Friday, March 30, 2012

Give Up The Ghost

I have my first horror movie smack-down of 2012, people! That's right, in one corner we having indie street cred horror darling Ti West's The Innkeepers and in the other corner we have one of the big horror releases of 2012 and a return from Hammer Horror The Woman in Black. Now....

Okay... not exactly... but we're dealing with similar films. One I liked because it legit scared me and still gives me the heebee jeebies a few weeks on and the other I just thought, really?! Can you guess which is which?

A quick preface. Ghosts, demons etc scare the effing bejesus out of me. Give me a shadowy figure that doesn't move and tell me that it can physically harm me... well, by that point I'm just trying to hide my eyes. 

The Innkeepers (2011) was written, directed and edited by my non-namesake Ti West which has all the throwback elements of any good ghost stories while incorporating the current trend of the need to catch something on tape. On the Yankee Pedlar Inn's final weekend of business the two employees in charge, Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) set themselves up for a weekend of living in the hotel in one last attempt to capture something on film. With the hotel only hosting a few customers (a mother and son, a former actress and now healer played inexplicably by Kelly McGillis and an old man intent on staying in one room in particular) Clair and Luke seize the opportunity to get some footage of the ghost of Madeline O'Malley who killed herself after she was jilted at the alter. West uses all kinds of well trotted out tropes to indicated that a ghost is there. Look, a figure that dissapears! Hark, a weird noise! Zoinks, a piano playing Chopin by itself!

Just, y'know, another really exciting scene in The Innkeepers
Claire becomes convinced that Madeline is trying to communicate with her while Kelly McGillis tells her NOT to go into the basement. Claire then almost immediately proceeds to the basement dragging Luke along with her. Luke freaks and runs away while Claire stays and investigates further. I think both Paxton and Healy do great work fleshing their characters and Paxton in particular creates a really well-rounded, consistently dweebish person, but unfortunately I was rooting for Madeline to slap her and tell her to get a grip. Unfortunately, all the details and set up come to naught as we're left with an astonishingly inconclusive ending that made me wish Madeline O'Malley had hanged herself in a place that hired more discerning employees.

The Woman in Black (2012) scared the living daylights out of me. By no means am I saying this is a great film, it's not. But it is definitely effective. The story follows Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliff) a young solicitor as he travels to the north of England to settle the paper work at the Eel Marsh house after the death of the owner. The townspeople are wary and try to stop him going but he makes his way to the house where he spies the aforementioned Woman in Black. Whenever the Woman in Black is seen, the children of the town die. Kipps then decides to investigate and see if he solve the mystery of the Woman in Black.

So, a dark shadowy house. Check. A woman with an obscured face. Check. She can hurt people. Check. The Woman in Black is a much simpler film than The Innkeepers. The Woman in Black is a straight forward ghost story about an anger and need for revenge that literally won't die.

I think what raised The Woman In Black head and shoulders beyond The Innkeepers was that WIB focused on the darn ghost which is waaaaaaaaaaaaay creepier to me than minimum wage employees. The ghost effects in The Innkeepers were great but I didn't know anything about the ghosts. They became like pop-up scares in a haunted house. Give me an angry woman any day.


  1. Agree. Woman In Black was absolutely amazing and totally scared the crap outta me. Innkeepers was interesting but far too slow, far too boring.

    btw great blog, followed!

  2. Thanks! I still get chills thinking about TWIB. *shudder*

  3. Totally agree: re: Woman in Black. Not an awesome piece of art, but really well cut together and excellently ensured that you spent most of the time looking for Her and not at Daniel Radcliffe's abominable acting. I really liked the book, which was creepier and less action-filled, but the film -- and the techniques they used -- didn't disappoint me at all.

    1. Absolutely, some of the advice I ever got was "Keep it simple, Stupid."