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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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“We don’t defy the laws of physics: There are no flying men or cars in this movie. So it made sense to do it old-school: real vehicles and real human beings in the desert. We shot the movie more or less in continuity, because the cars and the characters get really banged up along the way. The biggest benefit of digital technology for me was that the cameras were smaller and much more agile, so you could put them anywhere. We also spent a huge amount of time on spatial awareness—making sure the viewer could follow the action and understand what was happening. There has to be a strong causal connection from one shot to the next, just the same way that in music, there has to be a connection from one note to the next. Otherwise it’s just noise. Too often, if you just cram a lot of stuff into the frame, you get the illusion of a fast pace. But there’s no coherence. It doesn’t flow. It comes off as headbanging music, and it can be exhausting. We storyboarded the movie before we had a script: We had 3,500 boards, which helps the cast and crew understand how everything is going to fit together. Movies are getting faster and faster. The Road Warrior had 1,200 cuts. This one has 2,700 cuts. You have to treat it like a symphony.”
~ George Miller

“I was having issues with my script for It’s All About Love, so I called Ingmar Bergman and we ended up talking about everything but the script. He said, “Well, Festen is a masterpiece, so what are you going to do now?” At that point, I had not decided if I was going to make It’s All About Love, so I answered, “Hmmm, I don’t know. Maybe this, maybe that.” There was just a long pause, and then he said, “You’re fucked.” I said, “Well, how can you know?” “Well, Thomas, you always have to decide your next movie before the movie you’re doing presently opens.” And I said, “Why is that?” “Well, two things can happen. One thing is that you fail, and then you’ll feel scared and humiliated. It’ll get into your head. Second, and even worse, you have success, and then you’ll want more of it, or you’ll want to maintain it. But if you decide on your next film while you’re in the middle of editing, it becomes a very nonchalant choice. And then it’s shorter from the heart to the hand.”
~ Thomas Vinterberg

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