The Innkeepers

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The Innkeepers is a classic ghost story, where you have the ghost of someone haunting the place where they were killed. It’s a lot like those stories that your friends tell you during while you’re travelling to well-known “haunted” place, or maybe those that you might read on creepypasta and the like. And it’s something quite relatable, as we all pretty much know what it’s like to get bored and look for some sort of adventure. It starts out with two bored hotel employees just trying to get something interesting out of their last day on the job, and of course, they get exactly that. It’s exactly what they’re looking for, and more than they bargained for.

 

Ghost stories usually explanations for why they happen. In The Innkeepers (and in most ghost stories), the ghost is wherever it is because it was killed there. However, most ghost stories include a reason for why they go after certain people, and The Innkeepers kind of lacked that. Or perhaps I simply missed it, since the movie was really quite dragging for me. There wasn’t much happening, mostly just the two friends talking. I thought that things were going to become a lot more interesting and action-packed when the two other guests arrived, but it wasn’t much. I think they were a bit underused, actually. They could have been incorporated in the story more, especially the old man. Again, it could just be because I was bit sleepy when I saw the film that I failed to make all these connections. I usually expect movies to wake me up, but since it kinda seemed that everything was repeating itself, I tended to space out.

 

The Innkeepers did a lot of building up, and there were certainly moments where I was on the edge of my seat and half-covering my ears expecting the ghost or at least something to suddenly come out of the dark corridors. It’s a movie that’s really creepy to watch on your own, because it tends to make you paranoid of all the little sounds. Most horror movies (or any movie genre for that matter) tend to be a lot better when seen on the big screen, but this one would probably be the scariest when watched very early in the morning on a laptop, alone in a strange motel room. However, I think the climax fell a bit flat. It’s quite sudden and ends almost as soon as it starts, though you tend to keep your hands up and block your eyes until you’re sure that the credits are rolling. Medyo bitin. But it’s the kind of movie that will freak you out once you find yourself in situations similar to it, when you find yourself in a creepy and rather old hotel with barely anyone else there.

 

The Innkeepers plays with the gaze, where the characters try to hold on to the power by being the ones to look but ultimately, the one being looked at triumphs. Or it can be looked at this way: Claire is the one who is being looked at, and the one who was looking all along was the ghost of Madeleine O’Malley. Claire has been watched all along, and when she tries to turn the tables and be the one to hold the gaze, she is punished. Claire, the emotional female, does not listen to reason that tells her to leave the place already, instead going back to save the old man. Meanwhile, her guy friend has already left. The reasonable, logical guy has already left the building, and since Claire stayed even though shouldn’t have, she got punished by being locked in the cellar and apparently dying. It’s sort of implied that she too will become a ghost in the building. Because she wanted to look, now she gets to do just that to whoever the next poor soul to try to look for ghosts in that building.

Innkeepers

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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. 

The Innkeepers

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The Innkeepers is, at its core, a relatively simple ghost story. Claire and Luke are in a supposedly old haunted hotel. For the most part, The Yankee Pedlar Inn is a simple hotel, with nothing going for it except for suicide of Madeline O’Malley many years ago. Claire and Luke, as ghost hunting enthusiasts, are intrigued by her supposed presence and attempt to document her haunting. Very typical of ghost movies, the signs of a haunting start very small, but soon grow more and more terrifying until it culminates in Claire’s death.

I haven’t decided yet whether I like Innkeepers, or at least enough to recommend it to people, mostly because of the first half or third of the film. The earlier part of the movie was very slow. I found it really boring that I found myself fighting to stay awake, because it was merely documenting the mediocre lives of the two main characters. I don’t know if the two characters were made that way so that audiences could relate with them, but I find that, for the most part (and especially in the case of Luke), these characters exemplified many of the things we don’t like about ourselves – our laziness, mediocrity, lack of ambition, and cowardice. I found myself feeling intense dislike for Luke when he abandons Claire, even after he says all those things to her to get into her pants. While leaving the hotel was the logical, self-preserving decision, I believe his decision to leave Claire, his friend, was despicable. Claire, at least, at least didn’t abandon people. Even when she felt utter terror, she still returned for the old man on the third floor.

Regardless, The Innkeepers also did a a bunch of interesting things as well. Undoubtable, there is power in looking, in the gaze. The power lies in the beholder because he/she can, at a distance, scrutinize the object of his/her gaze. As a viewer, you start to understand your object more and somehow you gain power and control in the process. The object of your gaze, if it were alive and sentient, however would feel self-conscious and vulnerable. I think the reason why Claire felt so disconcerted in the hotel was not just because she felt something otherworldly there, but that Madeline was unseen yet watching her. As viewers as well, we feel helpless because we know there’s something there, but we’re kept on the edge. The tension grows and grows with the signs and sounds, but we see very little, almost zero of the ghost, yet we are made to feel that Madeline is furiously chasing us. The story, while I still hold is pretty boring, is structured very typically. Everything is built towards that climax, where Claire and Luke investigate the basement, Luke flees, Claire pleads with Leanne for help, the two encounter something terrifying in the basement, they decide to escape the hotel, Claire encounters the old man’s dead body and Madeline’s ghost, Claire flees to the basement, and finally dies of an asthma attack. The last twenty minutes or so are so terrifying and exciting because of all the build up from the earlier parts of the movie. The climax is so effective because the rest of the plot never tried to detract or prepare you for what you were going to face at the end. In this regard, The Innkeepers was definitely very effective at being scary.

Innkeepers

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Innkeeper is a very awkward movie to experience and I mean awkward in the sense that the movie spends a lot of time on one thing to the point that you feel awkward looking on. I guess I can call the movie novel in proving that the movie’s narrative has a dynamic power over you in demonstrating that it can cause you to feel awkward and by demonstrating that it has power over what and how long you are supposed to look at something.

Among other things the movie is about sensing as seeing, seeing as a form of knowing and knowing as a dynamic of power. The movie plays with the viewers in that, coming into the movie where you fully expect horrors leaping out at you left and right and fully on guard, it spends an ‘awkward’ amount of time where you not being scared at all. There are points in time that it seems to raise false scares and alarms, seemingly dulling your sense of fear, if you will. That false sense of security brings down the viewer’s defenses to the levels of unpreparedness that the horrific encounters later are all the more frightening.

The film when it comes down to what is present, introduces the horrific element, the monster of the film, as the ghosts that are encountered by the viewers only in the later third of the movie. Ghosts are a very interesting literary element regarding the dynamics of horror with the human nature of knowing. The ghosts are presented as these phantom forces initially and only later do they make themselves visible even to the viewers, almost quite suddenly. The idea that there is this existence that is beyond your ability to perceive and conceptualize is the basis for the drive for human curiosity and the human process of self-revelation is characterized by curiosity spearheading us into intrusion into the unknown, seeking it and making it known to ourselves; a completely active, penetrating process. The Ghost, however, is the very embodiment of the fear generated from the inversion against human curiosity where that which can be known, no matter through what phenomenology, cannot be known unless it wants to be known. This takes away from the human the power of knowing as simple cognizance.

The ghost plays on the philosophical principle of aletheia, or the state of disclosure of the world in such a fashion that it can be made intelligible and basically cognizable to the human being.  A society based on humanist principles such as our modern culture denies the ghost simply because the ghost is pictured as an aloof reality that can only be known when it wants to. Wanting to be known is the wrong term for it rather, the ghost is horrific in that it is a reality that has full control and full will over its presence in the reality of the world. It violates our current norms of exploration where the only limits we have ever experienced when it comes to knowing have always just been our own.

This inability to the willfully penetrate the reality of the presence of the ghost is the manifestation of a power taken away from us, a castration of sorts where we, with our gaze, are rendered helpless to the behest of the horrific.

The Innkeepers

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The Innkeepers is one of the movies shown in class that quite fascinated me. I consider it a good horror movie because it deals with the supernatural (which I love) and it honestly scared me to some extent. To be honest, it was also refreshing to watch what I consider a typical horror movie after the several psychological-horror type movies shown in class. I do not mean that I did not enjoy these movies. On the contrary, I found those movies interesting because they broadened my knowledge of the horror genre. However, I still prefer horror movies that are to some extent typical or familiar to me.
First, I liked how the movie was made. I think that the slow plot development significantly contributed to the build up of the suspense in the movie. In addition, the filming itself made the movie scarier. Because a lot of the scenes were slow-panning, the audience are kept in suspense and tend to focus on the scene, expecting to see something at the other end of the room. I think that this aspect of the movie made it more terrifying that it actually is. On one hand, I find that these techniques make The Innkeepers a successful horror movie. On the other hand, the movie became a bit dragging because of these techniques.
However, I was fascinated at the fact that the characters were paranormal investigators who seemed to use their jobs as innkeepers as a way to gain access into the haunted hotel. Furthermore, I found it quite ironic that in a sense the thing they were looking for was apparently the one who found them first. It is also noteworthy that the character who supposedly had more experience and encounters with the otherworldly was the one who could not compose himself in the presence of the ghost.
Finally, I liked the twist near the end when the old man entered the story and in a sense became the catalyst for the vengeance of the spirit of his lover. I also liked the concept of the ghost itself because it was very haunting in a somewhat beautiful way. In the end, I enjoyed watching The Innkeepers because it kept me engaged and made me feel thrill and horror, all of which are aspects I look for when I watch horror movies.

Traditional Innkeeping

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The Innkeepers was, in my opinion, the most ordinary horror film that we were able to watch in class.

Enter Claire, a sweet, asthmatic, college dropout and Luke, a geeky dude who drives an old beat-up car who seems to take a liking to Claire. Unfortunately, the Yankee Pedlar Inn, in which they work in, is about to close up shop for good and leaves the two with nothing left to do but tend to the Inn as it goes through its last several days. The pace was slow, the characters were quite the common kind. Eventually out of boredom, the two decide to go deeper into an urban legend about the very Inn that they work for and that is where the horror slowly, but surely starts creeping in.

Not many can be said about the plot from there. It was indeed a very traditional horror movie in a sense that the scares were quite predictable. The use of sound was extraordinary, as the film introduced most of the scary scenes through the sound; you could hear the horror coming. There was abjection there in the sound in a sense that it took the viewers only as far as the sound could, leaving them in a sort of, helpless stance when the ghost would pop out of nowhere. There was of course, the damsel in distress, who was embodied by sweet, asthmatic Claire, a mystic, Leanne-Rease Jones, the hero (or at least he tried to be), Luke and the resident ghosts and eerie old persons that brought the freaky to the screen. The female gender role was not twisted in any way with Claire being thrown into the fray knowing that she might not make it. With a tub suicide on the list and an angry old spirit to boot, The Innkeepers was in every sense of the word, ordinary horror, taking the haunted house-type horror film without taking any new steps or reducing any ingredient that made it the way it usually is. Nevertheless, The Innkeepers was still quite enjoyable and the scenes were still effective besides the fast that in hindsight, viewers could already predict what was about to happen. It was a good change of pace after watching two heart-attack inducing movies, REC and REC2.

Aquamarine’s All Grown Up

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I became a fan of director Ti West ever since I saw his debut film, House of the Devil, back in 2010. The movie was about a babysitting gig gone wrong, and the way West made it was superb. When I heard that he had a new movie coming out, The Innkeepers, I was, of course, excited to eat it all up. Sarah Paxton has proven herself to be a good actress, so I decided to watch this movie.

The Innkeepers is one of the few horror movies that can make some people sleep through the first half. It has a slow-burn first act, where we get to meet normal people and their normal lives doing their normal jobs. But then creepy things start occurring, and said normal people decide to investigate, and end up being given more than what they came there for. It’s very formulaic, but the reason why I think it works is because you don’t really see it done that much nowadays. The characterization of the two leads is just amazing.  We are given extremely long scenes of them doing their menial work, and this I think is the reason why some people dislike this film. Expecting to see a straight-up horror movie, they are instead faced with a slow burning one. However, I think that’s what makes this film even more noteworthy: it knows it’s different, and so it presents itself differently from most horror movies out there.

I like how the film dealt with the reactions and decisions of the normal people when faced with something that’s quite out of their circle of what they deem is normal. Do they try to fight it? Or do they try to assimilate it with their own lives (sidebar: whenever I hear or say the word assimilate, and image of The Thing always pops into my head)? The film also reminded me of (I’m sorry) an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, wherein she tries to save a girl who has been having reoccurring visions that she will die soon, only to die in Buffy’s arms of heart failure. The same thing happens in the movie. Sara Paxton’s character dies not from a ghost’s actions, but from her own asthma attack. The psychic, when asked by Luke near the end of the movie, said that there was nothing that they could have done. This, I think, best sums up the movie’s main point of having the characters deal with abnormal situations, and the fact that sometimes, there’s really so much that you can do. There are events in our lives which we will never gain control of, especially death. Director Ti West seems to have a penchant with these kinds of movies, and I’m sure he’ll be doing even better ones in the future.

Sara Paxton, on the other hand, has proven herself to be a capable actress. Who would have thought she could go this far? The first time I saw her was in Aquamarine and boy, did that blow. She has won me over in The Last House on the Left, wherein she portrayed Mari, the girl left for dead. Finally, The Innkeepers is a horror movie that is worth watching, if you’re really into horror films, like me. This movie is all about subtlety, as emphasized by the last scene in the movie, wherein we are presented with Claire’s former hotel room, and her pale ghostly silhouette looking out the window and then looking directly at the camera until the door slams shut.