Monday, October 29, 2012

Movie Appraisal: The Innkeepers (2011)

Every once in a while a movie comes along that I absolutely cannot stand on any level. The Innkeepers is that movie for this October. While I'm unsure of exactly what I was expecting from this movie, it certainly wasn't whatever I just saw. Almost nothing about this movie is good. The pacing is terrible. The acting is nearly atrocious in all given cases. The characters are unlikable at best and unfathomable at worst. None of the decisions made by the characters, particularly towards the end of the film, make any sense whatsoever, and there are long periods of time when nothing at all happens.

I happen to love atmospheric horror, but this is  atmospheric horror without atmosphere. It's a ghost story without a purpose. It's a character study without character. This movie is inept. It doesn't work, wither as a movie or as a horror movie. It's boring, predictable, and somewhat pathetic. Ti West, a director I've heard a great deal of very good things about, is about the only reason this movie is even watchable. His direction is passable, even good at times, particularly when the old man shows up dead. Besides that though, none of the actors even seem to be trying. Well, that's not true, Sarah Paxton, who plays Claire, is trying way too hard. She needs to tone her acting down a notch. All I received from her character is that she was twitchy, impulsive, and really dumb. I'm sure many people are like that, but this just felt like overacting to the extreme.  Pat Healy, playing Luke, does a better job, but there are times, particularly when he is scared in the basement of the inn, where it is painfully obvious what's going on in his acting. I like subtlety in movies of this nature, but this movie looked at the word "subtle," didn't understand it, probably never even heard of it, and moved on.

The plot largely centers around the last weekend of the Yankee Pedlar Inn (incidentally in my home state of Connecticut). I have seen the inn before in Torrington, and I guess it could be creepy. Honestly, anything set in this godforsaken state could be creepy, but for the most part this movie was decidedly not creepy at all. Anyway, this last weekend, involves a bunch of shenanigans, ranging from Claire freaking out constantly, to an actress who happens to be psychic, to ghosts and spooks jumping out from all angles. Luke and Claire have attempted to try to find ghosts in the hotel before, and Luke is even in the process of making a spooky late 1990s internet page about the ghosts in the hotel despite it being 2010/2011 when the movie takes place. Ugh. The inn is supposedly haunted, but they've caught very little in the way of evidence, and near the end of the movie you find that Luke doesn't even believe in the ghosts. He's more than likely doing all of this stuff to appeal to Claire, whom he has a thing for. Claire, on the other hand, is a ball full of twitch. The girl can't stand still. She can't stop touching things and moving and twitching and screaming, and it distracted the absolute hell out of me. I didn't connect with her character at all. I didn't like her at all. I had no emotional connection with her, and that was an absolute shame.

I don't think this movie had a promising premise in any case, with or without great characters. Some ghost stories work, but one that seems based on lack of creepy visuals, lack of atmosphere, and lack of actual subtle scares is absolutely doomed to fail. Now, I generally don't like ghost movies anyway, but I had this movie recommended to me by a source I generally trust for compelling spooks and creepy stories. Not this time, it seems. This movie is so devoid of character, scares, or investment that I found myself frequently getting bored, and wishing the movie would just end already. I never do that. Hell, even The Reaping and Marronnier were compelling enough to watch the whole way through. This movie just had nothing for me. It could have been okay. I do like a well handled ghost story... and I happen to watch Ghost Hunters too, so I should love a movie like this if it is well done. But this one was not.

I don't even have more of a plot analysis than that. I have no idea if the ghosts Claire saw were real or not. That seemed to be something the movie was trying to put a question mark on. But the end of the movie completely invalidated any question of the validity of the ghost sightings... or at least of the psychic sights. And that just took away any interest I was clinging too. I figured, "Oh, it might all be in her head. She might be cracking a little. She might be making it all up." But no. Just ghosts scaring her to death because she didn't have her inhaler (since she has asthma). Another thing I have to mention is that my girlfriend had mild asthma. I see her using her inhaler every once in a while. And although Claire uses her inhaler correctly in a few scenes, there are quite a few others when she doesn't use it effectively at all. That bothered me like mad.

There is also forced humor throughout this movie that completely undermines the horror elements. Sometimes humor can be used well with horror, see The Cabin in the Woods or Hausu, but more often than not, humor is not encouraged for movies like this, particularly if it isn't well acted in the first place. I was incredibly disappointed with this piece of garbage movie even though I wasn't expecting anything but some ghosts. The tension was never there; the horror was never there. I would rather watch almost any other horror movie than this one. Avoid it. Don't see it. Don't watch it. Don't encourage it.

Oh, and just to point this out, because I love feeling superior to movie critics who are precisely the worst kinds of people. This terrible movie? Yeah, it has almost an 80% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. This movie that I hated because it was a poorly made, poorly acted, poorly executed horror movie? Yeah, give it an almost stunningly positive review number. But great movies like Silent Hill: Revelation, Ghost Ship, 1408, or even the near-classic Jacob's Ladder all have worst scores. Never trust critics. Seriously. If someone tells you a horror movie has a great score, just pretend it's a bad movie. Do the opposite for films that have terrible scores. Nobody seems to know how to precisely score horror movies, especially when most critics already hate them. Well, horror movies are awesome, and true horror movies need to be known. I will always call out the crap and praise the great ones. And this movie is absolute garbage.

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