At least for me, the movie The Innkeepers (2011) was an average horror film. It is easily forgettable and to be honest, it barely piqued my interest. There were some parts that really tried to get my attention and wherein I wished something big will happen, only to arrive at my disappointment. It was an okay movie; I had seen much better horror movies. Maybe it was because of this that I did not like The Innkeepers. Now, what could have gone wrong for me?
At the beginning, I thought it was quite unconventional to be dividing the movie into chapters along with titles. I thought I would have been able to see what was to come thus making it anticlimactic for me, and that would affect my watching it negatively (so it really did). All of it seemed too cliché of a horror film as well, judging it from a trope-based point of view; an old hotel setting, the hotel personnel looking for the ghost, and that ghost is of someone who cannot rest peacefully where she died, a spiritual expert, etcetera. But other than dividing the movie into chapters, I really thought it would be a horror movie like all others, with the same formula and storyline and ending (someone important was going to die—and yes someone really did.) I might have seen a lot of films that had used this type of horror narrative that I became used to it and was not surprised with any of the developments in this particular movie anymore. Perhaps that was the moviemakers’ intentions, to make use of an ordinary horror narrative and try to bring in something new or refreshing, like how Noel Carroll said that the horror narrative should be a stage for developing the viewers’ fascination and curiosity. But for me they had failed in that and had bored me. I would guess a lot of people felt the same way. The humor was a nice touch, although it would have been preferable for me that the atmosphere was more intense and serious. I honestly thought it was becoming a comedy movie if it weren’t for the later parts of the movie. Oh, and I think the sound effects and background music were too flat for my taste.
There were some parts that tried to get me going. I had begun to hope at the middle part of the movie that a more serious threat was awaiting at the basement, and that there were other supernatural beings that abound there (other ghosts besides Madeline perhaps?) if it weren’t for Leanne Reese-Jones (Kelly McGillis) who kept advising Claire (Sara Paxton) to stop looking for the ghost of Madeline O’Malley (Brenda Cooney) for fear of imminent danger. I thought something else more dangerous other than Madeline was thriving there. Maybe living off of their fear? Their lives? The dark?
Herein I can attest to Noel Carroll’s universal theory of why we continue to watch horror despite it being scary and gore and all—it’s because what leads us to seek out horror is fascination. I am curious as to who and what the monster and ghosts in the movies can do; I am also fascinated with how they come to be and what their capabilities are. This can also be seen in the character of Claire, who was an aficionado for ghost hunts, especially for that of Madeline.
In The Innkeepers, we were all told earlier on about the ghost of Madeline O’Malley, but Leanne Reese-Jones just kept building it up and implying that the ghost of Madeline was real danger, that it was going to be hell and we should all get out of the inn if we don’t want to die. Like Claire, I wanted to see what Madeline could do, or what the other monster I had assumed was, or maybe other kinds of developments. Well eventually we would see that Madeline could not even do anything or seemed to be of no threat at all—no danger was ever inflicted by her on the characters, not even when she was behind Luke (Pat Healy) already in the basement nor when Claire was searching for her. It was implied that Claire died later on for having lost her asthma inhaler not because of Madeline’s deadly touch or whatnot. There was also no other ghost besides Madeline and that of the old man who committed suicide later on, and then that of Claire’s. That disappointed me and my curiosity, really.
I watch horror films to see what the monster can do, what kind of gore and danger it brings about—those are what fascinate me. The Innkeepers just fell short of my expectations, and did not stand out with it making use of an ordinary horror narrative. Although with a few redeeming touches—humor, the “chapters” scheme was new to me—I still could not bring myself to approve of it wholeheartedly.
Janovich, M. (2002). Horror, The Film Reader. London: Routledge.