FINALLY, autumn is here and I can watch movies in the dark! With that awful life-giving ball of gas gone, I decided to spend some time catching up on my ridiculously long horror watch list. I picked two at random, both from last year. Let’s see which one (if any) gave me nightmares. Minor spoilers ahead because it’s impossible to write without them.
Annie and Nicole have to deal with their abusive mother’s death and set things in order at her old house, but then strange things start to happen. It’s a standard plot as far as ghost films are concerned, and for the most part you get what you expect. I will say without hesitation that the acting was decent, and considering how quickly I get annoyed with female leads running desperately away while leaving their kitchen knives behind, that is saying something.
The film ramped up the jump-scares within the first few scenes, and I was immediately afraid that the film would have nowhere to go. But it managed to keep it’s cool and not immediately give it all away. I do feel, however, that the sudden shift in focus and the lack of a more detailed backstory makes it a hard film to be really invested in. And it definitely tries to be one of those “thank god it’s over, let’s go off into our new lives and never need therapy” kind of films. Those films only really work if the characters are sympathetic enough to warrant such relief on their behalf.
We immediately know that something happened with their mother, and that this was centered around a closet in their house. This could have been played with much more in my opinion. For a film that focuses (in the opening scene, and mirroring it on the last) on eyes, and has an element of a peeping Tom, it really doesn’t use this to its advantage at all. Personally, I am terrified of eyes in the dark, and had this been utilised I would have been hugging my pillow all the way through. Instead of getting psychological, we get historical – trying to find the ghost’s backstory.
The film does this as you expect. Again, I think it’s a misplaced focus. The medium arrives just on time and she is actually creepy enough to justify her presence, but I’m not a big fan of mediums muttering out exposition while our characters desperately ask what they mean. That said, the solution to it all is really pretty good for a film of this type. It doesn’t go for the big scary thing pulling the rug out from under us at the last minute. Instead, the climactic scene keeps its terror-level surprisingly high and made me breathe out in relief when it was over. I just wish I cared more about the characters so I could breathe for them too. I give it a dice roll 3 for a good effort and an unexpected ending that was just shy of cheesy.
It was really the poster that sold this one to me, and boy was I wrong to judge a film by its cover. Do not believe the poster. With a hotel, you are bound to get The Shining comparisons, and there were a few camera angles that could have been changed, but all in all it’s a standard haunted hotel flick that doesn’t really try to be something it’s not, for better and worse.
The Yankee Pedlar Inn is closing its doors and the two last employees are eager to see if they can get evidence of the famous ghost that supposedly haunts the place. I was relieved to have the ghost hunting variant, as it always feels just slightly more natural for them to stay in a hotel when they truly believe it’s haunted.
With only two guests and hours to kill, they still manage to waste an awful lot of time before getting to any actual ghost hunting. I wouldn’t mind it if we were delving into the characters or the ghost’s backstories, which we do to some extent, but when you have several scenes with your characters just bored out of their minds and going to sleep twice without even attempting a ghost hunt, then your movie is too slow.
The only thing I can’t criticise is the main character Claire. The actor Sara Paxton really sold me her awkward, loser charm. She wasn’t entirely consistent in her fear, but she actually kept me watching when I was considering giving up on the film.
The reason for that is that it just isn’t scary. Fear is like comedy, it’s very subjective, but when you don’t have the atmosphere to create slow terror, you should at least throw in a few cheap jump-scares that aren’t entirely predictable. I admit that by the end there were a couple moments I felt something, but by the end I was left perplexed and unsatisfied. The story just doesn’t go anywhere. Except for a genuine “WTF” moment near the end, my goosebump levels didn’t rise about mildly intrigued and hopeful.
The medium this time is a very dull example of the stock character. An actress-turned-spiritualist, she uses a pendulum to… do something. I think even the reality show Most Haunted thought pendulums were a bit silly (though I admit I had one just like it when I was 13, so I cringed more than most people). Mediums are an important part of ghost movies, but one that happens to be staying at the hotel is stretching it.
I commend the film for wanting to do the slow build-up, and like I said the acting was decent. A few scenes were really effective, but instead of starting to high and having nowhere to go, it just didn’t go anywhere. I should point out that I watch all my scary movies as they should be watched: alone in a dark room with only one candle, and preferably the window slightly open so I get the occasional spooky draft and cold. The Innkeepers just didn’t scare me enough, but I’ll give it a dice roll 2 because it was far from bad, so if you think you scare more easily it might be scary enough.