The Innkeepers was short and sweet. Unfortunately, this is not something you would look for in a horror film. To my dismay, despite a strong cast and an esteemed director, it was quite dragging for my preference. However, I believe it was a smart choice to keep the story as simple as possible and at the same time played to his advantage.
Ti West, a veteran director in the horror genre was filming another movie when he stayed in the infamous establishment. He discovered the roots of the inn, dating over a century ago and its paranormal activity that has attracted numerous tourists over the years. The Yankee Pedlar Inn was owned by two immigrants and have passed it down to their heirs. Story says that the wife had died in room 353, the same room that was used in the film. Eventually, he made a somewhat ‘satire’ comedy to the story.
The movie is quite different compared to the usual daunting themes present in other films. Yet you have the basics in what we look for in this genre. The ghost sightings, the creepy setting, the questionable guests and etc. Even down to Claire’s fate which was unfortunate but necessary. West keeps this movie as simple and predictable as possible.
Ti West creates the story in between the real and the impossible. Well at least in my opinion. In reality, ghost sightings are not all dark and eerie unlike how horror movies make it seem to be. More often than not, you tend to see, feel or hear during your day to day routine.Movies who use paranormal activity as a base is usually a hit or miss for me. I believe in ghosts and had my own fair share of stories with them. So whenever the story becomes too realistic to the point where it either has happened to me or can happen, I start to cringe up. But if the story becomes too much, it simply fictional in my eyes. That is why I think the movie franchise “Paranormal Activity” have become such a phenomena was its ability to make it as realistic as possible. Well at least some of it.
Ti West uses “old school” technique when telling the tale of the Yankee Pedlar Inn. In some ways, it reminded me of Charlie Chaplin’s movies with the use of chapters to divide the story and light music to transition the scenes. I believe it was unnecessary to divide as such, but with his overall theme, it made sense. The movie was released in 2011, it could have been made two or three years prior, but clearly his references go way back, maybe around early 2000s.
Immediately, when I saw Sara Paxton as the main lead and Lena Dunham having a cameo role, I had an inkling that the movie would not be as dark as expected. A lot in the genre, both in television and Film have used the comedic factor to balance out the horror aspect, especially in paranormal activity. The movie, however reminds us of why the horror genre need not to be as gruesome as it is today. In the simple elements, we can instill fear even in the psychological aspect.
Remember the scene when Claire and Luke accidentally bumped into each other, the build up was high but to our surprise it was not the ghost. Yet the reaction of the audience was priceless. Horror films are not all about the evil antagonist present in the film, what I found smart with West’s production was his capability to scare us with our minds and imagination, like in real life. It’s all in the mind.
Ti West uses sound as a major factor in spicing up the tale. Horror films tend to use sound to anticipate and create such weight whenever something major happens. But with this film, despite not creating the sound build up we look for to make us aware of the monster, he uses sound as realistic as possible. The eerie sightings that could happen in real life.
Noel Carroll makes a great point in his article, “Why Horror?”, he points out that we do not normally look for the monster itself in watching the film but rather focus on the narrative. Shows how true it is in this film specifically. We do not dwell into the wife that died in the inn, but rather we try to piece that story and understand how each part plays into its entirety.
Horror films, as Carroll puts it is driven by curiosity. Applicable to all the films we have watched, we become so engaged with the story because we want to disclose and discover the monster and eventually explain and conclude at the end. This movie is as basic as it gets. The monster is revealed in the middle, the protagonists is in war with the monster, eventually they lose and the story comes to a close. But again, it’s how the story evolves and makes our curious minds so drawn to it.
Noël Carroll. “Why horror?” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002)