Crimson Peak Blu-ray Review
Writer/director Guillermo Del Toro’s labour of love blends ghosts, horror and romance but Crimson Peak fails to excel in any particular respect beyond the lavish gothic trappings it’s bathed in.According to Del Toro, it’s one of his most accomplished works, but viewers may find it his least satisfying, painting an unoriginal tale which stretches jarringly across years, and fails to deliver an effective whole. Indeed, despite the hefty runtime, the narrative itself is slight, drawn out as the director weaves his visual magic but, in the process, loses his grip on anything tangibly meaningful. Ostensibly a love story (although this is supposedly the core, the ghost/horror elements still overshadow it), the tale follows a young girl very literally haunted by her dead mother, who grows up and finds herself drawn to a mysterious foreigner who has an over-possessive sister and lives in a broken-down gothic structure founded upon a bed of blood red clay into which it is slowly sinking.Visually, there’s much to enjoy in Del Toro’s latest, which boasts many of the director’s flourishes, with some gruesome violence, and creepy figures with half their faces missing. Unfortunately the CG ghost visuals are uninspired and, in terms of story structure, utterly irrelevant. The game cast are given one-dimensional ‘types’ to play and they’re caricatures you’ve seen a dozen times before. They’re wasted, with Hiddleston and Wasikowska better in the quirky Only Lovers Left Alive and Chastain finding more meaningful ghosts in Interstellar. With the period setting almost used as a lazy excuse for the shallow characters, Del Toro appears too busy getting his haunted house and elaborate clay-mining toy just right, to actually pay attention to anything else.
Picture QualityAlthough Del Toro’s visuals are still striking, Universal’s UK Region Free Blu-ray release is marginally less so, failing to quite hit the standards of the best of the best currently available, but still making a valiant, oftentimes impressive, effort. The film is promoted with a 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen. It’s a strong offering, but sometimes lacks that finer, sharper edge, with clarity not quite consistently resounding, and fine detail far from pervasive, often showcased in key scenes (the dust playing in the light that is cast from the windows, or the intricacies of the model clay-mining machine) rather than dominant throughout, more than happy to bend at the whim of the stylistic choices and background light structure.
A solid video presentation for the striking visuals.
The colour scheme is rich and deep, with strong tones which are ultimately juxtaposed against the harsh snows and bleak exteriors. Lavish mahogany interiors, and creepy sub-basement levels straight out of the nightmarish mind of Del Toro (complete with organic architecture that looks almost like it’s come from an internal organ) afford red dominance splayed against the shadows. Black levels are strong, although shadow detail is far from impressive, rounding out an often impressive, but not quite reliably so, video presentation that fails to be consistently demo standard.
Sound QualityCrimson Peak is the first Blu-ray to be released in the UK with a DTS:X soundtrack, although Ex Machina and American Ultra have already been released in the US with the new audio format. The DTS:X soundtrack includes a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 core with additional height or overhead channels depending on your speaker configuration.
Cas Harlow reviewed the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on a 5.1-channel setup - The accompanying soundtrack is far more consistently effective than the picture. Dialogue is promoted clearly and coherently across the fronts and centre channels, from the ethereal whispers to the piercing screams, breaking through to the surrounds where the creepy spirits dictate it. Effects are nuanced and finely observed, with initial shock tactics employed in an attempt to crank up the tension, to which end we get jolts from every direction, and effective atmospherics which are particularly evident in the third act mansion setting, with creaking floorboards, howling wind, groaning pipes and, of course, a variety of otherworldly noises affording the house a very life of its own. The score is suitably period and sweeping, bathing the piece yet further in its gothic trappings, and rounding out an excellent aural accompaniment.
Crimson Peak is a masterclass in sound design of which the DTS:X soundtrack takes full advantage.
Steve Withers reviewed the DTS:X soundtrack on a 7.2.4-channel setup - Thanks to the recent firmware update on our Denon AVR-X7200W we can now enjoy DTS:X soundtracks, along with the Dolby Atmos and Auro-3D soundtracks that the receiver already decodes. The speaker configuration we're using for DTS:X is exactly the same as the one we use for Dolby Atmos, so there are the three front channels, two sides, two rears, two subwoofers and four overhead speakers. We were certainly glad for the opportunity to watch Crimson Peak with a full immersive soundtrack because the film's sound design is an absolute masterclass. From almost the very beginning the film uses sound to create a feeling of tension before adding some serious scares and the sound designers take full advantage of the additional speakers to unnerve the viewer. The dialogue is always clear and centred on the action and the score is layered-in effectively whilst surround effects are positioned to immerse you - be it the people at a ball, the sound of thunder overhead or rain lashing down all around you.
However once we get to Allerdale Hall the entire soundtrack kicks up a gear and the results are often amazing. The house is treated like a living entity and sounds are constantly moving around the speakers in 360 degrees and often overhead as well. You can clearly follow the sounds of the water in the pipes as they move around the house or the wind as it blows through the rooms, creating a sense of the entire place breathing. There is a wonderful feeling of atmosphere with the sound design producing different acoustical signatures for various parts of the house and thus creating a heightened sense of reality. The low frequency effects are also used effectively and perfectly integrate into the rest of the sound mix. The result is a soundtrack that is as opulent and impressive as the visuals, becoming another storytelling device that completely immerses you in the world that Guillermo Del Toro has created. Regardless of the film itself, if you're looking for a demo Blu-ray to show off your new audio system to your friends, then Crimson Peak is the perfect choice.
Steelbook ExtrasTicking all of the boxes, the extras package does not disappoint, with the Writer/Director on hand for much of the proceedings, not least the headlining Audio Commentary, where he details the production of what he regards as one of his finest works. A few minutes of Deleted Scenes add little, but a series of Featurettes - I Remember Crimson Peak, A Primer On Gothic Romance, Hand Tailored Gothic, The Light and Dark of Crimson Peak, A Living Thing, Beward of Crimson Peak, and Crimson Phantoms - offer further insight into the production, with plenty of behind the scenes snippets, effects breakdown, cast and crew interviews snippets and so forth. We look at the costumes, the sets, the setting, the ghosts (the practical elements and CGI) and the house itself, with the director on hand for further background into the gothic framework and story.
The striking steelbook design rounds out a strong package.
The UK Zavvi-exclusive Steelbook release of Crimson Peak promotes the distinctive poster art on the front panel, and a striking image from the interior of the mansion on the rear, both dominated by the vibrant, almost luminous red and blue tones used, which really pop against the black background. Although there's no embossing or debossing, the gloss finish suits the design and leaves it a very nice looking package.
Blu-ray VerdictMassively overwrought, Del Toro's labour of love is a visually opulent but narratively slight affair.
The UK Blu-ray release promotes solid video quality and outstanding DTS:X audio, complete with a solid selection of extras, all housed within an impressively designed Zavvi-Exclusive Steelbook. Fans should have no hesitation in picking this up, but those intrigued should consider it worth a rental first to test the waters.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £22.99
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