“Good to feel connected to those that came before you, don’t you think…?”
…So asks the ultra-creepy hotel Night Manager (Greg Schweers) in director Erik Bloomquist’s Night at the Eagle Inn, which just premiered at Screamfest. He’s not wrong. There’s something comforting about being in a place that reminds you of loved ones. Unless of course, “those that came before you” are now a bunch of vicious ghosts tormenting you for even daring to step into their territory. That’s a different story.
Written by Erik and Carson Bloomquist (the team behind Ten Minutes to Midnight), Night at the Eagle Inn follows a pair of twins, Sarah (Amelia Dudley) and Spencer (Taylor Turner), who arrive at the Eagle Inn in search of answers to what happened to their father the night he disappeared from there. But after meeting the Night Manager and the only other occupant, man-candy maintenance guy Dean (Beau Minniear), they start to suspect something is seriously wrong with the Inn. Too bad for them, it’s already too late.
Between their excellent vampire film starring Caroline Williams and now Night at the Eagle Inn, Erik and Carson Bloomquist have proven to have a knack for seriously unnerving psychological horror that burrows deep into the brain. The mind-fuckery in Night at the Eagle Inn is a constant swirl of nightmarish trauma that attacks the characters—and viewers—relentlessly.
From the beginning, the characters populating Night at the Eagle Inn are the type we can’t necessarily trust. Sarah is a tired soul who suffers from bad dreams involving the Inn, while Spencer is a ball of sarcasm wrapped in mystery, hinting at some project involving the Inn without letting the audience in on much. The eccentric Night Manager—“Some demented Pepperidge Farm spokesperson", as Spencer calls him—practically screams “something’s wrong here,” while Dean is that aloof character in the background who you just know has a secret or two. Not one of them looks like they’ve slept in the past month, either. The Bloomquist’s set up a story in which nothing and everything seems real, and we can’t trust a shred of what’s happening.
Some of this is to the point where you almost want to smack Sarah and Spencer for not knowing more obvious horror movie warning signs. Creepy Night Manager who insists you sign the guestbook with a fountain pen? Bad. Not one other person staying at the place your daddy disappeared from? Real bad. A supernatural gust of wind that practically blows you off your feet as you approach the Inn, and you recognize immediately it’s a sign the place is haunted? Giant flashing warning sign! Ah well, intelligent characters isn’t why we watch horror movies, is it?
It’s about the vibes, and that’s an area where Night at the Eagle Inn excels.
Gyom Amphoux’s playfully eerie score—one of the highlights of the film—creates an unsettling atmosphere through a soundtrack that wails and screeches and claws at the viewer’s eardrums, fitting in neatly with the disorienting story. The drive up to the Inn itself comes close to feeling like the approach to the Overlook Hotel in The Shining. Not on the same level, but ominous nonetheless. In fact, Night at the Eagle Inn has some in common with The Shining, to the point of recreating one classic shot and filling its dark halls with frightening ghosts. In Night at the Eagle Inn, the hotel itself practically becomes a character, invoking a sense that there is no escape as Sarah and Spencer find themselves haunted by past guests. Bloomquist is at his best when it comes to getting under the skin, and in Night at the Eagle Inn, blood-curdling imagery waits in every room.
The film doesn’t throw it all at you at once, either. Night at the Eagle Inn creeps along at a steady pace--at least for a little bit--allowing us to get to know these charismatic characters before tearing their minds apart. Each of our four main actors—including Erik Bloomquist himself in a key role—nails their parts. Dudley and Turner both present an engaging and tragic depth to their characters, whereas Schweers and Minniear gleefully ham it up the whole way.
At just seventy minutes, the problem with Night at the Eagle Inn is that it checks out of what’s working too soon and changes the sheets, just when it’s starting to get comfortable. Instead of building on the mystery of the disappearance of Sarah and Spencer’s father, Night at the Eagle Inn bursts ahead the moment the two discover strange happenings, sending the film into a repetitive back and forth of running and screaming as they encounter horror after horror. What starts as a strange, curious mystery becomes a rather redundant—though still effective as far as chills go—bare bones psychological haunter.
The Bloomquist’s have a unique style of storytelling, which makes it all the more frustrating that Night at the Eagle Inn is more interested in leaning heavily into your standard haunted hotel tropes than in doing anything to trash the place. Doors creak. Trying to escape leads our characters right back to where they started. Shining references abound. Without a strong mystery at the center of it, Night at the Eagle Inn embraces the familiar instead of subverting expectations. It’s a nice mint on the pillow instead of a free of charge gift basket of local snacks.
But hey, not every movie is going to make you want to come back over and over again. As far as haunted hotel fare goes, Night at the Eagle Inn oozes all the eerie vibes it needs. Somewhere between a roach motel and a stay at the Hilton, Night at the Eagle Inn is disturbing, effectively chilling, but probably not a stay to remember.
Night at the Eagle Inn comes to VOD November 2nd from 1091 Pictures.
By Matt Konopka