The audience is first introduced to the characters of Luke and Claire. They are innkeepers of a small hotel about to close down. Luke makes Claire watch a video of the ghost haunting the hotel but in reality it was just one of the jump scares video. Several customers check in the hotel, including an old man, and an actress turned medium, Leanne Reese Jones. Claire tries to make contact with the ghost of the hotel, Madeline O’Malley. Leanne warns her to stay away from the basement of the hotel. Claire does not listen. Eventually, while drunk, Luke and Claire head down to the basement to communicate with the ghost of Madeline. Luke reveals that he had lied about making contact with the ghost previously. Scared, he flees from the hotel. Claire asks Leanne for her aid in communicating with the ghosts of the hotel. Leanne tells Claire to leave the hotel immediately. Claire tries to warn the other patrons of the hotel only to find that the old man had committed suicide. She sees the ghost of Madeline in the room. Startled, she runs down the stairs and bumps into Luke who has come back to the hotel. Luke goes upstairs to get Leanne. Claire hears voices from the basement. At the entrance of the basement, she is startled by apparition of the old man and falls down. The old man chases her to the room where Madeline’s body was hidden. Claire is trapped as Madeline approaches her. She is found dead the next morning. Leanne and Luke leave the hotel with the police. The last shot of the film is of a barely visible Claire, then the door slams into the camera.
Innkeepers is quite a unique horror movie. It is one of the more conventional ghost horror movies that we watched in class. It has a unique format – dividing parts of the story into chapters.
I personally found the movie’s pacing too slow. The pacing only picked up in the last chapter of the story. I think that dividing the film into chapters also contributed to the slow pace of the story. As I was watching, I remember thinking, “a lot of chapters has passed already… When will the ghost appear?” I also found it a little hard to connect with the characters. I didn’t find them very likable and I did not really get attached to them.
There are three points of discussion that I will briefly touch on. First, is that of the concept of the other. The ghosts haunting the hotel did not touch Claire. Yet she feared them, inducing an asthma attack and died as a result. There was nothing physically scary about the ghost. It was simply that they were ‘other’, that they were not human, that Claire feared them.
I think, another interesting point of discussion could be that Claire was the target. It was not Luke or Leanne but Claire. This was because Claire was the ‘weakest’ of them. She was female, which in a patriarchal society is weak in comparison to a male like Luke, and she did not have knowledge of the supernatural like Leanne. Aside from this she had asthma which contributed to her ‘weakness’ and ultimately her demise.
Finally, the last point of discussion would be about Carroll’s article on curiosity. Horror films show what is disgusting, disliked, and what is othered by society. So why do people still watch horror? Carroll states that curiosity is why the audience watches horror films. Having to watch the ‘weirdness’ in horror films is a small price to pay for the pleasure of having your curiosity satiated. Horror films have this temptation, somehow analogous to riding a roller coaster. When you ride a roller coaster you figuratively think that you will die. Then adrenaline kicks in. This rush of adrenaline is what keeps you coming back for more.
The story itself, I think was meant to stimulate the audience’s curiosity. They divided it into chapters, there was this disruption in the story that makes you ask, what happens next? The slow build up of the story also contributed to feeding the audience’s curiosity. The story was revealed slowly, offering bits and pieces of information to satiate the audience’s curiosity little by little and not giving it all in one go.
Even in the film itself, you can see how curiosity is something that pushes Claire. When Luke made Claire watch the video, even though Claire was hesitant and afraid she still watched it. Even after Leanne warns Claire about the danger of going into the basement, Claire goes into the basement to satiate her curiosity. The monster, Madeline O’Malley, fueled Claire’s curiosity. The mystery of why the ghost remained in the hotel. Ghosts are others. They are normally something feared, and yet because of Claire’s curiosity, she calls out to the ghost. Claire reaches her demise because of her curiosity but at the end she is brought back as a ghost. Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.
Noel Carroll, “Why Horror?.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002).