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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington Wilmington@moviecitynews.com

Wilmington on DVDs. The Innkeepers

THE INNKEEPERS (Three Stars)
U.S.: Ti West, 2011

A neat little horror movie that keeps trying to remind us of The Shining, The Innkeepers pulls us instead into a creepy world of failing hotels and troubled economies and weird guests and mildly obsessed hotel co-workers — the wreckage and mildly rotting corpse of a New England tradition that‘s older than Stephen King (or Bronx kid Stanley Kubrick for that matter). The locale is the Yankee Pedlar Inn, reputed to be haunted, and due to be shuttered forever after this night‘s occupancy. In what little time is left them, the two somewhat hip last employees — twentysomething Claire (Sara Paxton), who changes the towels and walks the halls, and older guy Luke (Pat Healy), who mans the desk and pulls Paranormal Activity gags on his computer and obviously has an unspoken crush on Claire — are going to try to roust out the spooks, either see one for real or lay the legends to rest.

Helping them out are the guests from hell (or maybe in hell): TV actress turned psychic Leanne Reese-Jones (Kelly McGillis), Gayle the mad mom (Alison Bartlett), and an old, old man who checks in and obviously means to come to a bad end. Two little girls also wander around, in tribute to to their obvious inspirations, The Grady sisters from The Shining.

Ti West’s movie is loaded with seedy atmosphere and cracked wacko personality, and I much preferred it to the over-expensive blood-drenched massacres they usually give us. Paxton’s Claire and Healy’s Luke are engagingly scarable protagonists. The cellar is a doozy. West, this movie’s director-writer-editor — and also the auteur of The House of the Devil and Trigger Man (both nifty, effective shows), is a horror classicist with a good scrappy sense of character, and he seems refreshingly uninterested in breaking any decapitation records or in exploring the far boundaries of found footage. (Anyway, Cloverfield has already done it.)

I like West’s stuff. I also still love Kubrick and The Shining, though I’ll always be unhappy with Stanley K. for hiring Diane Johnson to write the script instead of King. As for The Innkeepers, it’s a decent, smart, midrange horror show. Now: the Money question. Will this movie scare you? How the hell would I know?

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best new dvd releases on: Wilmington on Movies and DVDs: Beauty and the Beast. Movie: Truesdale/Wise. DVD: Cocteau/Clement.

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Tsangari: With my next film, White Knuckles, it comes with a budget — it’s going to be a huge new world for me. As always when I enter into a new thing, don’t you wonder how it’s going to be and how much of yourself you are going to have to sacrifice? The ballet of all of this. I’m already imaging the choreography — not of the camera, but the choreography of actually bringing it to life. It is as fascinating as the shooting itself. I find the producing as exciting as the directing. The one informs the other. There is this producer-director hat that I constantly wear. I’ve been thinking about these early auteurs, like Howard Hawks and John Ford and Preston Sturges—all of these guys basically were hired by the studio, and I doubt they had final cut, and somehow they had films that now we can say they had their signatures.  There are different ways of being creative within the parameters and limitations of production. The only thing you cannot negotiate is stupidity.
Filmmaker: And unfortunately, there is an abundance of that in the world.
Tsangari: This is the only big risk: stupidity. Everything else is completely worked out in the end.
~ Chevalier‘s Rachel Athina Tsangari

“The middle-range movies that I was doing have largely either stopped being made, or they’ve moved to television, now that television is a go-to medium for directors who can’t get work in theatricals, because there are so few theatricals being made. But also with the new miniseries concept, you can tell a long story in detail without having to cram it all into 90 minutes. You don’t have to cut the characters and take out the secondary people. You can actually put them all on a big canvas. And it is a big canvas, because people have bigger screens now, so there’s no aesthetic difference between the way you shoot a movie and the way you shoot a TV show.

“Which is all for the good. But what’s happened in the interim is that theatrical movies being a spectacle business are now either giant blockbuster movies that run three hours—even superhero movies run three hours, they used to run like 58 minutes!—and the others, which are dysfunctional family independent movies or the slob comedy or the kiddie movie, and those are all low-budget. So the middle ground of movies that were about things, they’re just gone. Or else they’re on HBO. Like the Bryan Cranston LBJ movie, which years ago would’ve been made for theaters.

“You’ve got people like Paul Schrader and Walter Hill who can’t get their movies theatrically distributed because there’s no market for it. So they end up going to VOD, and VOD is a model from which no one makes any money, because most of the time, as soon as they get on the site, they’re pirated. So the whole model of the system right now is completely broken. And whether or not anybody’s going to try to fix, or if it even can be fixed, I don’t know. But it’s certainly not the same business that I got into in the ’70s.”
~ Joe Dante

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