Layers of narrative encapsulate the horror film, “The Innkeepers.” The storytelling of the movie was slow, even if there were chapters included in it. Personally, I found the movie dragging. There was too much build up on the appearance of the ghost of Madeline O’Malley, that when it finally appeared, it did not quite live up to the expectation.
However, albeit the slight dislike for the movie, “The Innkeepers” was still an interesting horror film because of Claire’s peculiar fascination with the ghost of Madeline O’Malley. Interspersed with humor, the movie’s narrative worked out well because in horror films, people look for the things that they would normally stay away from—like ghosts.
In the article entitled, “Why horror?” by Noel Carroll (2002), he posits the audience with a question of why instead of what. Often, audiences only ask what the horror genre means, not why people are attracted it. In line with this, the film “Innkeepers” really do make us ask why Claire was very fascinated with meeting the ghost of Madeline O’Malley and proving that she was real.
Furthermore, according to the article, “horror thrives above all as a narrative form” (Carroll, 2002, p. 34). As mentioned earlier, layers of narrative encapsulated the film. The entire film was divided into chapters, with the first two chapters leading up to the revelation of the ghost of Madeline O’Malley. Within each chapter, there were stories dying to be told. For example, Luke was on the lookout for ghost sightings so he can share his story online, and earn a living from it as well. Leanne Rease-Jones, the actress, shared her own life story to Claire—about how she has finally found her calling and purpose in life. Similarly, the barista in the nearby coffee shop randomly shared her stories about her love life as well, and lastly, the elderly man, their last guest on the hotel, had an unfinished narrative that he ended there. As for the character of Claire, the one instant wherein she was telling a story was when she was scaring the little boy who was the guest at their hotel. Seemingly, it seems like she was the only one with no story of her own to tell. Perhaps, this was why she was extremely set on finding the ghost of Madeline O’Malley—so she can tell other people a story about her mundane life. Perhaps, this is also the reason why people are drawn to the horror film. Normally, people have every day routines and sometimes, this can lead to boredom. With the stories depicted in horror films, people are comforted by the fact that there may be something peculiar and extraordinary behind the day-to-day humdrum of normal life.
Moreover, Carroll (2002) also states that horror stories often “revolve around proving, disclosing, discovering, and confirming the existence of something impossible” (p. 34). Often, what makes this type of storytelling effective is the prolonging of the revelation of the existence of the monster. This worked for the movie “The Innkeepers.” In the said movie’s case, the information was withheld until the end of the film. Similarly, Carroll (2002) likewise mentions that the horror film is “driven explicitly by curiosity” (p. 35). This is very evident in Claire’s character. She did not stop until she was able to see the ghost of Madeline O’Malley. Claire is able to bring the audience along her ghost hunting adventure as she goes through the “processes of disclosure, discovery, proof, explanation, hypothesis, and confirmation” (Carroll, 2002, p. 40). Unfortunately, this adventure led to her untimely demise.
The character of Claire is as interesting and as complex as it can get because she seems to be deriving pleasure from the experience and the revelation of the ghost of Madeline O’Malley. It is as if the tragic ending of her life was brought about by her own terrible decisions. In Carroll’s article (2002), he mentions that “monsters, the anomalous beings who star in this book are repelling because they violate standing categories” (p. 39) Because of this, they become very interesting. What made the ghost hunting experience effective in “The Innkeepers” was the juxtaposition of a normal and mundane setting, and the possibility that something extraordinary must be lurking around the corner.
To conclude, “The Innkeepers”, although a slightly dragging horror film, somehow still works because Claire shows us the natural curiosity and attraction of people to things that they can barely understand. Everything was “normal” about Claire (and Luke), except the fact that she almost seems to be kind of obsessed with the ghost of Madeline O’Malley. One striking line in the film was when Claire asked what the ghost wanted and Leanne Reese-Jones tells her, “Like you, [they] want to live.” Claire’s story is both ordinary and extraordinary, because just like other people, she wants life to be an adventure. The only difference is that she found this adventure in dealing with the dead.
Source: Janovich, M. (2002). Horror, The Film Reader. London: Routledge.