It took me almost half the movie to realize that I actually watched this with my roommates on Netflix several years ago. I was pretty drunk at the time so I didn't remember the movie so much but I remembered that I didn't like it a whole lot on that viewing. Which, in retrospect, was unfair because I enjoyed it a lot this time around.
I think the main issue that I had the first time around was that I was expecting a horror movie, and this isn't really a horror movie. It's also not not-a-horror movie. It's a dry workplace comedy that slowly morphs into a horror movie. It's a little unfocused, but hey, I like dry comedy, and I like horror, put those things together and I like this movie.
The first half of the movie is all about the ins and outs of shitty, low pay customer service jobs. The characters have to deal with such challenges as an obnoxious guest with an obnoxious kid, employees of neighbouring business, taking out the garbage, and workplace bromance. The actors are good and the characters are totally real and relatable - they're bored shitless and amusing themselves by investigating occasional spooky doings at the hotel. Honestly, I wouldn't have minded a whole movie of this.
Suspense builds as the ghost or ghosts get progressively more involved and frightening. Since I had already emotionally bonded with Sara Paxton's character, her fear gave me fear. This is exactly what I want from a horror movie.
I liked the hippy dippy actress character too, who serves the role of medium in the ghost plot, and the catalyst for Sara Paxton to start questioning her life trajectory in the workplace comedy plot. She offers a variation on the seance which I have not seen done in movies, using a crystal pendulum to detect the presence of spirits, which is cool, different, and modern given the recent resurgence in popularity of crystals. The movie also features some more high-tech ghost hunting equipment which I know literally nothing about but was probably very well researched given writer/director Ti West's track record.
The comedy part of the movie is really funny. For the most part it's dry as fuck, which is my jam, with a few laugh out loud zingers. And the horror part is really scary, similarly relying mostly on the possibility of something happening, with a few jumps scares, and scary lookin' ghosts. The middle bit manages to be both funny and scary without feeling like a horror comedy. It's more like a comedy with scary bits, or horror with funny bits. Or both, the tone is on an almost perfect gradient from comedy to horror.
Then I got to the last act of the movie and I remembered the other reason I didn't like it the last time I watched it. The ending is fucking garbage. The main character, who up until that point had been very realistic and behaved like a smart human being starts acting like a goddamn idiot for no real reason except that the plot needs her to. Sure, there's a scene at the end where Kelly McGillis tells Pat Healy that nobody could have done anything to help her. Fuck that bullshit. I'm not adverse to the idea of predestined outcomes but not when those outcomes are derived from people completely changing their behaviour.
Like, Sara Paxton and Kelly McGillis go down into the basement, where the ghosts are, to do stuff with the crystal, and Kelly McGillis is like "aw shit, bad shit is gonna happen if we stay in this hotel" so they go to leave and then Sara Paxton gets distracted by the other remaining guest having killed himself then she's like "oh where's Kelly McGillis at, I guess I'll go look in the basement". Why would you think that. Oh, you heard a noise, whoopty fucking ding, the ghosts have been making noises all movie. If you yell "so-and-so, is that you?" and you don't hear, "yeah bro it's me just shuffling my feet on the floor" it's probably a fucking ghost.
Secondly, Sara Paxton gets trapped in a part of the basement with one of the ghosts and then dies, and it's implied that she died of like asthma or whatever because she dropped her inhaler on her way down the basement stairs. Seriously? What the fuck is that shit? It reminded me of I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives In, On, or Adjacent to the House where the girl just drops dead of a heart attack, although to be fair, in this movie Sara Paxton was shown using her inhaler all the time so it wasn't out of the blue. So it wasn't really like that movie at all, and not actually a problem. Fuck me.
Anyway, I liked most of this movie but I dunno who I would recommend it to because it doesn't fully commit to being a horror movie or a comedy, but it is well written and scary so... I guess if you like those things then you will maybe like this movie.
- Shitty service jobs are shitty (+1)
- Scary ghosts are scary (+1)
- Dry humour is funny (+1)
- I, personally, related to the main character (+1)
- Stupid ending is stupid (-1)
- Asthma cliche is cliched (-1)
Final Score: 2 stars
Written and Directed by: Ti West. Starring: Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis.