Crimson Peak

Guillermo del Toro‘s Crimson Peak is a deliciously dark and twisted piece, set in the most gorgeous, most decrepit haunted house you’ve ever seen and anchored by three mesmerizing performances from Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska, and most especially Jessica Chastain. It’s also not the horror movie that’s being sold in the trailers, but a Gothic romance. Think Jane Eyre plus ghosts, not The Conjuring plus corsets.

That’s not such a bad thing if you happen to love costume dramas, but it can be an unpleasant surprise if you don’t. And that misleading marketing doesn’t seem to be doing it many favors. I’ve seen a lot of critics ding it for being ineffective as a horror movie — which of course it is, because it isn’t really one. The B- Cinemascore and limp box office might also reflect the discrepancy between what Crimson Peak seems to be, and what it actually is.

Admittedly, it’s not difficult to understand why Universal chose to market Crimson Peak as a horror movie. A Brontë-esque romance is a much harder sell outside the arthouse than a spooky, seasonally appropriate haunted house flick. And it’s hardly the first time a marketing team has chosen to sell a completely different movie. Sometimes it’s part of a savvy strategy and sometimes it’s a desperate ploy; sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Below, let’s look back at 15 movies with misleading trailers. Warning: Some spoilers ahead. 

Crimson Peak

What the trailer promised: A haunted house horror movie set in a decrepit mansion with a mind of its own.

What it was: Crimson Peak actually tells you right off the bat what it is. “It’s not a ghost story,” insists its leading lady of her own manuscript, “it’s a story that has ghosts in it. The ghosts are just a metaphor for the past.” This turns out to be an exactly accurate description of the movie. Too bad by the time you hear it, you’ve already trekked to the theater and forked over $12 in anticipation of seeing a horror movie.

Drive

What the trailer promised: A high-octane crime thriller that could be a Fast and the Furious ripoff.

What it was: A moody, meditative “neon noir” that weaves together a dreamy electro-pop soundtrack, an impossibly cool leading man, and a slow-burn romance with a girl next door, punctuated by blood-red bursts of stylish violence. It’s intoxicating in its own way, but feels far more like a modern arthouse fairy tale than a Fast and the Furious ripoff.

For many critics, that was a good thing. But the deceptive marketing also lured in viewers who would’ve really, really preferred the Fast and Furious ripoff, including one woman who was irked enough to file a lawsuit.

In Bruges

What the trailer promised: A slick, stylish gangster comedy a la Snatch or Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

What it was: A black comedy suffused with existential angst. Basically, Waiting for Godot with more shootouts. As with Drive, the film we actually got is better — smarter, sharper, more original — than the film the trailers suggested. But also as with Drive, it seems like the marketing team got nervous about the real film’s idiosyncratic tone.

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