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John’s Horror Corner: The Innkeepers (2012)

November 19, 2012

MY CALL:  An entertaining dynamic between two awkwardly sweet characters steers this film into a unique mood.  I really enjoyed watching this movie and it made for a very different, satisfying experience.  [B]  IF YOU LIKE THIS WATCH:  Written and directed by Ti West, who didn’t impress me with his episodic contribution to V/H/S (2012).  OTHER REVIEWS:  This movie was suggested to me by co-writer The Hof.  He also positively reviewed this movie.

Claire (Sara Paxton; Shark Night 3D, The Last House on the Left) and Luke (Pat Healy) work at the Yankee Pedlar Inn and are determined to find evidence of the paranormal within its walls before it goes out of business in its final days.  They have a refreshingly platonic friendship that isn’t blurred by the typical nudity-harbingering sexual tension so common among horror ilk.  These two have a natural and playful chemistry; you instantly know that they care about each other and, in effect, it makes viewers care about them.  Already this is a solid victory for any horror movie.

Claire is a somewhat awkward but super-nice young woman with a childish verve who finds listening to others to be exhausting, instantly slouching like a dropped marionette.  Luke is a nice, quirky guy who likes getting to know the hotel guests.  Their dynamic is nothing short of cute and it comes with some funny accidental scares.  The director clearly went out of his way to make Paxton look childishly cute whenever possible.  The characters were so well written that I could seriously watch this movie as a dramedy without any horror elements, just to watch Luke and Claire’s interactions.  It’s all done very well and they’re so likeable.

They want to find proof of Madeleine O’Malley’s haunting.  During the process Claire starts hearing things and some cheap scares really made me smile.  Claire does an overnight ghost recording and picks up on something spooky.

“Okay, now I am CERTAIN I hear something.”

TV star Lee Jones (Kelly McGillis; Top Gun, Witness) is in town for a convention.  She is a bit distant, in a superior way, but subtly maternal.  She offers her spiritual knowledge and turns out to be a medium.  Some limited communication with “the other side” reveals a room in the hotel where something awful happened that Claire must not enter because she “cannot save” Madeleine.  The tone shifts from light-hearted to serious as the style of the scares follows suit.  Stranger, graver things start happening involving the hotel guests and further investigations by Claire and Luke.

The scares seem simple—like they’re meant not to be terrifying, but only jumpy—as if this was made so that preteens could have a “good” horror movie that won’t leave them traumatized.  This is still enjoyable to adults, though.  There’s no creepy, dreadful vibe whatsoever.  It’s more like you look forward to things, like with a good mystery novel, than dread them.  “Spooky” elements are simply clichés executing perfectly; as if this movie was a “how to” manual for future horror filmmakers.

The camerawork was good; simple, but well-placed and effective.  The movie demanded no more than they gave.

Let’s be clear.  The horror “story” wasn’t very good. While I loved the character-driven premise and it carried the movie effortlessly, the horror story itself never really felt like it moved forward and it certainly met us with no resolution at the end whatsoever.  However, I really enjoyed watching this movie and it made for a very different, satisfying experience.

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