Crimson Peak

Set in the late 19th century, Crimson Peak is a Gothic romance, a mystery mixture of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, with a dollop of Young Frankenstein. After the death of her mother from cholera when Edith is 12, the hideously deformed ghost comes back to warn of Crimson Peak. Fourteen years later in bustling, modern Buffalo, New York, the child, daughter of a self-made American building magnate, has become a beautiful aspiring author. She’s swept off her feet by a mysterious, darkly handsome English aristocrat who’s come to America seeking financing for his steam-powered digger of the clay his house is built upon. After the shockingly brutal murder of her father, the heiress moves to the Old World cathedral-like Allendale Hall situated atop Crimson Peak on a desolate, windswept heath to live with her new husband and his sinister sister who drifts around endless corridors like Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca. In an atmosphere steeped in dread, Edith must unearth the house’s secrets while it creakingly sinks into oozing blood-red clay that penetrates its floors.

Gas light and candles create warm, low-lit, painterly images, creating powerful set pieces. Contrast is excellent, with deep black jackets, bright white shirts, and natural skintones. Visually similar to Roger Corman’s adaptations of Poe, Crimson Peak’s striking, formal, deep-focus, and dimensional compositions are filled with saturated tones of sets and costumes. Plentiful detail in all but the dimmest scenes reveals every intricate ruffle, pattern, and piece of lacework and adds texture to tweeds and velvets. All combine to lend volume and roundness to figures and faces.

Once the movie relocates to the mansion, the mix kicks into all channels. Atmospherics and effect pans are convincing. Fernando Velázquez’s sweepingly romantic orchestral score—augmented by nerve-jangling electronica sounds that add thump to jump-out-of-your-seat moments—is full and bassy, as are slams of heavy sliding doors and the relentless heartbeat of the digging machine.

In the commentary, writer-director Guillermo del Toro draws from his knowledge of literature and art to establish an involving world of themes. Featurettes include an informative primer on Gothic romance and how the four main sets serve to evoke different moods. All offer plentiful behind-the-scenes footage, analysis, and thought-provoking background to a visually dazzling film.

Studio: Universal, 2015
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, DTS:X
Length: 119 mins.
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain