Turns Out 'Crimson Peak' Is Actually A Gothic Romance: 15 Movies With Misleading Trailers

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.


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.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

What the trailer promised: A Gothic revenge drama.What it was:musical Gothic revenge drama. Surprise! Sure, there's a bit in the middle of the trailer where Johnny Depp starts to slip into melody, but it looks like a minor detail — a dream sequence, perhaps. The trailer most certainly does not let on that Sweeney Todd is a full-on musical. While it's true musicals aren't for everyone, hiding that very important fact about it didn't seem to help at the U.S. box office. Sweeney Todd made just $52 million in the U.S., or barely more than its $50 million production budget.

Iron Man 3

What the trailer promised: A dark superhero drama with a chilling, ruthless villain known as the Mandarin.What it was: In retrospect, we probably should've expected that a Shane Black / Robert Downey Jr. reunion would turn out to be more Kiss Kiss Bang Bang than The Dark Knight. There's some darker material here, but it's far funnier than you'd think based on the marketing. Oh, and that terrifying villain known as the Mandarin? Turns out he's actually just an oblivious, self-absorbed actor who thinks he's playing a role. In a genre where most of the big developments are "spoiled" well in advance by the comic book source material, if not by nosy reporters, this was the rare twist that felt genuinely shocking. Well played, Marvel.

Cabin in the Woods

What the trailer promised: A "cabin in the woods" thriller as generic as its title, following five attractive young people who make a series of fatally stupid decisions.What it was: A kitchen-sink mashup that brilliantly and hilariously sends up horror movie tropes (up to and including the "cabin in the woods" thriller), by way of a meta storyline about ordinary-seeming office drones orchestrating a supernatural sacrifice. This is an example of a purposefully misdirecting trailer actually serving the movie, because so much of the fun of watching Cabin in the Woods is finding out for yourself what it's actually about.

Considering how many trailers will gladly give away all the film's secrets if it'll get more butts in seats (looking at you, Terminator: Genisys), the restraint of the Cabin in the Woods marketing team is to be applauded. The film didn't do huge box office, but word of mouth made it a modern horror classic, and now the studio wants to make another.

The Fifth Element

What the trailer promised: A Blade Runner-esque sci-fi action-adventure about Bruce Willis saving the world.What it was: A gloriously campy vision of the future, as exemplified by the most memorable character in the movie, Chris Tucker's flamboyant talk show host Ruby Rhod. He's not even hinted at in the trailer, probably because one look at that blowdryer-shaped hairdo would've been a dead giveaway that this is not Blade Runner. And contrary to what the trailer suggests, Willis' Dallas isn't some Chosen One figure, but a normal guy who gets sucked into a crazy plot involving the real Chosen One, Milla Jovovich's Leeloo.

Bridge to Terabithia

What the trailer promised: A heartwarming family adventure about two kids who discover a whimsical Narnia-esque fantasy land in the woods.What it was: A heartwarming family adventure about two kids who invent a whimsical Narnia-esque fantasy land in the woods because their lives are boring and sometimes unhappy. Until the third act, that is, when it turns into a five-hankie tearjerker about a young boy coping with the death of his best friend. I'm betting there were a lot of parents who put this on as light, harmless entertainment, only to find themselves forced to explain the inevitability of death to their small children.

Spring Breakers

What the trailer promised: A raucous party film about four pretty college girls on spring break.What it was: Here's another case in which the talents involved should've been a tip-off that the film wasn't exactly as advertised. Director / provocateur Harmony Korine amps the sex and violence up to eleven, resulting a queasy satire of exactly the kind of party film it pretends to be in the trailer. It feels less like a carefree spring break blowout and more like a bender that's gone on four days past "rock bottom."


What the trailer promised: A grown-up comedy about a screwed-up superhero.What it was: The first half of Hancock is exactly the movie you'd expect from the trailers — a savvy parody of the superhero movies that were blowing up in popularity around the time. (Hancock was released in the same summer as Iron Man and The Dark Knight.) Then it takes a sharp left to become a drama about the epic romance between two immortals who have been drawn together and pulled apart for millennia. Either half could have made for a decent movie, but together they feel like two completely different films smashed together.


What the trailer promised: A twisty, Hitchcockian found-footage thriller about a naive young man who discovers his online girlfriend isn't what she seems.What it was: A documentary about a guy who discovers that his internet girlfriend is not who she says she is. But she isn't a serial killer or a dangerous force from his past, as the trailers might have you believe. The truth – that she is a middle-aged Midwestern housewife – is more mundane, more tragic, and maybe, in its own way, more surprising.


What the trailer promised: A slasher movie starring Drew Barrymore.What it was: A slasher movie that kills off Drew Barrymore's character in about the first ten minutes. Her death upended the expectations the audience had going into the film, and suggested that no one in the movie is safe. Of course, Scream isn't the first horror movie to combine misleading marketing and an early kill to exciting effect. A generation earlier, moviegoers were shocked to discover that heavily marketed star Janet Leigh dies halfway into Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho.

Magic Mike

What the trailer promised: A gleefully trashy spectacle of attractive men gyrating to the amusement and delight of female filmgoers. Essentially, a way to experience a male strip club without actually going to a male strip club.What it was: A sober examination of the American dream. Yes, there are handsome men who take off their clothes. But the film's main concern is the story of a young man hustling for more in a world that doesn't want to give it to him, all while he navigates mainstream society's knee-jerk judgment of sex workers. Then again, Magic Mike XXL actually was the film that Magic Mike appeared to be, and it made far less than its predecessor did. So maybe audiences do prefer their male stripper dramas with a side of introspection.


What the trailer promised: A horror movie with a deadly, possibly supernatural villain brandishing a hook.What it was: A cute family adventure about a grown-up Peter Pan returning to Never Never Land to vanquish his former foe and get back in touch with his inner child. There's something to be said for keeping the good stuff (i.e., all the Never Never Land stuff) under wraps; Lionsgate's decision to keep the Hunger Games out of the trailers for the first Hunger Games made the arena scenes feel all the more effective. But that doesn't really explain the decision to make Hook look like Poltergeist.

Fantastic Four

What the trailer promised: A grim superhero drama.What it was: ... Okay, Fantastic Four was in fact a grim superhero drama. But it's on this list because the trailer was just brimming with shots that weren't in the movie. It's not uncommon for a trailer to feature a stray bit of extra footage, or an alternate take of a scene, but it is pretty unusual for a trailer to sell scene after scene that isn't even hinted at in the final product. Would the version of the movie that kept all those scenes have been better than the version of the movie that actually hit theaters? We'll never know. But based on how much of it wound up on the cutting room floor, it probably would've been very different.