There are very few filmmakers that inspire and excite my cinema loving sensibilities quite like Guillermo del Toro. From CRONOS to CRIMSON PEAK, this incredible filmmaker is able to paint some of the most daring and inspired images ever put to screen. And while some may feel that his latest is a tad simplistic as far as the story is concerned, for me there is an old-fashioned quality to it that is actually quite refreshing. In fact, something I’ve always admired about his work is his desire to tell his own story instead of stick to the latest trend. Even his lesser works still have a genuine sense of enthusiasm and love for film. And generally, his loyal fan base and critics alike have embraced the filmmaker. So the question is, why do audiences desperate for something original shy away?
With as much advertising that was given to CRIMSON PEAK, I was genuinely surprised by the recent box office numbers. With only a couple of weeks until Halloween, this “gothic romance” offers a bit of ghostly fun for those looking for something a little different. Generally we are inundated with sequels, remakes and reboots this time of year, so the fact that this decidedly different take on a classic story should have done much better than it did. Only reaching the number four position, with just under thirteen million, seems awfully low considering how perfect a time it is. We all complain about not enough new and original genre coming out in October, so why did this not reach a larger audience?
To be fair, this is not quite the horror film that the trailers would have you believe. CRIMSON PEAK is, at it’s heart, a period romance with supernatural elements. And yes, all the advertising focused on the ghostly goings on as opposed to the dangerous love affair between Mia Wasikowska and Tom Hiddleston. Yet you’d think this would have brought more audiences in. A cool and visually twisted ghost story with red covered snow and a dark and dreary mansion? Come on, what better way to spend Halloween in the theatres? Unfortunately, del Toro’s films tend to do decent business and little more than that.
From PACIFIC RIM to HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN AGE, del Toro has had a modicum of success that never exceeded expectations. Sure, the former did incredibly well overseas, but it fell well below it’s $190 million production budget in the US - thank goodness for overseas sales. As a fan of the film, I have a little hope thanks to its foreign box office that we will see a sequel. And then there is the critically acclaimed sequel to HELLBOY that failed to generate much income - even with a solid opening - thanks to stiff competition from the following week. Yes, just seven days later saw the release of a little movie called THE DARK KNIGHT. That, in all likelihood, may have just been a case of unfortunate timing for the devilish superhero’s return.
One of the director’s most successful attempts is still easily regarded as his masterpiece. PAN’S LABYRINTH is a brilliant work that was able to capture a pretty impressive return for a foreign film, in part because of a very modest $19 million budget. Much of his work found new life on video and have generally been well regarded by his many fans. Even the original HELLBOY didn’t make enough to warrant a sequel for the studio, but it was the film’s ability to garner a massive fanbase well after its theatrical release that helped bring us a second chapter. The problem for those of us wanting to see HELLBOY 3 - or the often spoken of, seemingly out of reach, AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS - is, studios have become wary of “taking a chance” on material that may not feed into the mainstream.
Maybe it’s the booze talkin’, but why can’t del Toro reach a larger audience? He not only creates intriguing and original works, but he is also a master at offering a visual feast. His features transcend those of most modern filmmakers, and they should be seen. There are naysayers who may not appreciate his artful visions, but you’d think in an age where we are desperate for fresh material that isn’t manufactured product, we’d welcome movies that are grand and gorgeous. CRIMSON PEAK may not have the twists, turns and scares that audiences expected, but it is a beautifully atmospheric moviegoing experience, one that should be had in a darkened theater. Perhaps after the families have seen GOOSEBUMPS - which is also entertaining October fare - del Toro's ghostly romance will find a bigger audience closer to Halloween.