Why do people even like watching horror films? If you look at horror films from a realistic perspective, why would you ever want to watch people suffer, get murdered, haunted by ghosts, devoured by monsters, etc? This was one of the questions Carroll tried to answer in his article “Why Horror?” Through a paradox of our own psychology we seem to be attracted and fascinated to things which should normally be found repulsive and disgusting.
Horror films in a sense is an art form unlike any other since it relies on its ugliness and ability to cause discomfort and distress to give us pleasure instead of beauty. Our curiosity as an audience is triggered by the existence of a monster, something beyond our own reality, supernatural, unknowable. We are driven to watch further so that we may understand the monster and the world it lives in/comes from. Despite it being disgusting and horrifying, it still manages to give us pleasure through engaging in our curiosity to find out more. And I would say that what makes a good horror film is that in the end it manages to consistently elicit fear and dissonance as to reward our curiosity with gross pleasure.
In the film “The Innkeepers” we are introduced to a situation where a so called haunted-hotel is about to close down in a couple of days or so. With the main characters of the film being horror enthusiasts just like ourselves, they found it to be their responsibility to find out if this fact was indeed true before it was too late. Claire was portrayed as your average adventurous girl who seemed all too bored with her daily life while Luke claimed to have had experienced supernatural events in the past and even runs a website about these ghost sightings. To be quite honest, the relatability of the audience with the main characters was all the movie had going for it. Because the characters seemed so average and normal, it was easy to relate as to why they wanted to go on ghost hunting. Their daily lives as innkeepers in the hotel was just plain boring. However, because majority of the film was showcasing their daily lives, it ended up being just that….boring.
The movie continued at a very slow pace and it never really got scary until the final chapter. It was a very slow burn and I personally think that it didn’t really live up to the hype. The movie only began to be slightly scary when we were introduced to another character in the film, Leanne Rease-Jones, who seemed to be quite the mysterious lady. She was the person with the 3rd eye and could really communicate with spirits. And when she finally confirmed that there was something in the hotel, things suddenly kicked into high gear. On one of their drunken adventures Claire and Luke went down to the basement to call upon the ghost of Madeline O’Malley and succeeded. It freaked out Luke so much that it drove him to leave the hotel and leave Claire to venture of alone. Claire would eventually discover the dead body of the old man (apparently he was the husband of Madeline and was full of guilt for her suicide?) and would continually be pursued by the ghost of Madeline throughout the entire hotel. Indeed the ghost really was terrifying to look at and even caused the death of Claire through an asthma attack but I still wasn’t really satisfied by the movie’s ending. I found the pacing too slow that no matter how intense and terrifying the last chapter was, it was already too late to scare me off my opinion of the movie being too dragging and uneventful. However I would like to commend the movie for at least trying to evoke fear through silence and timing. Just like the jump scare video Luke shared with Claire, a lot of the scary scenes in the movie relied on that technique and it worked most of the time.
What made the film unique for me was again that the characters were quite relatable. I would totally understand why Claire and Luke would go ghost hunting after drinking a couple of beers. However ghost hunting may seem fun and enjoyable as an idea, actually discovering real life ghosts and monsters is not. That I believe is what makes horror films so attractive. Although it tries to horrify us, terrify us, and gross us out, it is always entertaining to watch since we all know that it’s only a fictional movie. When in fact it ends up being real, just like how Claire discovered the ghost of Madeline, only then does it seize to be pleasurable and begin to terrify us to death.
Noel Carroll, “Why Horror?.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002).