In modern horror cinema, most filmmakers often forget the importance of character development. In slasher films, for example, each particular individual has a preset trait: the jock, the virgin, the smartass, the slut and the joker. These reused and recycled characters are even referenced and made fun of in the film Cabin in the Woods. Such character tropes have been used hundreds of times. As such, the viewer can’t help but feel disillusioned and separated from these characters, instead rooting for the villain as he slaughters them one by one, which is problematic because these characters are the supposed protagonists, the ones we should actually want to cheer for. Hence character development especially of the protagonist is indeed a crucial element in horror. And this is exactly what The Innkeepers provided.
In order to develop a character well, the film has to showcase the personality, quirks and the way the character interacts with others. In order to achieve this, it would also need a longer build up process. Claire was molded perfectly so as a character that the audience can sympathize with from her little quirks, her bored disposition up to her frightened expressions. As such, I feel as a viewer to connect more to the story, much more to “horror” if I am totally immersed in its characters. The plot was simple enough, just another one of the old abandoned haunted locations.
After I thought I would never be traumatized by another horror movie ghost ever again since Sadako from the ring, well The Innkeepers proved me wrong. It is not only how the way Madeline’s ghost looks like but also on the build leading up to her appearance that generates chills. Although some would argue that the film can be draggy at times, I thought that the cinematography was done in good taste. The lingering shots of empty dark corridors, creaky doors, and slow panning of the camera from one point to another resonate fear throughout the movie. In order to the film to work though, I believe you must totally be immersed into the environment to grasp the chilly feeling that the hotel gives off every night. Also I also commend the amazing score which actually comprises more of unrecognizable noises. Part of the film tries to exploit the fact that the audience will try to squint their ears too understand the sounds coming from Claire’s recorder, only for it to actually consist of gibberish noises. Furthermore, part of the film exploits the expectations of the viewer for something to actually appear or happen, making it unpredictable at times.
The Innkeepers is a rare type of film emerging in horror cinema today that does not depict excessive amounts of gore, and I can still say does not rely on cheesy jump scares as its highlights. That being said, it will prey on your senses. It will unman you with its first few hours of light-hearted comedy, only to suddenly strike you in the gut for the last spine-tingling part of the film.