Published by Insight Editions
It’s not mandatory that you’ve first seen Crimson Peak before thumbing through Mark Salisbury’s “making of” book about it, Crimson Peak: The Art of Darkness; but I’d certainly recommend it if you don’t want some of the delight of both of them diminished a bit. The film is a true masterpiece that should be experienced with as little foreknowledge as possible so that it unfolds naturally with all of its magic intact.
And then, afterwards, you’re free to explore The Art of Darkness in depth without fear of spoilers and take a journey through the mind of Guillermo del Toro and learn more about – and from – his cast and crew as they describe every detail of the film and what went into its creation.
As you’d expect, Crimson Peak: The Art of Darkness is an incredibly beautiful book – more than coffee table worthy. Its pages are full of one drop-dead gorgeous image from the production after another. Sets, special effects, costumes, character descriptions, concept art, interviews… it’s all here and more. It begins with a foreword by del Toro, who says something I think a lot of today’s filmmakers might want to keep in mind: “…the difference between eye candy and eye protein is that the latter actually nourishes the storytelling values of a film: color-coding, shape-coding, textures, and light can become tools of narrative, and dramatic weight.”
And that theme carries over into Salisbury’s work. After del Toro’s introduction, we meet the characters: Edith, played by Mia Wasikowska, is tinged orange/gold, and right away we get our first textural element, an overlay of a butterfly, a recurring symbol in the world of Crimson Peak. Items are pasted on the pages to be examined, opened, and/or lifted with other treats to be found inside or underneath them, and this continues in the other sections. This chapter also explains how Edith’s Buffalo home was painstakingly created using existing buildings since most of the budget went to constructing Allerdale Hall (aka the “crimson peak” of the title).
She’s followed by the beige Dr. McMichael, portrayed by Charlie Hunnam, a modern, but rather bland man of science who is there mostly as contrast to the more fiery, blood-red man of mystery who lives in the past, Thomas Sharpe. In the section on Thomas, we hear from Guillermo why Tom Hiddleston was such a perfect choice to play someone with “a very dark, brooding nature.” Thomas’ villainous sister, Lucille, is of course a cool, calculating blue; and she, too, gets an overlay – this time of a moth. Jessica Chastain (whom we could very well see at Oscar time, along with several others who worked on the film both in front of the camera and behind the scenes) considers her “the dark center of the movie” and describes her process of working with del Toro to find the character.
Next we go inside Allerdale Hall, where all those aforementioned “behind the scenes” individuals are given their due. Here we have fold-out pages, floor plans, every facet of the painstaking work that went into bringing del Toro’s vision to life. It truly rivals Titanic in its scope and dedication to authenticity. No stone is left unturned in The Art of Darkness when it comes to the Hall, from the moth pattern on the parquet floor in the foyer that was only visible when standing above it to the incredible mural atop the main staircase and other artwork scattered throughout to the fully functional elevator to those oozing clay mines, ending with the film’s haunting sound design.
Things wrap up with my favorite chapter: “Haunted Beauty – The Ghosts of Crimson Peak.” This is where the horror fan will spend the most time, poring over sketches, models, and more materials to learn from the masters who brought the tortured souls who haunt Allerdale’s hallways to life… so to speak.
There’s really not much else I can say about Crimson Peak: The Art of Darkness other than just “buy it.” It will add to your enjoyment and appreciation of the film in so many ways. Even if you haven’t seen the movie yet, grab it now, flip through a few pages, and then put it away until you’re ready to really savor it. Because if ever a book deserved to be savored, it’s this one.