Two Ghosts for the Price of One: ‘The Innkeepers’ and ‘Grave Encounters’ Reviews

Ghost related horror films are a strange sort of movie. We normally get the same tropes in each film. The banging doors, the eerie noises, the jump scares. Some do it well (‘Poltergeist’), some not so much (‘The Haunting’ remake). I sat down recently to watch two of the newer installments, one that has been getting a lot of praise, and one that had a trailer that looked so stupid, I figured it might be fun for a few laughs.

 

So let’s get started with ‘The Innkeepers’.

 

This is the latest full length feature from Ti West (House of the Devil, V/H/S). Though I was not the biggest fan of ‘HOTD’, I appreciated the techniques it used, and I was a fan of the way West was able to build tension without the need for constant dialogue or CGI demons flying at the screen. So when I heard that ‘The Innkeepers’ was really good, and a return of the actual scary ‘ghost film’, I figured that it was worth to take a look at.

The story is simple. Two desk clerks, Claire and Luke, are tasked with working the last weekend at a soon-to-be closed Inn called The Yankee Peddler. The Inn is reportedly haunted by a vengeful spirit who died in the building, and whose body was found in the cellar. They only have a few customers left including a mother and her young son, an aging actress, and an old man who had at one point in his life spent his honeymoon there.

Claire and Luke could be best described as a couple of hipsters who were up to no good, until some ghosts started making trouble in their neighborhood. They both decide that since the inn is practically empty, that they will use this last weekend as a chance to do a little paranormal investigating. Slowly, and I mean SLOWLY, we start getting strange noises, soon the piano is playing by itself, and the sense of dread falls over the inn. One night while up in bed, a terrifying ghost is propped up in next to Claire, and we know she IS afraid of them ghosts. The actress, who is also a new age medium, warns Claire of the spirits in the building, and mostly to not go into the basement. Does she heed this warning? Does any white person in a horror movie heed this warning?

Essentially, that is really all there is to say about what the movie’s plot is. So how does it stack up? Unfortunately, I would put this in the medium level of Good to Bad Ghost Films, or GTBGF for short. West again shows his ability to build suspense, and it is definitely effective. The scenes in the cellar are great, and genuinely scary, including a horrifying sequence in which Claire is able to make contact with the ghost. The film relies very little (if any) on CGI, and most of the tension is built by the excellent sound design and editing.

Your opinion on the film will come down to two simple details. One; if you have the patience to wait a very long time until anything happens. As I’ve stated in previous reviews, I like a slow-burn film, however this film’s burn feels like it is smoldering. It takes a long time until anything really scary happens, and some scenes linger on for minutes with no payoff. Sometimes I wanted to scream ‘DO SOMETHING’ at the television, when we watched for what felt like a very long time as someone listened to static on an EVP recorder. The film is split up into chapters, which I didn’t care for as a stylistic choice. I think this is an instance as something that started almost as a stage play, and then was turned into a film. It also ends with one of the most useless epilogues in history, only to provide a cheap last frame scare, and it doesn’t work.

The second factor in your enjoyment/dislike of this film will come down to if you like the central characters. As I said, they are most definitely written to be hipsters, right down to the skinny jeans and ironic ‘aren’t ghosts stupid? Let’s go look for them’ attitude. I never felt invested in the characters, I didn’t like them, and they were honestly kind of boring. The actors do a fine job with what they have to work with, but I think the essential problem with the movie is that the character writing isn’t that good. I never feel like we should be rooting for these people, and more than anything, they are just annoying and pretentious. If this was a purposeful move on the part of West then he did a good job, but I think he likes these characters and the hopes were that we would associate with them as well. It feels like elitism and if you don’t get them, it is your fault for not liking the film and something like that tends to rub me the wrong way.

 

 

 

Grave Encounters

When I first saw the trailer for ‘Ghost Encounters’, I believe my first reaction was ‘You have got to be kidding me’. Another found-footage film, this one based off of the recent surge of ghost-hunting shows. The ghosts in the trailer had a definite CGI twinge to their faces, which is something that is a big no-no in my book, and even more so when it comes to CGI ghosts.

So I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this is actually a pretty good little horror flick. I would go as far as to put it on the ‘Good’ side of the GTBGF scale. It is always nice to have something come out of nowhere and then to actually enjoy it.

The conceit of the film is that a new paranormal investigation show called Grave Encounters, had gone to an abandoned sanitarium and never returned. Only their footage was found. A gaping flaw in the basic premise is that most avid film fans will notice immediately that the general idea that this was found footage was ridiculous as the footage was obviously edited with tracking shots, voiceovers, and a more. Though this is definitely a flaw that distracts from the idea of found footage, it was for me, quickly forgivable, as the strength of the movie is that it is a lot of fun.

While in less capable hands, this could have been just the basic bump-in-the-night sort of movie, ‘Grave Encounters’ actually took the time to understand it’s source material. If I were to watch the simulated opening credits of the film, I would honestly not be able to tell the difference between this and a show like Ghost Adventures or Paranormal State. It is an amalgamation of these types of shows. The lead investigator is pretty much the doppelganger of Zak Bagans with his coifed hair and frat boy attitude. All the staples of ghost-hunting reality television are present in this film, down to the ridiculous lingo. The film works automatically as parody because we know these clichés; we recognize the staples of the setup. They even are smart enough to include the testimonials of the locals and the caretakers (including a hilarious scene with a paid off groundskeeper), right down to the ‘medium’ who accompanies the team. 

What works so well is that we are accustomed to this setting. On the ‘reality’ shows, we get the sounds, the floating orbs, the strange voice in the static, or someone yelling that something pushed them or it got cold. But we never see anything on those shows, other than some trumped up un-explanation of the paranormal. With ‘Grave Encounters’ we get a look at what would happen if a place was really haunted, what if it went beyond entertainment, and what if the ghosts didn’t appreciate being yelled at by a dude in a skull t-shirt.

Once the paranormal stuff starts early on in this film, it does not let up until the final seconds. The old hospital is the perfect setting as they already have an air of horror attached to them, and the film uses that to its full advantage. The movie has a lot of intentional humor in it, but at the same time doesn’t forget it is supposed to be scary. Though I’m not a fan of what the ghosts look like, I will admit that the movie got me a couple of times, and I was pretty creeped out toward the end. Moreover, this movie is a heck of a lot of fun. Sure, it is kind of silly in a way, but it would be the perfect film for a late night viewing with a few friends, just to watch them jump and then laugh. 

It is nice to see the film use and understand its premise in such a way to make it feel similar and fresh at the same time. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, which again was a complete surprise to me, and if you are annoyed at these types of shows, you will definitely get your chance to see how they would react to the real version of the situation they attest to seek out each week.

Advertisements

19 thoughts on “Two Ghosts for the Price of One: ‘The Innkeepers’ and ‘Grave Encounters’ Reviews

  1. LOVE that movie poster for “The Innkeepers”. Also love this line – “Does any white person in a horror movie heed this warning?” Ha!

    I saw “Grave Encounters”! That groundskeeper was super! And I was also pleasantly surprised by it. 🙂

    Great work, Kloipy!

    • I wonder if anyone noticed the way I slipped in a version of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song into the innkeepers review. I don’t know how it happened.

      Thanks Misty 🙂

  2. Nice job dude!

    I didnt like The Innkeepers, but Grave Encounters is something I really want to see, purely because the sequel is out next month and I keep hearing good things.

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one who didn’t love The Innkeepers. I hope you like Grave Encounters. Definitely watch it alone late at night

  3. Good stuff, Kloipy.

    I’ll have a look at both of these. I had the same reaction as you to the ‘Grave Encounters’ trailer – with coarser language. But sounds like fun, looking forward to that now.

    Zak Bagans! Ghost Puncher!

  4. Good stuff, man. I enjoyed both of these movies. They were above the norm for me. Thanks for the reviews!

      • I have the second one lined up as well to watch and review. Looking forward to yours. I’m about to do another FF movie called “Evidence” Should be up by tomorrow or so. I’ve been overdosing of FF films of late. Ugh.

      • The other day my kid asks me to watch The Blair Witch Project (after I had watched and reviewed 3 crappy FF movies) with him. Geez, I almost jumped out a window.

  5. The Innkeepers was a solid film, but it’s no House of the Devil. I thought that was terrific. The Innkeepers was a bit too reliant on the minor key that seemed to follow Claire around the hotel.

    Never heard of Grave Encounters, but since I pretty much universally hate found footage movies I’ll pass.

    • thanks Droid. I really liked House of the Devil, but I didn’t love it. I think Innkeepers would have sat better with me if I related or even halfway liked the characters. Since you spend so much of that film with them, it is definitely a problem if you don’t like them.

      I’m not a real fan of found footage either as there are way too many of them, however Grave Encounters is both geniunely funny and scary.

  6. I’ve seen ‘Grave Encounters’ now…

    Average, I thought. Didn’t really ‘get’ me. The best thing about it was breaking through the front door to find not the outside, but another corridor. Watching them break down mentally as non-time went on was pretty good too. As for the footage being edited – the guy at the start says he’s edited it together from 70 hours of film, so that’s explained.

    Okay, but can’t say I’m gagging for ‘GE2’.

    • Don’t watch GE2. it sucks. sorry you didn’t enjoy it more man. guess it hit me on the right night haha

      • It wasn’t even 5.1 sound – just stereo. Spooky films are spookier when discordant sounds are all around you. I like a scary soundtrack, me… so I was a bit miffed about that.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s