Why do people watch horror films? Is it because they like blood and gore? Is it because they want to escape the real world and experience something traumatic? Or is it because they just like the adrenaline that getting scared gives to an individual? How can horror enthusiasts find pleasure in aspects and themes that by nature is distressful or unpleasant? According to the article of Noel Carroll, “Why Horror?“, “the locus of our gratification is not the monster as such but the whole narrative structure in which the presentation of the monster is staged.” This perfectly sums up the latest film we watched, The Innkeepers, due to its form of story telling.
When one talks about horror films, Innkeepers might not be on anyone’s Top 10 list. Although classified as a horror film, it has a lighter tone to it with a relatively slow build-up. For someone that gets scared easily by horror films, I found this movie to be boring, one-dimensional, predictable, and even confusing at some point. Is this even a horror film that we are suppose to be watching? Yes it has your stereotypical build-up at the start but I thought that this form of narrative would pay off in the end with a massive and scary monster ready to scare the living day lights out of everyone in the room. Sadly, it ended up frustrating the audience, me included, watching a film that was scarier on paper that it was in the actual film.
For someone who sees this film as a scary film, they would mention that the monster itself isn’t scary. What is scary is the proponents present in the film. Having a spooky environment like a very old hotel, multiple possible jump scares, an old creepy man checking in, and having a supposed ghost in Madeline O’Malley haunt the hotel are key reasons why this is film would be considered to be horror. For majority of the time, the audience is kept in a feeling of suspense not knowing when the actual scare would happen. This is what Carroll means when he mentions that “the horror story is driven explicitly by curiosity.” The audience is introduced to a process of “disclosure, discovery, proof, explanation, hypothesis, and confirmation” wherein the characters and the audience are left to ponder, doubt, and eventually fear whether or not there is such thing as a monster that is scaring the characters. For horror fans, this is actually what they look for. The feeling of “unknowable” and having something (a monster) which doesn’t exist and is not suppose to have those horrific properties leaves wanting to know more about this horrific monster, just like the case of the leading lady in the film, Claire (played by Sara Paxton).
“The disclosure of the existence of the horrific being and of its properties is the central source of pleasure in the genre; once that process of revelation is consummated, we remain inquisitive about whether such a creature can be successfully confronted, and that narrative question sees us through to the end of the story.”
Even with the relatively slow pace, each component, chapter, and event prior to the actual reveal of the ghost properly build up the monster and sets the scene perfectly. From the piano keys playing by itself to finding the bloody dead body of the old man in his bathroom, each and every step of the way leaves the audience anticipating and wanting, but at the same time not wanting, to know and see more. The experience of the audience and of horror fans in general can be compared to the personality and experience of the main character, Claire. Just like us, Claire is, not necessarily a horror fan, but is a paranormal enthusiast wanting to know more about this entity or ghost of Madeline O’Malley. She constantly looks around for clues and signs of its existence, just like horror fans waiting and searching for the scary monster.
Overall, Innkeepers in not your typical horror film. Although it does have all your stereotypical elements to consider it as a horror film, for me the film lacks the sense of connection to its audience that movie viewers would ultimately want to not only better understand the film but actually like the film. Just getting the reaction of the entire class in terms of this movie, hands down they would say that it wasn’t scary at all and it was a bit boring. What I appreciate with this film however is that it brings into perspective a rationale on why there is an appeal to the horror genre more than just wanting to get scared or the thrill of being frightened. Our sense of curiosity drives our love for the horror genre.
Janovich, M. (2002). Horror, The Film Reader. London: Routledge.