Written and directed by Ti West, the Innkeepers is a film that follows Claire and Luke; two employees at the Yankee Pedlar Inn that is about to close down. Being ghost hunters, both have been closely following any paranormal activity that has been happening in the Inn and hope to experience something spectacular on its last weekend. In Noel Carroll’s “Why Horror,” he talks of the very thing that draws an audience to horror. If it is repulsive, when then are people attracted to it? Even though Carroll was referring to horror audiences in this claim, I think that this can also apply to Claire and Luke.
“In the ordinary course of affairs, people shun what disgusts them… on the other hand, many people do seek out horror fictions for the purpose of deriving pleasure from sights and descriptions that customarily repulse them.” (Carroll, 1987). In accordance with the film, I think there were many instances that showed this repulsion and curiosity at the same time. In the first instance, Claire hears noises coming from the Inn’s basement and initially turns away and returns inside; this is the repulsion in Carroll’s statement. However, as soon she is inside, she uses Luke’s ghost hunting equipment in order to record electronic voice phenomenon’s or EVPs. In doing this, she was able to hear music playing and finally witnessing the grand piano in the lobby playing by itself. In this sequence, we can see that even if Claire was scared at first, her curiosity and interest got the better of her and she still sought to find evidence of Madeline O’ Malley’s presence in the inn.
In the next instance, Claire decides to include Luke in her quest to find out more about Madeline O’ Malley’s story and they decide to venture into the inn’s basement – where O’ Malley was hidden. After hearing disembodied voices again, Luke decides to flee the inn while Claire stays behind and asks Leanne Rease-Jones, the actress turned medium, for help. It is only after Leanne’s advice to leave the hotel that Claire is finally spurred into action.
“The human characters in the tale must undergo a process of discovering that the monster exits, which, in turn, may lead to a further process of confirming that discovery in an ensuing scene or series of scenes” (Carroll, 1987). In the film, this is perfectly exemplified by the slow process of Claire and Luke picking up evidence and personally witnessing numerous paranormal activities in the Pedlar Inn. However, it is only after experiencing Madeline O’ Malley’s apparition after her nap and seeing O’Malley’s hanging body in the room of their dead guest, the Claire finally believes.
According to Carroll (1987), the catalyst of a narrative is the uncertainty in whether or not the monster can be destroyed. Unlike other modern mainstream movies like The Conjuring (2013), Insidious (2010), Sinister (2012) that all seem to lead to the main characters trying to defeat the monsters in each respective movie. If not defeating the creature in question, then at least ending the curse that started it all. However, what I noticed in the Innkeepers is that from the very start of the movie, Claire and Luke only seemed to want to find evidence of Madeline O’ Malley given that they were closing down the inn anyway and would never have to see it again. As someone who is part of the audience, I found this problematic seeing that there was no desire to really do anything about appeasing Madeline O’ Malley’s spirit. From the start of the film, it was all about the two characters satisfying their curiosity about the ghost’s existence but never what they could have done with the information they learned to put her spirit to rest.
In the end, I think it was this very ignorance that got Claire killed and her soul trapped in the inn as well. In my opinion, the film was slow moving and it felt like there was no end goal that the audience could look forward to after enduring all of those scares with Claire and Luke. The film was enjoyable but it is not something that I would reach for again any time soon.
Source: Carroll, N (1987). Why horror? Retrieved from http://www.blue-sunshine.com/tl_files/images/Week6-Carroll-WhyHorror.pdf