Noël Carroll wrote an article entitled “Why Horror?” that mainly discusses why is it that viewers of the horror genre are attracted to films categorized under it. Horror films evoke fear, it shows monsters, scenes, and sights that are repulsive, described as disgusting, gory, and disturbing, but why do people still watch it? What is there about horror films that entice people to watch? What about the horror genre gives viewers pleasure while watching it?
“If horror necessarily has something repulsive about it, how can audiences be attracted to it?”, as said by Carroll. He discusses in his article that while horror is really disturbing, scary, or disgusting, viewers still find pleasure in watching it because of curiosity. It was mentioned in the article that curiosity is the appetite of the mind and “with the horror ﬁction, that appetite is whetted by the prospect of knowing the putatively unknowable.” This is what Carroll says is the reason why horror films, despite its unique elements, still attracts an audience.
The narrative, he argues is the most important factor in a horror film, but this does not disregard the role of the monster. The monster is the subject and focus of the curiosity of the viewers and the narrative and storyline of the films fuels this curiosity even more. The films consists of points of curiosity all throughout. This just means that at different points of the film, the curiosity of the viewers are driven more and more as the film progresses. It starts with asking who the monster is, then why the monster is there, what is the monster’s backstory, how do you kill or eliminate the threat of the monster, or could the monster even be killed, etc. “The pleasure derived from the horror fiction and the source of our interest in it resides, first and foremost, in the processes of discovery, proof, and conﬁrmation that horror ﬁctions often employ. The disclosure of the existence of the horriﬁc being and of its properties is the central source of pleasure in the genre”
This is applicable to the film The Innkeepers. The film was directed and written by Ti West and was released on March 29, 2012. The film stars Sara Paxton as Claire, Pat Healy as Luke and Kelly McGillis as Leanne Rease-Jones, the three main characters of the film. I personally found the film boring. It was interesting to have the film cut into chapters, though it was dragging in the beginning and most of the action was really too packed in the end.
Claire and Luke were the last two caretakes of the Yankee Pedlar Inn before it was to close down completely during the weekend. They were introduced as two people who were interested in finding out whether or not the local legend was true about the inn. From the characters of the film having that sense of curiosity to find out more about the monster in the inn and its existence, so too are the viewers being enticed and driven to be more curious about the monster as well.
Local legend says that a woman named Madeline O’Malley haunts the hotel because she committed suicide in the honeymoon suite of the inn on the night of her wedding and that she was buried in the basement by the innkeepers then to avoid a scandal. As the film progresses, though the film was slow-paced, it continues to drive the curiosity of the viewers. It begins with the knowledge that Leanne is part of psychic group and reveals to Claire that she should not go down the basement confirming that the ghost did exist. It continues to reveal more about the existence of the monster as one night, the two (Luke and Claire) gets drunk and decides to go to the basement. Claire sees the ghost of Madeline behind Luke after calling out to her though, in the scene the viewers do not see Madeline. This intrigues the viewers more because it is some sort of proof to the existence of the monster, but it also doesn’t give them an image of the monster driving their curiosity to find out more.
The bulk of the action comes in the next scenes. Leanne tells Claire that she is in danger and should leave the hotel immediately. They pack and when they were about to leave, they couldn’t find Leanne. Claire and Luke split up to find her and when Claire goes up to the honeymoon suite, the old man originally staying there hung himself and left a note of apology for a lost love. Again, this fuels the curiosity as new hints are discovered. Jumping towards the end of the film, Claire encounters Madeline once again but dies as she does. Though, the film gives viewers a lot of questions to think about in the end of it, it still can’t be denied that the film did drive curiosity about the monster all throughout and that it also provided viewers with answers, proofs, and discoveries.
Source: Noël Carroll, “Why Horror?.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002).