Drama, Fantasy, Romance, Supernatural, Thriller, Vampire

Crimson Winter (2013)

Comments Off on Crimson Winter (2013) 03 March 2015

Crimson Winter

Studio:  Interwoven Studios

Distributed By:  Big Screen Entertainment Group, CAV

Blu-ray Release:  September 9, 2014

Director:  Bryan Ferriter

Rating:  Not Rated

Reviewed By James M. Dubs

I’ll watch anything…including Crimson Winter.

Crimson Winter may be the hardest review I’ve had to write to date. It may come as a shock that this little independent vampire flick could cause such editorial turmoil. However, for weeks I’ve been struggling to find the proper words to describe Bryan Ferriter’s “epic” vampire saga about the tortured vampire prince, Elric (also performed by Ferriter). Most of my roadblocks stemmed from having too much to say and not choosing where to begin. In short, I was over complicating the journalistic critique process. Ironically, the problems I was having writing this piece are in direct correlation with the problems with Crimson Winter. For most of the film, Crimson Winter seems more intent on creating a complex epic saga instead of focusing on making a decent film. Only after I realized that I was falling into the same trap did this review practically write itself.

Film Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Crimson_1If I were to describe Crimson Winter in a couple of lines I would describe it as such: Crimson Winter follows the centuries-long journey of vampire prince Elric as he battles through war, family feuds, exile, and the loss of his true love. In the mountains of modern day Montana, Elric hides with a small clan of his dying race, but when a group of students inadvertently stumble upon Elric’s company, Elric is forced out of hiding and the battle for his race ensues.

It’s not a perfect synopsis, but concise enough to pepper you with the interesting bits and hopefully get you to watch. Unfortunately, Crimson Winter works so hard to be epic and grandiose that it loses focus on simply being good. Instead it becomes overly complicated, bloated, melodramatic garbage that collapses under the weight of its own fat. Case and point, the film’s official synopsis…

For centuries now, vampires have been forced to live in the shadows. Elric, a prince of these highly evolved creatures of the night, falls in love with a human – the very race that pushed his people into myth. This is an intolerable offense to the royal family and Elric is imprisoned for a century until a group of loyalists battle to free him from his dark cell. Together they escape to the remote mountainous terrain of North America where they begin building an army to exact revenge upon his family.

A century later, in the frozen heart of winter, a group of researchers sets out to investigate a mysterious decline in the local wildlife population. Their journey takes them deep into the isolated mountain wilderness where they soon discover a terrifying truth and find themselves caught between two foes in a centuries-old battle between vampires and hunters. As they struggle to survive, they come face to face with the vampire prince, Elric, who is haunted by his own dark past. An ancient prophecy and his own anguished heart weigh heavily upon him as the vampire lord decides the fate of those who have discovered his hidden sanctum.

Even the synopsis feels heavy-handed, about to buckle under the weight of it’s own melodramatic seriousness. Unfortunately the film is worse, challenging the viewer to absorb all of these details (and more) with a straight face.

Crimson_4To Ferriter’s credit, there are a lot of intriguing ideas that he’s playing with and a host of universal themes that could have made this movie very engaging and interesting. What absolutely destroys Crimson Winter is that there is enough material for two movies and Ferriter seems intent on shoving everything in all at once as if he is not allowed to make another film.

Plot A centers around Elric’s family and his desire to unite humans and vampires. Elric fights in the human’s wars. He wed’s a human woman. This earns the ire of his brother, Auberon, whom in turn convinces their father to take action against Elric. If Ferriter had chosen to spend the entire production with this narrative and sub-plots, the film would have been better served. Although the film’s budget restraints become obvious at times, especially during the battle scenes, everything else seems to work more or less. The acting ranges between okay and good due to decent casting and a host of actors who look the part. Costumes give the production an air of authenticity and help elevate the value. And for the most part, the writing works. Ferriter channels a gothic, Anne Rice (Interview With The Vampire) vibe and it works when paired with the time period, locales, and costumes. Ferriter’s Elric always comes across as the haunted, tragic type, and although I grew tiresome of his anguished, breathy dialogue delivery, one can kind of understand Elric’s woes. Not only is he dealing with war, and a family who hates his girlfriend, but there’s the added pressure of that pesky Oracle’s prophecy dangling over his head.

And then there’s Plot B, which involves five college graduate students who are investigating deer migration patterns and a mysterious population decline (even though it’s winter). The students are attacked by a small group of vampires but are saved by a couple of human “hunters” who are tracking more than the local wildlife. Meanwhile, vampire prince Elric has been hiding his clan in a cave for the past 100 years or so and they’ve been feasting on the local wildlife. It seems there is dissent among the vampire ranks and Elric’s sergeant, Guiscard, has become tiresome of eating the local produce and yearns for human blood. Can you really blame him? However, Elric is distracted as he spends most of his time moping around because, after 100 or so years, he still hasn’t come to terms with the fact that Daddy kicked him out of the house and brother took care of his girl. Now with the looming threat of the humans, Elric is forced to pull his head out of his rear-end and pay attention to his own people and the threat from outside.

Crimson_5Unfortunately Ferriter is not a skilled enough writer or director to change direction or style between the “flashbacks” of Plot A and the “modern day” Plot B. Any stylistic or narrative decisions that may have worked for Plot A absolutely fail in Plot B. To start, the five college grads are uninteresting, terrible actors. Watching them is a tedious chore which makes the film’s pacing even more arduous bouncing between past and present. The same can be said about the “Hunters.” I found myself relieved when the film jumped back in time, but would ultimately groan with the eventual “Ugh! Them again…” as the narrative brought us back to present Montana. As for Ferriter’s portrayal of Elric, he does not do anything different performance-wise between past and present, and continues to try and play the vampire prince as a haunted soul, whispering every syllable of dialogue. Unfortunately, within the context of the present day script, Elric comes across as an asthmatic cry-baby because most of his problems are of his own making. Impressionable teenage girls overcome by the Twilight melodrama may swoon or go weak in the knees for the tortured and haunted Elric, but the rest of us may want to punch him in the face and tell him to “grow a pair.”

Ferriter tries to keep the vampire mythos fresh by switching up the familiar vampire rules. For example, these vampires are not deterred by sunlight. They can walk among us during the day without worry, and don’t even “sparkle” like Twilight’s Edward. In fact, they may even get a bad sunburn if they don’t use the proper SPF rated sunscreens. Fangs are another vampire staple that have been toyed with in various films. In Ferriter’s world, the fangs are the customary canines, only this time they do not retract or recede. These vampire fangs are a permanent fixture and would be noted on Elric’s dental records at the local dentist. There are a handful of other departures from the typcial rules, but we’ll stick with these two to help illustrate my next few points.

Crimson_6These “twists” to the vampire rules work perfectly in the context of Plot A. In a time where vampires and humans would be in equal number, and vampires are less concerned with hiding, it makes relevant sense that one side may not have a strong tactical advantage over the other. In this world, vampires are not creatures of the night (despite the official synopsis claiming so) and humans are not hunting them by day. Additionally, the fact that vampires can’t disguise their fangs makes it more of a calling card to which house or clan one belongs to, much in the same way a Scottish clan may proudly brandish their banner.

In the context of Plot B, where Elric is trying to hide his race from humanity, these vampire rules only heighten the fact that the script and modern day story makes zero logical sense. Sunlight does not harm his kind (or give them away) and good dentistry could take care of that fang problem, so why wouldn’t they try to integrate? Certainly assimilating into culture would be preferable to living in a cave. They don’t turn into bats (a la Dracula) or sleep hanging upside down (a la Lost Boys). They are not the monsters from 30 Days of Night. Nor will they burst into flames and ash with the rising of the sun. Yes, they’re immortal, so moving periodically would prove cumbersome but surely it is all worth it so you could have the latest in technology when plotting your revenge against your family. Right? Apparently Elric prefers stones and sticks to modern warfare technology. And what’s keeping him from pulling the trigger on this revenge plot? Seriously! A century passes in a cave and his people are only now showing signs of rebellion? Ultimately, there are no answers to these questions, only more reasons Plot B proves to be an unfocused, narrative waste.

Crimson_3By the end it all becomes too much to bear as the viewer is weighed down with too much information, one too many stories, too much of Elric’s “torment”, and virtually zero resolution to the film’s countless plot points. If you are one of the few who can make it through to the end, I’ll give you a gold star. But that will have to be your consolation prize for not getting a proper ending.

Video & Audio Rating: ★★½☆☆

Crimson_7Perhaps I’m just looking for the silver lining, but the video looks impressive for a low budget film. Ferriter makes good use of color schemes between past/present and human/vampire scenes making use of warmer tones for the past/humans and cooler tones for the vampires/present scenes. Detail and features are crisp and clear with only minimal resolution degredation with some effects and title shots from post production rendering. Audio is also a nice surprise for the low budget. The blu-ray has a 2.0 stereo or 5.1 surround option. Neither is perfect, or at the level we expect from our entertainment. There are a few audio problems that reveal the productions low-budget roots, but Crimson Winter’s technical achievements are leaps and bounds better than most other independent dreck.

Extras Rating: ★½☆☆☆

Crimson_8The best thing I can say about the extras is that they do not over stay their welcome. At a very lean 15 minutes, you get a couple of behind the scenes segments, a tribute to one of Bryan Ferriter’s close friends, and a trailer.

  • Origination of the Story (4:50): A brief interview with Bryan Ferriter (writer, director, actor, producer, etc) in which he explains the genesis of Crimson Winter. Surprisingly, a lot of information is covered in a brief amount of time a covers topics from the death of his father, the music by Nox Arcana that inspired the film, the initial 45 minute short film that covered the back story elements, Shakespeare’s insiration, and an interesting clue as to the future of the story. Ferriter admits that Crimson Winter answers none of the questions it raises in “the first one.” Does this mean we haven’t seen the last of Elric?
  • Difficulties During Filming (5:32): More bits of Ferriter’s interview. This time he talks about typical production problems like cold, shooting at night, filming on a mountain, etc.
  • Tribute to Keith Carlson (2:53): Ferriter speaks lovingly about his friend, whom was only 25 when he passed away. Carlson plays one of the Hunters in Crimson Winter, and Ferriter speaks on their relationship and his role in their productions.
  • Theatrical Trailer (2:33)

Overall Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Crimson_10I feel more disappointed than angry about Crimson Winter because the potential is there, but the execution is not. Ferriter actually does himself a disservice by having complete control because he is unable to edit himself. He accomplishes more than most, but the finished product is deeply flawed. That doesn’t mean Crimson Winter will be without audience. I’ve poked fun at Twilight loving teenage girls, but this movie screams for their dollars and admiration. Tweens are a romantic, gullable bunch and if they get a wiff of Ferriter’s “Shakespearian vampire” tale they may perceive Ferriter as the “deep” and dreamy blue-eyed hunk that deserves their admiration. And as they adorn their walls with Ferriter’s Elric encircled with pink and purple construction paper hearts, they can spin Crimson Winter for the 57th time and pray to the vampire gods for the sequel.


- who has written 70 posts on UnRated Film Review Magazine | Movie Reviews, Interviews.

James Dubs is a father and husband who loves his family first and movies a close second. He believes every movie is worth watching once and, as a film fan and critic, believes that even the worst movies offer something in return. His mission is to watch anything and report without pretension. Follow James Dubs on Twitter and send him suggestions on movies you would like reviewed - popular, obscure, independent, etc. He'll watch anything for you.

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