Monday, October 01, 2012

31 Days of Halloween - Day 1 - Movie 1

My favorite subgenre of horror is the ghost story, and I prefer my ghost stories the old fashioned way, suggestive, subtle, and slow building with more atmosphere than special effects. The Innkeepers (2011) is exactly this kind of ghost story.

Set during the final weekend before the Yankee Pedlar Inn closes its doors and goes out of business, the two remaining staff members, Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) spend the time attending to the four odd guests and trying to record evidence of the Inn's alleged ghost, Madeline O'Malley. Nothing happens for a very long time in this movie, and when it finally does it is in very underplayed moments, but from the very opening the movie builds up a tension of expectation that something's going to happen. Scenes are framed in a way that makes the viewer keep a keen watchful eye for anything out of the ordinary, and at the same time suggest that whatever that something is it's existing right outside of the frame that we are looking at. The Inn becomes a character itself.

The characters look and act like real people, so they are empathetic, and the way the story unfolds lends credence to the reality of the situation. This works incredibly well with the slow, purposeful, build of tension, but unfortunately that tension never breaks or delivers. We learn nothing about the haunting itself, and when the climax comes, its quite anticlimactic and incredibly short. The movie ends up feeling like more of an anecdote than a story as if it's one of a string of incidents tied to an allegedly haunted location reenacted on some ghost hunting show. It's a shame, too, because everything leading to the end suggested a lot of promise.


Shawn Robare said...

You pretty much summed up my feelings on both the genre and this flick. Ty West had a similar issue with his flick House of the Devil which had a really great build up to a payoff that was weird and anticlimactic. I do think he's got a lot of potential though...

John Rozum said...

I haven't seen House of the Devil yet, though I'm looking forward to doing so. I agree, he has a lot of potential. He might want to get someone to come in and help him with the story structure when he's writing though. I think I wouldn't have been as disappointed by the ending if I didn't think so highly of the rest of the movie.