Crimson Winter Blu-ray Review
Directed by Bryan Ferriter
Written by Bryan Ferriter, Ryan Pfeiffer, David Noel, and Nathan Mills
2013, Region A, 107 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-Ray released September 9th, 2014
Bryan Ferriter as Elric
Nick Milodragovich as Dylan
Kailey Michael Portsmouth as Roxanne
Ryan Pfeiffer as Guiscard
Brandon Day Brandon Day as Achille
Dave Noel Dave Noel as Will
Paulie Redding as Isabelle
I feel pretty sure that the makers of Crimson Winter are fans of Castlevania and Anne Rice. It's got a gaggle of somber vampires, 17th-century French period costumes, swords (one of which may actually have been a Lord of the Rings prop), and sweet, sweet vampire love. And everyone wears mascara, because emotions.
The story centers on Elric, a vampire prince who speaks in a gravelly murmur and occasionally lapses into gravelly Latin. Elric – who looks kind of like Scott Stapp from '90s Christian novelty band Creed – has a plan to unite vampires and humans, and the film is his journey through time, from medieval Europe to modern-day Montana, to, you know. Do that. Through a series of flashbacks we learn that Elric had fallen in love with a human woman, Isabelle, but his conservative vampire father and scheming Loki-esque brother (who looks kind of like Beck) aren't thrilled with the illicit affair because, as everyone knows, vampires are racists. When dad and Beck betray Scott Stapp and lock him away in a prison improbably located at the bottom of a well, Stapp swears revenge and grows a beard to show he means it.
Meanwhile, in the film's present, Elric (who escaped and shaved and now has kind of a Criss Angel thing going on) leads a ragtag band of human survivors as they try to wrest control of the bleak future back from the machines. Wait, no, they're all vampires, and they're hiding out in the Montana hills and eating deer and, I guess, planning an eventual war against dad and Beckpire. These plans are complicated, however, by the appearance of some meddling kids, who show up to research the dwindling deer population (dwindling, of course, because deer are to vampires what Capri Sun is to peoples).
It seems worth nothing that the vampires aren't particularly different from humans, except for their pointy teeth and, you know, the blood thing. They aren't affected by the sun, and they don't seem to possess any supernatural traits beyond immortality and a vaguely '90s Goth fashion sense (Stabbing Westward may have done the costume design).
The film's constant jumping back and forth in time, and its seemingly random introduction of new characters, makes it difficult to describe the plot (as does the fact that there's relatively little forward motion in the story despite a 100-minute-plus runtime). The story is revealed almost entirely through long stretches of expository dialogue (most of it uttered by Elric, played by director/co-writer Bryan Ferriter). The dialogue, in fact, is the film's weakest point. The script feels like it was written for a college drama class, with endless swap-a-line dialogues, monologues, soliloquies-a whole textbook's worth of dramaturgical jargon-with brief action sequences forming paper-thin transitions to the next chunk of exposition. The characters deliver orations teeming with proclamations, pronouncements, philosophy, and dramatic summaries of past action, but little substance. One character, an old vampire called the Oracle, appears seemingly from nowhere with the sole purpose of providing pithy commentary, reminding the audience of how intense and solemn this all actually is. The worst aspect of the over-reliance on dialogue is that, paradoxically, the plot becomes extremely difficult to follow. You'd imagine it would be simple, with everyone explaining it all the time; but so much posturing and so much pathos ultimately reduce the narrative to unintelligibility. This is only worsened by random jumps through time and jarring editing techniques that sometimes cause unintentional laughs.
While Crimson Winter has a decidedly community theater feel, it does do some things right. Breathtaking footage of the Montana wilderness creates a suitably bleak atmosphere, and it's refreshing to see a return to the vampire as an aloof, feudal lord who stands outside of human society and, like, wears capes and uses broadswords and stuff. And the film as a whole is quite nice to look at.
Crimson Winter is no Twilight-killer, alas: with its pacing issues, slipshod dialogue, and murky plot, the film won't be rescuing the contemporary vampire from its sparkly fate. But for a freshman effort it's surprisingly polished, and there's enough good here to keep an eye on Ferriter's work.
Video and Audio:
The video quality is generally excellent, and there are a few individual frames scattered throughout the movie that are extremely well-composed. These are offset by constant oversaturated whites, presumably to highlight the pale angst-ridden visage of the vampire lead.
The audio, conversely, is consistently poor, with the main characters (most notably Ferriter's Elric) mumbling most of their lines. A few scenes that feature multiple characters speaking at once are difficult to hear without headphones, and the female characters' voices are frequently lost altogether.
Origination of the Story is a five-minute discussion by director Ferriter of, you guessed it, the inspiration for the film.
The five-minute Difficulties During Filming feature is pretty self-explanatory. Evidently the weather really, really sucks in Montana. More discussion by Ferriter, and some on-location shenanigans as the cast and crew struggle with hail and other unpleasantness. Apparently the fight scenes were done with real weapons, which could have ended much worse than it did.
Tribute to Keith is a three-minute remembrance of Keith Carlson, an actor who died nine days before the close of filming.