daniel cohen reviews the new horror film …
Plot: On the last weekend of the Yankee Pedlar Inn, the two Innkeepers try and locate a rumored spirit that roams through the hotel.
If I stayed at this hotel, I’d lodge so many complaints. The noise level is just ridiculous. The protagonist Claire (Sara Paxton) screams all the time, both Innkeepers are carrying around big heavy sound equipment, they are constantly running around knocking loudly on doors, and the Inn is only three floors, so I’m definitely going to hear everything. My complaint of hotel noise though is far from the biggest problem with this movie. While I think it’s entertaining, and I was engaged all the way through, it’s very disjointed, not blending the comedy/horror genres well at all.
The first two-thirds really is a comedy, and it’s a solid comedy. The two central characters, Claire and Luke (Pat Healy), have good banter. Luke is the type of guy we’ve seen hundreds of times in film. He starts his own spooky blog that chronicles the supposed spirit of the Inn. I didn’t mind the cliché though, because Healy delivers his lines with great comic timing, and is legitimately funny.
The character of Claire is very gullible, and just kind of drifting through life with no real purpose, but Paxton gives her a lot of charisma, as she’s certainly likable, and you definitely care what happens to her. Paxton can overact the role at times though, especially when she’s wallowing. She makes these over the top eye rolls, and even her eyes are overacting.
But it’s the lighthearted and fun relationship between Claire and Luke that is the strength of the film, and not the horror. While there is certainly foreshadowing of impending terror, those moments still end in jokes. The two characters that hint most at the scary mumbo jumbo are the ominous Leanne (Kelly McGillis), and the uber creepy old guy (George Riddle) who shows up towards the end. But both these characters are really shoe-horned in with no clever set-up whatsoever.
Once we get to the last act, it goes full on horror mode, and that’s really a shame. Its run of the mill jump scares, characters making really dumb decisions, and it’s also way too long. The film was too lighthearted to all of a sudden act this way. It’s not a gradual shift. Although, there is one fairly gruesome shot in the bath tub that did look pretty good.
What really irked me though was the actual ending. It’s way too depressing, and doesn’t fit at all with the tone that was presented in the first two-thirds, making it feel really awkward. The last shot was especially annoying, because we know what’s going to happen, but it takes forever to finally reveal it. It’s almost like the director (Ti West) knew his last moment was insanely predictable, and wanted to delay it as long as possible, but dude, we know what’s coming, so just do it already.
While the film is disorganized, and the score is overbearing, I did like the chemistry between the leads. I also appreciated that we actually got character personalities, which is rare for a horror movie, as most of the time you get generic high school student #23, or college douche-bag #34. If the horror aspect was more engaging and didn’t feel forced, this could have been better. But honestly, I kind of wish it just stayed more comedic.
Rating: 6 out of 10 (‘meh)