Ambush Bug counts down the best horror films on AICN HORROR since last Halloween – Number 22!!!
Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here. Always hoping to pass on new and exciting films for all of you ravenous readers in search of worthwhile horror, I decided to compile a list counting down to my favorite horror covered in AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS since October 1 of last year. Some of these films might be new to you since there isn’t a lot of horror in theaters these days that aren’t toothless remakes or watered down sequels. Theaters aren’t where the horror is at these days, I’m afraid. Some of these films have only seen the light of day on Video on Demand or simply go straight to DVD/BluRay. I’ve also compiled a few films I’ve seen advance screenings of at festivals and I’ll try to update you when you can see these films when I can.
As far as how I compiled this list? Well, I simply looked over my AICN HORROR columns over the last year and worked and reworked a list until I had 31. No real method to my madness. We’ll be counting down every day until Halloween toward my favorite horror film of the year. I’ll also provide a second film suggestion for those who can’t get enough horror that has something to do with the film I chose that day.
So let’s get to it! Chime in after the article and let me know how you liked the film I chose, how right or wrong I am, and come up with your own list…let’s go!
Though not as strong as Ti West’s first effort, HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, THE INNKEEPERS made up for it in charm and last act scares to make my list this year. The review below is from January. THE INNKEEPERS is available now on DVD/BluRay!
In select theaters/available on VOD Feb 3rd!
THE INNKEEPERS (2010)Directed by Ti West
Written by Ti West
Starring Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
After experiencing HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, Ti West immediately became someone for me to watch out for. Having seen a ton of horror films, it takes a lot to give me the willies, but West did with his tormented babysitter ode to the 80’s. When I got wind that West was going to go the supernatural route, I knew this film would prove if the writer/director had the versatility to not only cause chills with real world scares, but otherworldly ones as well.
Turns out he’s got it in spades.
THE INNKEEPERS is a deviously patient and shockingly effective horror film. West patiently introduces us to Claire (played by Sara Paxton, more on her later) and Luke (Pat Healy). Anyone who had a job through college or worked in a place where there is a lot of down time knows this pair’s dilemma. The jobs they have as innkeepers fits in with their slacker mentalities, but that doesn’t stop them from bouncing their big ideas off one another. Luke runs a website highlighting ghostly encounters and talks grandly about the time he experienced paranormal activity at the hotel. Claire wide-eyedly believes him and with the hotel closing, the pressure for a ghostly investigation is on. Being a fan of GHOST HUNTERS and shows like them, I loved the amateur ghosthunting aspects of the film. Having these two bored twentysomethings tool around in the dark would have been enough for me without them finding anything. Healy and especially Paxton are as likable as they come. Healy’s snarkiness is something one could find in any random talkback post, while Paxton offers the wide eyed wonder reminiscent of Henry Thomas from ET, Sean Astin from GOONIES, or William Ragsdale from FRIGHT NIGHT. Though these are all male characters, Paxton serves as the lead here and is much more of the dominant role here while Healy’s true colors shine through as soon as stuff gets supernatural.
The fact that I’ve gone through most of this review without talking about the scares or effects should tell you this is a great film even before the weird stuff starts happening. West makes this a true character piece with these two actors that fascinate the audience the whole time. In doing so, when the supernatural occurs, I felt more invested than ever for the safety of these two characters one can’t help but like.
Though this film obviously had a low budget and a lot of the scares are more due to reactions by the actors and some clever camerawork by the director, this is an extremely scary film. A scene in the basement where the two amateur ghosthunters are trying to summon a spirit is extremely effective and not a ghost is actually seen. It’s all close camerawork, moody music, and deft performances by the actors. Even when the ghostly image of the spirit that used to live in the haunted hotel appears, it’s only momentary with the moments leading up to it shredding nerves the whole time.
Kelly McGillis adds a bit of class and panache as a washed up actress now backing spirit crystals for infomercials who happens to be in the hotel when all the shit goes down. Hers is another performance that makes you care about the living more than one usually does in this type of movie.
Though THE INNKEEPERS is not as spine-tingler-ific as HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, it is a great ghost story which remains effective despite budgetary limitations and takes advantage of the unseen rather than pissing in the punch with cruddy effects or even worse CGI. West, though, has proven himself capable of handling these two genres of horror--the real and unreal--with ease. Reminiscent of GHOSTBUSTERS by way of POLTERGEIST and maybe a bit of GOONIES thrown in, THE INNKEEPERS shows that West is a movie magician to watch.
Wanna see something really scary? How about George C. Scott investigating strange goings on in a haunted house? I’ve seen THE CHANGELING numerous times and every time it gets me. The moody atmosphere. The creepy old house. And George C. Scott delivering an amazing performance. If you like haunted house films like THE INNKEEPERS, THE CHANGELING delivers the goods.
The Countdown so far…#23: THE SNOWTOWN MURDERS
#24: THE PACT
#25: THE WRONG HOUSE
#26: SATURDAY MORNING MASSACRE
#27: SPIRIT STALKERS
#28: THE MOTH DIARIES
#29: THE SLEEPER
#30: THE AGGRESSION SCALE
#31: SICK BOY
See ya tomorrow, folks, with number 21 of the best of the best covered in AICN HORROR since last year!
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/reviewer/co-editor of AICN Comics for over ten years. He has written comics such as MUSCLES & FIGHTS, MUSCLES & FRIGHTS, VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, WONDERLAND ANNUAL 2010 & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He is also a regular writer for FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND & has co-written their first ever comic book LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in late 2012 as an 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark has just announced his new comic book miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment to be released March-August 2012. Also look for Mark's exciting arc on GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-80 which begins in August 2012.
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Oct. 10, 2012, 9:01 a.m. CST
A really enjoyable film. Ti West makes the directing lark look easy.
Oct. 10, 2012, 9:12 a.m. CST
It manages to be a good slow-burn of a ghost story -- taking time to develop the relationships (both spoken and unspoken) of the lead characters while building an aura of doom.
Oct. 10, 2012, 10:02 a.m. CST
I love horror, but for some reason this one just didn't do it for me by the end of it. it had me going for a good while then faded.
Oct. 10, 2012, 10:18 a.m. CST
Considering how much House Of The Devil made Ti West an AICN darling, and thefact that this is a pretty good follow-up, I though this would be in the top 5 of the year for sure. Are you telling me that there are over 20 horror films this year better than the Innkeepers? Not that I've seen, but that's why I'm reading this every day, lol. This even got a shout-out by Ebert, who generally really hates horror films unless they are done exceptionally well.
Oct. 10, 2012, 10:27 a.m. CST
...have to be in the right space with enough whiskey for that.
Oct. 10, 2012, 10:36 a.m. CST
by Kyle H
Agreed. Not as solid as 'House Of The Devil', but still a great atmospheric horror film. Loving this series of articles!!! Half these films I havent even seen yet! This will keep me busy for a while.
Oct. 10, 2012, 10:41 a.m. CST
Lots of good atmospheric set-up for relatively little payoff.
Oct. 10, 2012, 11:34 a.m. CST
On par with House of the Devil.
Oct. 10, 2012, 11:59 a.m. CST
by Ambush Bug
But didn't love it. It's solid and the performances by the two leads elevates it a bit, but it wasn't near as good as HOUSE OF THE DEVIL. Because of that, it's not higher on my list of favorites. I'm sure as the list proceeds towards number one, the heat will rise, but I'm going with my gut here and I felt the next twenty films are really, really good.
Oct. 10, 2012, 1:19 p.m. CST
Saw this one a while ago ... while it definitely wasn't bad, it also definitely wasn't some mind-boggling epic of horror, either. What I find a lot more disturbing is the perennial ass-kissing that happens to guys like Ti West, Drew Goddard and Adam Green simply by virtue of them making horror movies that "aren't bad" (especially considering just how bad the competition is!). Not to say that one of these guys won't knock one straight out of the park with a future endeavor, but c'mon, let's be honest, this hasn't happened yet.
Oct. 10, 2012, 2:10 p.m. CST
by Ambush Bug
To me, HOUSE OF THE DEVIL was a homerun. I just think that I was expecting that same hit with INNKEEPERS and didn't get it. But INNKEEPERS is a completely different film tonally. IN many ways, it's the same, with the lead woman being very personable and likable. As with Paxon, I could've watched the lead in HOD just bopping around the apartment because she was likable and easy on the eyes. But where HOD dives into stark and dire horror, INNKEEPERS kind of keeps that lighter, POLTERGEIST-y tone throughout.
Oct. 10, 2012, 4:43 p.m. CST
by albert comin
I knew paxton before from the remake of "Last House On The Left" and interviews, and in them she was always presented as this model type very glamorous woman. How suprising it was to see he pull of geeky so well. She's an adorable nerd, the kind you just want to fall inlove with, despite all her silliness. And Paxton also proved to be very good at comedy. The two funniest moments in the movie are when Luke unwillingly scares the shit out of Claire and her priceless reaction "Fuck what the fuck!" is the stuff of legend. The second, and maybe even funnier, is her taking out the garbage scene. It's pure behavior comedy, and it always makes me cry laughing. Paxton and director Ty West were the two people that impressed me the most in this movie. Ty West directs with such an assured hand that he doesn't need cheap trickey to ull up scare, he just do that with clever storytelling, god filmmaking, knowledge and love for the genre, and casting his actors really well. I'm yet to decide which of the two is the most adorable geeky girl character onscreen of the two major Ty West movies, Samantha from House Of The Devil or Claire from The Innkeepers. Both are super-adorable!
Oct. 10, 2012, 4:49 p.m. CST
by albert comin
The way i see it, both House Of The Devil and The Innkeepers are equality good, for different reasons, due to their stylistic differences. But they are equalliy good. i admit that House might have the benefit of being the first many saw and discovered Ti West. The first dip phenomenum, i guess. I'm just saying, i loved, loved House Of The Devil and The Innkeepers didn't disapointed in the slightest. If Ti West keeps making them like this two, the man will soon become one of the top best directors of the horror genre in american film history.
Oct. 11, 2012, 3:56 p.m. CST
I really wanted to like this movie, but just couldn't. The whole conceit of the film was just a huge disappointment. I get low-budget, I get no jump scares, I even get a creepy story of self-delusion. But the way it was presented just made me feel cheated and like I wanted my hour and a half back.
Oct. 11, 2012, 10:13 p.m. CST
It was bad... Bad Bad bad bad bad!!!!! <p> I have plenty of patience, but apart from the old man arriving, there was nothing gripping in the least!
Oct. 12, 2012, 2:56 p.m. CST
by andy kaufman
The movies look great and acting is always great but the endings always are really weak. just no punch to them.
Oct. 13, 2012, 7:55 a.m. CST
by Killdozers Evil Twin Brother
I just couldn't get invested in them the way I was supposed to. The film just wasn't effective, imo. It had some atmosphere, but not enough. It had some scares, but not enough. It had some meaningful character interactions, but not enough. In some ways, I wondered if the movie would have been more effective if the old man hadn't been portrayed at all, and his storyline was placed on McGillis' character. A former star who slowly alienated her husband until he died, who sunk into alcoholism and then spiritualism to pull herself out of the pit. She revisits the hotel after honing her skills as a medium to contact her husband and things go terribly wrong, putting two inexperienced kids at risk without them knowing. It feels weird saying that, when speaking about a movie that only has five primary actors; trying to do too much, and not getting enough. Strange film. West is definitely talented though and I've seen everything he's ever done.
Oct. 14, 2012, 9:47 p.m. CST
I think some that endeared this film to me was how it harkened back to the art and mystery that comprise the best of ghost stories.
Oct. 14, 2012, 9:52 p.m. CST
How our curiousity and desires, when unchecked and compelled by stronger forces, say of passions brought about by our shame about personal failures and lingering doubts spurred from disappointments, can lead to encounters of fate so great that even we, the actors, cannot comprehend the complexity and foolhardiness of our actions. Sarah Paxton is able to focus our interests enough to pay off the film's conclusion (where as this easily could have been a far more simple story of teens unwisely awaken spirits long dormat in old hotel, only to slaughtered for their foolishness). This story keeps our vision clear, and in the idea has the wisdom and class that have made the ghost story the powerful cultural force that it is.
Oct. 15, 2012, 10:27 p.m. CST
I saw "House of the Devil" and thought it was one of the most boring films I had ever sat through. Granted I did indeed sit through it hoping something would happen but... Same here for "The Innkeepers". I have seen the latter twice hoping maybe I just wasn't "in the mood" the first time, but no. Boring as hell. Only thing it has going for it is a sterling performance by Sara Paxton. Having only seen her in popcorn stuff like "Shark Night 3D" it was a revelation to see her take on this role and make 100% believable. I gained a great deal of respect for her. Ti West? He doesn't know how to edit his work. Scenes that could have been trimmed were not; and for no real good reason, either. I could care less what he does next but sure am looking forward to Sara Paxton's next pe4rformance.
Oct. 18, 2012, 10:54 a.m. CST
The seance and the post seance scenes gave me nightmares. Was that the first movie to use the ghost-on-tape technique?
Oct. 20, 2012, 2:19 p.m. CST
I enjoyed the movie as a whole but found the interactions with the different characters much better than the supernatural elements, which seemed forced.
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