Having seen the first two movies shown in class before, I was excited to finally watch a horror movie I have yet to see and even heard of. I was preparing myself mentally for all the gore, all jump scares and perhaps even a plot twist. However, after seeing The Innkeepers, I can’t help but feel disappointed. I wouldn’t say that the movie was a bad horror movie; rather, it’s just different from the horror films I have come to know and love. This one was slow-paced, segmented in four long chapters and had an arguably decent “plot twist” towards the very end.
Let me begin by saying that I found the movie boring, draggy and uninteresting. I believe that I have expressed my distaste of a horror movie’s dependence on jump scares to deliver horror and I think this movie relied heavily on that feature. To give a concrete example, they film deliberately uses the well-known jump scare videos on the internet. Such videos make you focus on something, sometimes making you look for something in the video. It starts out calm and stagnant, which forces you to concentrate even more on the screen, and then the next moment, a scary face pops out of nowhere, accompanied by hair-raising violin notes. However, I do believe that jump scares are an essential part of a horror movie, and perhaps is inseparable to the genre. Nonetheless, when a film’s story is overshadowed by the use of jump scares, I immediately lose interest.
One thing I do appreciate is the film’s dedication to character development. The main characters were written well and are not mere stereotypes of a horror film (jock, black guy, nerd,etc.). Instead, the movie presents us with two everyday nobodies, with characteristics that an audience member can easily identify with; laziness, insecurity, curiosity for the unknown and weird, fascination for stories, etc. The film also utilizes a slight sense of humor, which can be observed with the nature of the characters.
Regardless of my own opinion of the movie, I will try to explain why the movie did appeal to other people in Noel Carroll’s framework. In the reading “Why Horror?,” Carroll tries to explain why people would want to see horror movies, when, in fact, horror movies are repulsive, to say the least? She offers her explanation by arguing that a horror movie’s appeal depends on its presentation of the monster, rather than the monster itself. A horror movie goes through a process of discovering the existence of a monster, proving that existence, and trying to find more information about the monster after its confirmed existence. She then concludes that horror films are primarily driven by curiosity. This curiosity about not only of a monster’s existence, but furthermore, its origin, capabilities, reason are essentially what makes people go and see a horror movie. The uniqueness that sets apart horror movies from other movies, since it is arguable that all movies thrive in the narrative of an audience’s “desire to know,” is that the subject of interest in horror movies are often creatures that generally cannot exist possessing special characteristics and powers. In line with this, their revelation is usually has corresponding proofs, hypotheses, explanations, etc. This concept of a person’s hunger for the discovery of the unknown is beautifully mirrored in the movie such as Luke’s attempt to start a website showcasing the hotel’s supernatural beings and stories, Claire’s efforts to record the supposed supernatural beings, not to mention, her persistence in uncovering Madeline O’Malley’s existence, and Leanne Rease-Jones’ ability to communicate and knowledge of the supernatural. It is the same curiosity that drives these characters to try to discover the unknown, despite the potential horror and danger to the curiosity of the audience to find out what’s next, despite the repulsive theme. Moreover, to offer some explanation for my disappointment in the film, Carroll points out that in order for the revelation of the unknown or “impossible beings” to be somehow rewarding for the viewer, it has to be “disturbing, distressing and repulsive.” This is to say that in the process of unveiling the unknown, it must contain some form of disgust to satisfy the audience. This is what is known to be the paradox of horror. However, despite the creepy old man covered in blood, the disfigured ghost of Madeline O’Malley, the monsters in the movie was disappointing. Perhaps watching too many horror films, hearing too many horror stories have made these types of monsters “typical” and no different to a majority of ghost stories. What I’m trying to say is that in the context of ghost stories, these are a normality and are therefore, not disturbing nor disgusting. The slow and long plot progression also did not help since the monsters proved to be underwhelming.
To conclude, I found it hard to write about this movie due to the lack of interest in the movie itself. However, the reading provided me better insight and knowledge of the horror genre. Sadly, I would not recommend this movie to my peers.