Those ditzy, ghost-hunting Innkeepers put us up in a room that is 2.40:1 in dimension, and furnished via AVC.
The image is quite strong, its grain is intact and film-like, and the visual appearance is autumnal and somewhat dour. Colour is certainly there, but it is muted and subdued, the intention to remove any punch or vitality one that Ti West utilised similarly upon The House of the Devil as well. The image is not gloomy, though. The guest house is usually well-lit and the picture is often suffused with a nice hue than enhances the yellows, greens, browns and blues. Detail is good, but not great. This isn’t due to the transfer, but down to the photography and the rather old-fashioned style with which the movie has been shot. You are hardly going to be perusing the grain in the woodwork, or the patterns and stitching in characters’ clothes, but these elements are still there … just not as starkly drawn or as crisp as seen in many other hi-def images. You won’t be admired eyes, facial texture or the occasional bloody wound, yet nor are these elements that have been muddied or softened in any major way. The picture is just a lot less clinically revealing than a lot of new movies.
Midnight blues work well and these appear fairly often. Skin-tones have a quite naturalistic look.
What disappointed me about this otherwise very faithfully reproduced film was the black levels. Though they are not disastrous, they really aren’t up to the task of providing thick shadow and spooky gloom. The blacks are shot through with blue that filters them down and serves them up as grey murk. There are occasions, though, when the shadows are quite adequately handled. Some of the basement scenes when the action is lit only by a torch, for instance, look decent enough. But, on the whole, the darker elements are not strong enough for a film that often needs to fall back upon such redolent visual ingredients. Contrast, however, is pretty well maintained and consistent throughout, with lots of torch-beams cutting through the gloom and slivers of light shining through cracks in doors.
Depth is good too. The visuals that DOP Eliot Rockett provides lend lots of atmospheric space to the staircases and the corridors and the views into rooms from the doorways. Some of the shocks arise from the mid-ground or even the background, and these also generate a rewarding sense of dimensionality to the image.
Finally, I didn’t notice any worrying edge enhancement, or aliasing, and there are no artefacts to speak of to cause any distraction. So, all things considered, The Innkeepers gets a pretty solid transfer that totally aids the gorgeous widescreen photography in drawing you into the creepy guest-house.
As I explained in the review, The Innkeepers is a film that we are officially told to play loud.
Well, I did just that.
And what I found was that the DTS-HD MA 5.1 track that adorns this region A-coded BD doesn’t so much pack a wallop of supernatural fury – it has its moments, which we’ll come to in a bit – as enhance the subtleties of whispers, creaks and groans, thumps and thuds that emanate from around the soundscape. Detail across the front is crisp and the spread is wide. The score is nicely rendered with warmth and clarity, the strings especially covering some range.
My house backs on a cemetery (highly atmospheric, eh?) and there are occasions when the police helicopter comes over from Liverpool to help flush out suspects who have hidden themselves in there, the huge whup-whupping often seemingly pressing down from right overhead. There is a frequent sound effect in the film of a low resonant throbbing that really seems to mimic this … so much that, for the first couple of times when it appeared, I really did think that the cop-chopper was doing the graveyard shift and I actually paused the disc to confirm whether I was right or not. This infernal, industrial-like droning is peculiarly effective, and comes over with a nice, enveloping spread. Bass, as a consequence, is quite threatening at times and the sub does into play with appreciable gusto.
I would still say that the overall environment created by this mix is predominantly frontal, but the surround usage is still pretty effective when called upon. Sudden musical stingers blurt out and Jeff Grace’s orchestral “rushes” really kick up some bombast that gets some bleed-through from the rears. Voices and movements can also be thrown out behind you. As with House of the Devil the sudden silences are just as important as the more freakish moments.
Dialogue is clear and clean at all times, barring that deliberately muffled moment when Claire has the earphones on and Luke’s voice is appropriately drowned and dislocated. Spectral whispering is dropped down low on purpose, and this makes you strain to hear what is happening alongside Claire.
As with the image, this is a solid transfer with plenty to savour from a fiendishly concocted sound design.
There’s not much to be found lurking in the dark corners of this disc, folks. The little making-of, entitled The Innkeepers: Behind the Scenes, doesn’t really add much of interest and serves as just promotional pap.
But we do get two entertaining chat-tracks, though.
Ti West does love to talk about his films. The first commentary features himself and producers Peter Phok and Larry Fessenden, and 2nd Unit Director/Sound Designer Graham Reznick. This is reasonably far-ranging as it takes in the story concept, the casting, the shoot and the whole rigmarole of low budget horror filmmaking. These guys have all spoken before on other releases and they have a good rapport.
The second commentary again boasts West, but this time he is joined by his two main stars, Sara Paxton and Pat Healy This one is often cheesy and irreverent, but the trio manage to throw a few details our way about the production and how it was filming certain elements. They all get a kick out of the fact that Paxton is simply hopeless at screaming.
If you like the film then you will enjoy the meagre assortment served up here as room service. But this is still a pretty slight roster of supplements.
This is a good enough disc from Dark Sky. It lacks much in the way of extras, but we get two involving commentaries at least, and the transfer, itself, is very respectable even if the black levels don’t quite pass muster. The audio is presented with gusto when need be, but this track is possibly more finely attuned to the subtleties in the spooky sound design.
Overall, I’m disappointed with The Innkeepers. Ti West makes another admirably slow-burn, old-fashioned horror yarn spun out in one spooky location with limited characters, but his scares this time add up to nothing but a climax that is horribly unsatisfying for the devout horror fan. Kudos has to go to the good performances that Sara Paxton and Pat Healy bring to their steadfastly irritating characters, and Kelly McGillis is very assured, cementing her claim on low-budget horror these days after that surprise appearance in StakeLand. There are certainly some creepy set-pieces that get under the skin, and a couple of solid jolts along the way, but this is film that is massively ruined by the most mundane and disappointing of conclusions. So ill-advised and perfunctory is West’s “epilogue” that it is apt to cause anger in some viewers who, like me, were awaiting something far more effective and sinister as a reward for the time that we have spent invested in the story.
It is sadly fumbled and you are left with a massive sense of huh, is that it?
I like Ti West’s films, though. Nothing has been groundbreaking, but I’m as much a fan of traditional old school suspense and fascinating character-build as I am of splattery excess, and West is fine at maintaining an icy grip on his narrative. But he needs to exploit his situations and his stories far more effectively than this. I totally agree with his refusal to pander to the knee-jerk, genre-savvy tropes that many horror-filmmakers resort to all too easily these days, but he still needs to provide something more tangible and gripping than this. Ultimately, this story simply peters-out, and what crescendo we do get is then allowed to sputter and wheeze through a final stretch that tells us nothing special or clever at the end of the day and then just provides us with the most obvious of last-minute jolts. Yes, the screenplay tries to be both intelligent and subtle at the close of play, but there’s really nothing intelligent about how West finally checks us out of this particular haunted hotel.
Lots of potential then … but, ultimately, a letdown.
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