An unbearably tense slow burn of a ghost story that masterfully manipulates sound design and story to create some of the scariest moments in any horror movie.
The story follows two amateur ghost chasers working as clerks at a famously haunted New England inn. It’s the last weekend the inn will be open and the place is deserted except for a haggard woman and her son, a boozy psychic, and a strange old man looking to relive one last good memory. It’s the perfect time to grab a mic and do a little ghost hunting.
Where to even begin? First the sound design. There are several scenes in which the protagonists wander to hotel with mics trying to connect with the ghost of a woman. The static’s crackle is layered in such a way that it draws the audience forward as we hear something or imagine hearing something until the tension of the static is finally broken. The wonderful thing about the film is that the tension is never really broken. There are small disruptions and a few jumps and some great laughs, but the central unease is always there because we are always leaning forward trying to hear something in the static.
Speaking of the humor, this film is surprisingly funny. There are fantastic moments of deadpan line delivery, some hilarious awkward humor, and a really funny trip to the dumpster out back. The nice thing is that the movie never does just one thing. These humorous moments create character, set up plot points later, and in sly ways help increase the tension.
The performances are what sell the movie though. The lead actress has a perfect horror movie face with big bright eyes that express every fear and nuance of fear beautifully. These scenes of her listening in empty rooms wouldn’t hit nearly as hard without her watchful eyes. The lead actor too creates a well rounded character who genuinely feels like this is just one moment in his much larger life. He also has an incredibly frightening scene in which he sees a ghost that no one else can see and which the audience can’t see either. His ashen face and stammering, whispered dialogue does more than any special effect could. The old man who stays at the hotel has this spectral quality to him that instantly sets the film off kilter in the best way. The way he talks sounds like a ghost. The way he looks so longingly are the hotel walls and so forlornly at the people around him is truly unsettling. It’s a great performance that may not be a performance at all.
The drawback to the film is that it is a slow burn. It is very quiet and slow. A lot of people do not have the patience for this one. Its not aggressive or forward in its style. It cant and shouldn’t be viewed passively. It should be allowed to unfold at its own pace.
Personally, this film works for me. It scares me every time and leaves me whit knuckled every time. It stays with me and haunts me. This is a great ghost story. It uses every element of film to build to a terrifying conclusion. It’s 1,000% my cup of tea. A+