorities, you've got to respect his passion for many aspects of the medium, which is plain to hear in these two hours.

Out of all these extras, the DVD only includes the deleted scenes, audio commentary, and the featurettes "The Light and Dark of Crimson Peak" and "Beware of Crimson Peak."

Both discs open with trailers of varying lengths for By the Sea, Legend, Straight Outta Compton, Steve Jobs, London Has Fallen, The Forest, and Jarhead 3: The Siege.

The static menu applies score to the eye-catching poster art that has been satisfyingly recycled for home video covers.

An insert supplying a digital HD code and advertising other Universal horror Blu-rays joins the plainly-labeled gold and silver discs inside a keepcase that's topped by an embossed slipcover featuring the same artwork below.

Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) and Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) attend a ball together in "Crimson Peak."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

A feast for the senses as expected, Crimson Peak also tells a more engaging story than Guillermo del Toro movies typically do and while it doesn't fully satisfy, it comes closer than many of the director's more hollow efforts do. Universal's combo pack offers perfect picture and sound plus a substantial collection of extras led by a thoughtful audio commentary.

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Related Reviews:
Directed by Guillermo del Toro: Pacific Rim Hellboy II: The Golden Army | Written by Guillermo del Toro: Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
Mia Wasikowska: Only Lovers Left Alive Madame Bovary Albert Nobbs Alice in Wonderland Lawless That Evening Sun
Tom Hiddleston: Midnight in Paris Thor | Jessica Chastain: Mama Zero Dark Thirty
New to Disc: Grandma Truth Sicario Bridge of Spies Our Brand Is Crisis
Rebecca The Innocents The Ghost and Mrs. Muir Dark Shadows A Walk Among the Tombstones

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Reviewed February 11, 2016.



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