Horrorfest 2013 Presents: The Innkeepers (2012, Ti West)


Even though I slightly prefer The House of The Devil, Ti West’s 2012 film The Innkeepers is a nice followup and was just as creepy. In fact this movie almost gave me a heart attack at times, especially with the freaky moments that kept lying just around the corner. The old inn that sarcastic Luke and naive Claire work at is an excellent place for a ghost story driven film, although granted most hotels, inns, motels and the like are usually perfect for horror movies. As The Shinning (1980) can attest to, and just like in that film the characters in this one are being affected by the place they are working at. The Yankee Pedlar Inn is an old place, and its finally being closed for business after over a century of being open. Luke and Claire are the two low wage employees tasked with overseeing the building while the master of the inn is away. Boredom sets in and they decide to investigate whether or not the inn is haunted by Madeline O’Malley, which leads to all kinds of trouble of course.

Really I love that Ti West specializes in quiet, atmospheric horror, which is why I’m not too surprised detractors of films like these call them “Boring.” Look there are actually jump scares in this one, yet I felt that West was mocking the use of such a device to frighten viewers. There is more humor in this movie than in The House of the Devil, and it works as a slight tension reliever while also lulling the viewers into a false sense of security. A couple scenes are downright spooky, particularly one where Claire and Luke are alone in a deep, black pitched basement, and another moment that I will only describe as being the material for nightmare fuel. Even so at times I found Claire’s character to be a tad annoying, where as Luke made a great foil for Claire and was the best element of the film.

Having Kelly McGillis play a psychic/alcoholic actress was a nice touch, and unlike some I didn’t mind the ending too much. While the last act does feature some questionable behavior I take it as the actions of someone who had become rather unstable, and its therefore a mixture of terrifying and tragic. Unfortunately Ti West’s The Roost is not available on Netflix, however his other works are and I look forward to seeing those as well. I would rather like it if he made a slasher movie for some reason, as West’s gift for making super creepy movies that get under you skin would serve him well there, I think.

Horrorfest 2013 Presents: The House of the Devil (2009, Ti West)


Despite putting this and The Innkeepers off for over a year even though both are on Netflix Instant Viewing, I decided to finally watch The House of the Devil and find out why so many people enjoy Ti West’s work. He is a fairly new filmmaker, having only made a handful of movies-the earliest according to Criticker being released in 2005-and he’s already gathered some acclaim from horror fans and even critics. The House of the Devil is a well made and atmospheric throwback to 1970s and 1980s horror movies, and the film’s low-budget resulted in it being even self-style just like the same low-budget 70s and 80s horror movies its inspired by. However it’s a fairly original work, and the film is very slow burning, with West giving the audience time to soak in the high level of creepy that underlies most of the film’s scenes.

I love the opening credits, with the young heroine Samantha walking along her college campus, rock music blaring in the background, headphones perched on her ears, long brunette hair hanging over her jacket as she strolls along, unaware that she is about to enter a strange new world. The job is fairly simple: babysitting. Problem is, Sam is not babysitting a couple of kids in the suburbs; no she has been hired by an elderly couple to watch over the wife’s mother. In a creepy old house in the middle of the countryside. Oh and the elderly couple hiring her is played by legends Tom Noonan and Mary Woronov. No big deal, right? Well as us horror fans know, anytime you babysit is just an excuse for bad things to happen to you.

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Still West hangs back, utilizing only one really freaky jump scare, letting the audience become further alarmed at what is transpiring, letting the viewer’s get more and more into the movie. I prefer this approach even though at times I felt a tad bored, as the payoff ends up being rather enormous, the climax utterly terrifying. There’s something about a movie that creeps you out the entire time while still holding one last card in the deck, guaranteed to leave you feeling really uneasy after you exit the theater. The Blair Witch Project comes to mind in that regard as well, another movie heavy on atmosphere with a fantastic payoff.

Jocelin Donahue as Sam is fantastic here, displaying a like able presence, being the film’s main anchor and giving it credibility as things begin to turn weird. Also its really cool that West had famous horror scream queen Dee Wallace make a cameo appearance as “The Landlady,” although I wish she had been in the film more. Oh and I love how sparse and yet engaging the film’s set design was, in addition to the use of color. Especially white, which could mean something but I would have to view the film again to decide said meaning. Some things leave you with more questions than answers.

Horrorfest 2013 Presents: Homecoming (2005, Joe Dante)


Look I really wanted to love Homecoming. I did. Joe Dante is one of my favorite directors, a man who has given us Gremlins, The Howling, The ‘Burbs, and Small Soldiers. Yet Homecoming falls short of those movies, and in some ways Dante is merely going back over material he covered in Small Soldiers, a highly underrated war satire. Still Homecoming does have its moments, and I did like how it was a semi-twist on the zombie genre, which even by 2006 had started to stagnate a bit. David is a political puppet, a hatchet man who wins elections without thinking about the consequences of a “Victory at all costs” mantra that has served him for years. So when the dead start to rise because of a wish he makes he is confronted with the heavy toll of war, realizing that maybe what he was doing isn’t worth it.

Naturally this episode from the Showtime series The Masters of Horror focused on the Iraq War since it was the war going on at the time, but I think that there is a typical underlying anti-war message going on throughout the short film. A particularly sad and tragic moment is when a couple actually invites one of the dead soldiers in, giving him aid and shelter despite the solider being an undead zombie. It was a nice moment, although it felt a little bit out of place in a movie where the rest of the time the undead soldiers are attacking people. Although I guess the victims are those responsible for sending the dead soldiers to fight and die in the first place. For a lie. A big lie.

Maybe I’m glad that this wasn’t a longer movie, as the material gets stretched pretty thin early on and David isn’t all that interesting. The Ann Coulter jokes with the character Jane Cleaver are slightly amusing but not as funny as they could be, and at times the movie just doesn’t go far enough. I will say the ending was a surprise, and that as far as short horror movies goes this one is decent, yet I wonder what Dante could still do with a larger budget. I guess I’ll find out when I view his last movie, The Hole, which is available on Netflix Instant Viewing I believe.

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