The best horror movies are delicate balancing acts. They combine a health dose of dreadful anticipation with just the right amount of out-and-out terror.
The best horror movies are delicate balancing acts. They combine a health dose of dreadful anticipation with just the right amount of out-and-out terror. Too much terror and you get, well, virtually any straight-to-video gorefest you care to name. Too much anticipation — in fact, way too much anticipation — and you get “The Innkeepers.”
It gives me no pleasure to admit I got no pleasure from “The Innkeepers.” Now on DVD and Blu-ray, the ghost story is the latest film from talented director Ti West. West is the man behind the 2009 movie “House of the Devil,” which was a personal favorite of mine. I loved its recreation of the 1980s, its slowly building sense of dread and its no-holds-barred, horrifying conclusion. I was hoping for more of the same with “The Innkeepers.” Instead, I got a glacial-paced buildup followed by virtually no payoff.
The premise has promise: During the last nights before Connecticut’s Yankee Pedlar Inn closes for good, two employees (Sara Paxton as Claire and Pat Healy as Luke) plan to do a little ghost-hunting. They fire up their sensors and recorders and explore the dark hallways of the inn, taking breaks to interact awkwardly with the hotel’s remaining guests — a single mother and her son, a strange old man and a former actress turned psychic (played by Kelly McGillis of “Top Gun” and “Witness” fame.)
And … that’s about it. There’s some talk about a bride who killed herself and some glimpses of ghostly visitors. Claire stumbles into some spooky scenarios, and Pat eventually gets so terrified he runs out the building. But me? I wasn’t scared at all. Even the BOO! moments, when West cuts to some shocking image aimed at making us drop our popcorn, don’t provide the intended jolt. Maybe that’s because the majority of the movie, which should either be (a) convincing us to care about the characters or (b) generating a sense of dread, is instead just a lot of aimless roaming around the hotel or aimless conversations that add up to nothing. “The Shining” managed to generate almost unbearable tension with skillful editing and camerawork, but the Yankee Pedlar isn’t the Overlook, and Ti West isn’t Stanley Kubrick.
That’s not to say he doesn’t show promise. If nothing else, “The Innkeepers” looks great, with nice use of the inn’s interiors and some smooth, smart filmmaking. I just hope that next time, that smart filmmaking is in service to a better — and scarier — story.
If you suspect your kids are spending too much time staring at the TV playing video games, why not give them a break and let them stare at the TV while watching “Level Up,” a TV movie about kids playing video games.
Naturally, it’s a little more complicated than that. The movie, which aired on Cartoon Network and spawned the popular TV series, focuses on four blandly attractive young folks who accidentally open a portal in a “World of Warcraft”-like video game and release a variety of monsters and villains out into the real world. It’s silly, sure, but it’s also sort of fun, with some crazy-looking creatures and offbeat bits of humor (mostly springing from our hapless heroes attempts to use video game methods right here in the real world.)
The “Level Up” DVD includes the original movie plus an episode of the TV show that hasn’t aired yet. Squarely aimed at the tween market, “Level Up” is a little too goofy for grown-ups, but it should entertain the young ones while they’re waiting for their X Boxes to cool back down.
Read Will Pfeifer’s Movie Man blog at rrstar.com/blogs/willpfeifer/ or email him at email@example.com.
Some DVDs out Tuesday, May 1
“Joyful Noise”: Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton co-star in this movie about two women who, though initially competitive, eventually team up to help save a small town gospel choir. As you may have guessed, there are a few songs.
“Haywire”: Steven Soderbergh directed this fast-paced action movie starring Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Bill Paxton, Michael Douglas and — most importantly — mixed martial arts superstar Gina Carano in the lead role. Apparently, her fight scenes are very impressive.
“George Harrison: Living in the Material World”: Martin Scorsese directed this critically acclaimed documentary about the man generally considered to be the most mysterious Beatle. Hopefully this film will clear up a few of those mysteries.
“New Year’s Eve”: Virtually every actor and/or actress currently working has at least a small part in this romantic comedy directed by Garry Marshall and set on what the movie claims is the most romantic night of the year. If you’ve ever dreamed of seeing Ashton Kutcher, Robert De Niro and Jon Bon Jovi in the same film, this is your lucky day.
“The Wizard of Gore/The Gore Gore Girls”: This low-budget double-feature from cult director Herschell Gordon Lewis probably isn’t worth owning on Blu-ray (to be honest, the movies aren’t that good), but “The Wizard of Gore” does have a bit of a local angle: Parts of the 1970 schlock horror movie were filmed right here in Rockford.
Carrie Underwood, “Blown Away”: Underwood has had 14 No. 1 singles, six of which she co-wrote. She’s the first country artist in history and the only “American Idol” winner to have 10 No. 1 singles from her first two albums. She’s also a five-time Grammy winner, a two-time Academy of Country Music Entertainer of the Year, a three-time Country Music Association and ACM Female Vocalist winner, and a member of the Grand Ole Opry. In other words, people are expecting big things from this album.
Marilyn Manson, “Born Villain”: Remember about 15 years ago when everyone thought Marilyn Manson was the scariest person in the world. Boy, that was a long time ago, wasn’t it?
The cast of “Smash,” “The Music of Smash”: Here’s your chance to pay for the songs you get for free every week on your TV.
Soundtrack, “The Avengers”: I secretly hope that, instead of music, this album is nothing but the sound of the Hulk knocking down buildings and Thor hitting things with his hammer.
— Will Pfeifer
Sources: thedigitalbits.com; tophitsonline.com