Crimson Peak And How We’re Watching Movies The Wrong Way


We’re all to blame, here. We’ve sat idly by as the act of cinematic consumption has turned from delicate imbibing to gluttonous devouring, but it wasn’t until Guillermo del Toro made a little movie called Crimson Peak that I realized how bad things have actually gotten.

After del Toro’s fairytale found itself incorrectly branded as a horror movie (before anyone even saw it), he was forced to generalize his artistry, which is something an artist should never be asked to do. He’s since publicly tweeted about Crimson Peak‘s romantic focus, wrote a pre-press-screening leaflet that clarified how Crimson Peak is NOT a horror movie, and emphasized marketing materials that focused on everyone’s apparent “misconception” that Crimson Peak is meant to be a gruesome, dark nightmare – again, before MOST viewers (besides a few Fantastic Fest audiences) had seen it.

So, instead of audiences experiencing a film as it unfolds before them, del Toro was asked to classify something that we, ourselves, should be classifying in-theater. Do you see a problem with that? Current film culture is turning audiences into greedy little kids on Christmas morning, who complain because they got a Nintendo Wii when they wanted a Playstation 4. We demand that filmmakers make films to satiate OUR preferences, not their own passionate imagination – which is fine, to a degree. Something might not be in line with our tastes, and we’re allowed to make intelligent critiques after viewing, but to dismiss a movie because you THOUGHT it’d be horror, and not sweet, bloody romantics? No. That’s now how movie watching works.

I’m not coming to you as an advocate of Crimson Peak, either. This isn’t about protecting del Toro’s latest property. My review sways towards the negative side, yet I completely understand why its lovers are so vocal. Del Toro is like a child in a candy story, and he always finds the most visually appealing eye-candy (or eye-protein, as he dubbed it), but the foundation of his pseudo-haunted-house-tryst is hollow and sparse. This is not an attack on all the haters of Crimson Peak, but instead a commentary on how we watch movies as a whole.

Let’s start here – movies are an experience. They’re not something to be confined before watching, as we sit there and DEMAND to see a certain flow of expected scenework. We can speculate, and we can HOPE that a film includes our own anticipated fantasies, but if the film goes another direction, there’s absolutely no reason to give up. We’re supposed to let filmmakers tell a story through their own unique vision. To pigeonhole them before we digest a second of content is absolutely ludicrous, and sets a film up for monotonous disaster before the title card ever flashes. In Chopped terms, if filmmakers were the chefs, it’d be like them finding a recipe included in the mystery basket that they MUST follow, removing individuality from the final equation.

I believe it was del Toro himself who remarked about the medium of film being a personal journey (sounds like him, at least), as each unique brain has its own neurons that perceive just a little differently than the next hunk of pink tissue. Don’t you remember your pre-school teacher’s words? We’re all special snowflakes, who react to art with our own opinions. Yet, if we start discussions based on a few details that leak during production, general statements start to form about something nobody can confirm, thus polluting minds with bias. It’s almost impossible to ignore. This locks away certain reaches of our brain that might have provided an enlightening insight to new cinematic material, but instead, we’re left focusing on the narrow-sighted notions of a boisterous congregation. Films should be experienced and discussed (respectfully) AFTER the fact, with substance to debate – not BEFORE.

As you can surmise from the above, we live in a world where surprises are rarely ever hidden. Artistic integrity vanishes with each released set photo, as a vast majority of people no longer want to enter a film blind. They want to see loads of production stills, spoilers, and even revealed twists so they understand what they’re getting into. People have no patience anymore. They want what they want, and they want it now. Surprises are no longer viewed as a treat, and thoughtful cameos are nothing but casting decisions in today’s day and age.