Encapsulated Cinema: Kill List, The Innkeepers, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

Kill List (2011)
If you think you’ve seen everything the hit man genre has to offer, think again. Director Ben Wheatley’s severely unnerving thriller sends its characters on a dark, visceral journey into the clutches of pure, unadulterated evil. Each target is more depraved than the last, culminating in the sort of third act freak-out that I absolutely adore. The level of violence on-display is outrageously realistic, and there are several moments sprinkled throughout that literally caused my jaw to drop. The film’s secret weapon is Wheatley’s script, which, despite the outlandishness of its finale, is always dead serious and insightful. “Kill List” is exactly the sort of horror movie hybrid that I gravitate towards these days. It’s a wonderfully wicked and surprisingly engaging affair, and as long as you can stomach some of the film’s grittier sequences, I highly recommend giving it a shot. Thanks to James Mudge for pointing this one out.

The Innkeepers (2011) Movie PosterThe Innkeepers (2011)
Director Ti West doesn’t get enough love from horror movie fans, and I’m sure there are those out there who will loathe the director’s latest endeavor with a passion. What begins as a funny and surprisingly sweet tale about two quirky innkeepers who are dealing with the hotel’s impending closure slowly becomes a deeply creepy and highly effective ghost story. As always, West takes his sweet time getting to the spooky stuff, a decision which allows you to get to know the two individuals you spend the majority of the film with. It’s a smart choice, as your emotional attachment to Sara Paxton’s character is essential to making the scares work. However, if you need all of your questions answered in vivid detail, chances are you’ll be left with clenched fists and a wrinkled brow. West doesn’t explain anything, which makes “The Innkeepers” that much creepier. Highly recommended only to the open-minded.

Don't be Afraid of the Dark (2011) Movie PosterDon’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2010)
I was a pretty big fan of the original TV movie as a kid — I actually had a bootleg VHS copy of this flick at a very early age — but when I grew up, the scares just weren’t there anymore. And perhaps that’s the problem with Troy Nixey’s version of the story. Maybe I’m just too old and out-of-touch with the things that scared me as a child for this to have any sort of effect on me. That having been said, I’m sure this thing will freak out small children, as they won’t be too critical of film’s decidedly lackluster monsters. On a positive note, “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” definitely gets high praise for atmosphere; spooky old mansions are incredibly cool, and Nixey uses the sprawling English manor to great effect. Unfortunately, Guy Pearce and Katie Holmes lack chemistry, and their performances suffer because of it. Jaded horror fans should stay away, though it may play well with the “Goosebumps” set.