A triptych of chilly flicks blows into Austin theaters this weekend. Among the new releases: Indie-horror auteur Ti West’s “The Innkeepers;” “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” an austere drama anchored by Tilda Swinton; and “The Woman in Black,” released under the storied Hammer Films franchise with an up-and-coming young actor named Daniel Radcliffe. (Maybe you’ve heard of him?)
Austin audiences have had a few chances to catch “The Innkeepers” previously, having screened at South by Southwest and the Alamo Drafthouse’s Fantastic Fest. The follow-up to director West’s well-received “The House of the Devil,” “The Innkeepers” shares a similar retro-horror sensibility to his breakout film. Two slacker clerks at a storied northwestern inn investigate reports of workplace hauntings on the weekend the inn is slated to close. Suffice to say, mysterious visitors check in, nerves slowly fray, and plenty of things begin to go bump in the night. Light on gore and long on tension, “The Innkeepers” is certain to keep audiences unnerved.
An unnerving film of a different sort also opens this weekend: “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” directed by Lynne Ramsay. Tilda Swinton plays a mother plagued by a terse relationship with her troubled son that dates back to his infancy, building to a crescendo of terrifying, unexplainable violence – in other words, a Columbine-informed, arthouse verison of “The Omen.” Swinton’s performance garnered best actress accolades from the Austin Film Critics Association.
In a three-and-a-half star review for the Austin-American Statesman, Charles Ealy writes:
"Kevin" is much more ambitious and much more morally murky, with a nonlinear, experimental narrative that uses images and colors to show the travails of a mother who suspects that she has given birth to a horrible violence.
It addresses complex notions about children, nurturing and guilt — and delves into psychological and physical humiliations.
The Austin Chronicle has an informative Q&A with Swinton and Ramsay.
Swerving back to the supernatural, “The Woman in Black” stars a post-“Potter” Radcliffe as a grieving widower dispatched to – where else? – a creepy manse to settle a decedent’s estate.
NPR’s Monkey See blog relishes the high camp in the film’s traditionalist, gothic trappings: “if nuanced line readings aren't yet Radcliffe's specialty," they write, "that hardly matters in a film that for much of its running time isolates him from his living, breathing castmates so that he can plunge headlong through misty marshes, register alarm at locked doors that have inexplicably opened, and jump as things scrape, splinter, clang, screech, rasp and go bump in the night.”