It’s especially dumbfounding that director Ti West allows such pronounced homage to retro horror, yet ultimately drops the ball on two would-be modern horror classics that hover just below the mainstream. Like Wests’ the House of the Devil (2008), suspense goes hand in hand with an overdose of false scares. This includes when the two lead characters–who are attempting to prove the hotel they work at is haunted–watch a trick ghost video on the interweb. Preposterous! Not to mention the video was predictable.
There isn’t much story here, and it’s not even worth trying to understand any of the characters’ nonsensical behavior. Not to mention the entire film could be cut down to 25 minutes. There is a ten minute scene with Lena Dunham, of all people, that is absolutely unneccesary. Following that, the female lead–who of course has asthma–spends much of the time wandering around the hotel looking for spiritual contact. The slow pace is balanced by, well, pretty much the unrelenting suspense that never rewards (the piano is heard playing by itself, oooooo! it’s the ghost!). At least the Innkeepers (as well as House) has the balls to end a horror film with doom and gloom. The potential and growth for West is evident. Part of the problem is that too many critics are solely content with exaggerated atmosphere and cheap scares. [rating: $3] –Kenyon
The Woman in Black(2012) Lead character Arthur Kipps has got some balls. Even more so, some GUTS. He sticks around a remote U.K village in the early 1900s to investigate why young kids keep dying. This culminates with submerging himself into quicksand-like mud to recover a body that must be re-united with the body of the corpse’s mother. Eureka! He mainly does this because he’s afraid that when his own son arrives to the village, his son will meet the same fate as previous children. Yea, well, too bad these kids are easily hypnotized by the “woman in black.”
The film delivers its story, scares and climax overly cautious, going nowhere outside the mystery-suspense-ghost story box. Woman provides rich cinematography, but settles on the expected. That’s probably because it would rather pander to the general audience. The result is a snug mixture of the Others (for time period and ghost and big old house), House of the Devil (for the single person wandering around a secluded shadowy big house) and the Orphanage (for the typical ghosts of children helping you solve the mystery of who murdered them or whatever). Whatever INDEED! Good day sir……i said good DAY! [rating: $5] – Kenyon
Grave Encounters (2011) The very promising trailer for Grave Encounters has a scene where a girl’s face instantly turns demonic. That alone is enough to reel someone in, hoping to see the next level in “these are the tapes we found” cinema. The premise of a ghost-hunting TV crew filming their experience in an old haunted asylum was off to an okay start, even though it blatantly rips off Paranormal State. The crew’s director is thinking money over ethics, so whatever trouble he gets into he deserves. They set up cameras–which later we see are too conveniently placed–in the asylum. They walk around, blah blah….obviously they are going to be attacked by evil spirits. About halfway in, the movie loses its direction. Along with the terrified characters.
The crew becomes trapped inside the mental hospital (because of a bizarre twist) and all the film cares about at this point is to have things jump out and scare you like it’s a Resident Evil video game. Worse is that with no explanation, it turns out that they are now in some sort of purgatory with the spirits/ghosts/whatever. There are also mad doctors there to operate on you, as they originally did to the patients when the asylum was open. One of the crew disappears and assumingly gets an “operation” off screen and then re-appears wearing a hospital gown and speaking incoherently. I mean COME ON. Where’d the gown come from? That’s when Grave Encounters jumps off a cliff. The surprise scares are jumpy, but without substance and reasoning, the believability goes out the window. The bogus rat near the end which is eaten for shock value couldn’t make the save. [rating: $2] -Kenyon