Friday, August 10, 2012

Horror Film Review

The Innkeepers (2011):  Lots of buzz about this haunted hotel flick.  It's been my experience, however, that if you believe the buzz, you're gonna get stung.  It's the low-expectations theory of movie watching.  So, The Innkeepers...think Clerks meets The Shining.  No, really. 

The innkeepers are Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy), the last two employees of an old hotel that's in the process of closing its doors forever.  Luke and Claire have been playing ghost hunters, trying to collect scientific proof of the inn's haunting to post on Luke's blog.  (A woman, Madeline O'Malley, supposedly hanged herself in the hotel many years ago, and, to avoid negative press at the time, the hotel owners hid her body in the basement.)  Claire walks around wearing 70s era headphones and waving a microphone the size of a cucumber.  She hears whispers, then the piano plays by itself and she totally freaks out.  Whether by design or no, Claire is absolutely hilarious when she's scared.  Oddly, this doesn't take away from the tension.  Actress turned psychic Leanne Rease-Jones (Kelly McGillis) checks in, does a thing with a crystal, and tells Claire to stay out of the basement.  Good advice.  What's Claire do?  She goes into the basement with Luke to do some more ghost hunting.  They feel a presence, Luke wigs out and bolts from the hotel.  An elderly widower checks in wishing to revisit his honeymoon suite and, of course, kills himself in the bathtub.  After some additional weirdness, Rease-Jones convinces everyone to get the hell out of the hotel.  Claire, looking for Luke  (he came back), again heads to the basement but isn't going to descend the stairs...that is until the ghost of the dead widower pops up behind her.  Down she goes, dead guy follows, she locks herself in the room where Madeline O'Malley was hidden.  Not the best idea she ever had, I'd wager. 

The Innkeepers is such a simple movie.  I don't know how to explain that, really.  Small cast, single location, basic ghost story.  And you know what?  It works.  A few minor problems.  A woman with her son hiding from her abusive husband were existing guests when we come in.  Claire and Luke are quite rude to them, to the point that they leave.  I can't figure out what they had to do with anything.  Another thing is Luke.  I spent half the film thinking he's a bad guy.  Not sure why.  He's not, and you're better off knowing that upfront.  Some things I liked...the hotel is in the middle of the city.  Don't know why, but that makes it scarier.  I also liked the chemistry between Luke and Claire (it's not sexual, thank God).  And finally, I thought the sparing use of ghosts worked to the film's advantage.  When you do finally see Madeline...well, I'll let you decide.  Remember, I don't do spoilers on movies I like.


Acting:  I always like watching McGillis, and she still has the chops.  I love her restrained performance.  As opposed to Paxton who, while good, leans toward camp. 
Story:  As I said, it's a basic ghost story.  Nothing fancy.  It doesn't need to be.  Execution is key.
Direction:  And since Ti West both wrote and directed it, he managed to bring his vision to life with a perfect blend of humor and tension.
Production Values:  I'd never heard of Dark Sky Films and you can tell there wasn't an excess of cash floating around.  That said, it never felt low-budget.  The hotel is perfectly spooky, the film stock is of high quality, and lighting and sound are professional enough. 
Gore/FX:  A bit of blood with the widower who offed himself but nothing gratuitous.  The ghost effects are quite effective.
Scares:  Oh, hell yes.  I was trying to remember the count.  At least four really good ones.  I'm talking load-your-shorts scares.  One of them did that thing where I literally felt my heart drop and got icy shivers.  That never happens to me. 
Ending:  Yes...uh, right.  Here's the thing.  It works, perhaps was inevitable, but I think I hoped for a bit more.  I'll admit that the very final shot was pretty groovy.
Verdict:  Should you see The Innkeepers?  All the buzz is justified.  Great ghost story.  Right up there with The Woman In Black.  If you're looking to scare yourself, you need look no further.

Rating:  4 out of 5

No comments:

Post a Comment