While a 70% fresh rating for CRIMSON PEAK over at RottenTomatoes.com is nothing to balk at, Guillermo del Toro’s Gothic horror love story is worthy of better reviews than it has gotten. And its $13.1 million box office it’s first weekend isn’t bad either, considering it opened against the child friendly frightener GOOSEBUMPS and Steven Spielberg’s latest BRIDGE OF SPIES not to mention STEVE JOBS opened wider last weekend too. No matter though, Hollywood insiders and pundits are already exclaiming CRIMSON PEAK flopped. So why did this incredibly produced and expertly acted thriller not pan out with critics or audiences enough?
Old school horror may be lost on today’s audiences
Almost any weekend that a horror film opens, it scores with young audiences and dominates the box office. CRIMSON PEAK did not. Is the fact that it’s a period piece just too foreign to most? Maybe it has less to do with the period of the late nineteenth century and more with how director del Toro presents it. The film has a classical feel to it, very Edgar Allan Poe, very Vincent Price in its way. Are refinement and diction, along with petticoats and cravats, lost on too many teens today? Likely, if they’re used to the contemporary and rougher horror styling of the handheld, “found footage” mockumentary sub-genre. CRIMSON PEAK is almost quaint in its way, which may simply play as way too sincere for 2015 cynicism.
It opened in the wrong month
What? How can October, the month of Halloween, be the wrong month for a horror movie? It can if there are too many other films demanding our attention, and let’s face it, autumn is now the Oscar season as serious-minded film after serious film opens. Granted, the production values in CRIMSON PEAK are award-worthy, but the horror genre has never been Oscar bait, so it gambled opening when it did against so many films in the race. Perhaps if it had opened in the dull dry months of August or early September CRIMSON PEAK could’ve reigned. But when big studio films like THE MARTIAN, BRIDGE OF SPIES and STEVE JOBS are getting all the talk and ink, as well as flocks of the movie-going public, it’s hard for its competitors to get noticed.
The trailers gave away too much
For decades now, trailers have been giving away too many of the best scenes in movies. It’s even worse in the coming attractions for the horror genre as some of the best “boo’s” are exposed, nullifying their visceral effect in the actual movie. The CRIMSON PEAK trailers and commercials on TV showed far too much of the ghosts and gave away a lot of the plot. Heck, even the bleeding snow was shown repeatedly, and that’s one of the best bits in the film. Did the ads for CRIMSON PEAK give audiences too much of a peak? Yes, and it’s a shame.
Entertainment is inundated with horror right now
You'd think that a big budget horror movie ($55 million) from a major studio known for horror (Universal) with a tony cast (Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska) would be a major event, right? Indeed, yet there is so much top drawer horror being done on TV these days that it may very well be stealing cinema’s thunder. AMERICAN HORROR STORY on FX just started its fifth season. That show’s creator Ryan Murphy also has a hit on Fox with his SCREAM QUEENS parody aimed at teens. And then there’s the sublime FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, now halfway thru its superb second season on the El Rey Network, shrewdly mixing tequila and Transylvania. Are audiences getting so many thrills and chills on weeknights that their weekends don’t need satiating? It would seem a strong possibility.
The scares aren't shocking enough
Shockingly, CRIMSON PEAK is rated R. There’s nothing in it that compares to the graphic and disturbing scenes on display in the premiere of AMERICAN HORROR STORY: HOTEL a few weeks ago. Yes, CRIMSON PEAK has adult themes, but it’s scares are more Gorey than gory. Perhaps del Toro’s more sophisticated approach to the genre is not overt enough for the modern audience raised on SAW, HOSTEL and others. The best horror is driven by dread, not bloodletting, but most of the Hollywood product these days goes a lot farther than CRIMSON PEAK with its violence. This one may have almost seemed quaint in comparison.
If you haven’t seen CRIMSON PEAK, you shouldn’t let some of the negative buzz out there keep you away. It’s a superb thriller, expertly rendered in every way. It may not be as frightening as a lot of what’s on TV, but that shouldn’t keep horror fans from seeking out one of the year’s very best genre efforts.