Title: The Innkeepers
Director: Ti West (‘Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever’)
Starring: Sara Paxton, Pat Healy (‘Rescue Dawn’) and Kelly McGillis
The thought of staying in a hotel that’s haunted by a ghost of a woman who killed herself would undoubtedly send most people running away, and never looki back. But in the new horror thriller ‘The Innkeepers,’ writer-director Ti West took an interesting spin on the supernatural sub-genre by featuring two of the hotel’s employees who actively, and willingly, seek out the resident ghost. While the employees initially question whether or not the ghost truly exists, the filmmaker presents an intriguing story of what happens when the ghost hunters face the possibility that they actually came face-to-face with what they were looking for.
‘The Innkeepers’ follows the two remaining employees of The Yankee Pedlar Inn, Claire (played by Sara Paxton) and Luke (portrayed by Pat Healy), as they prepare to close the hotel, which has been in service for over 100 years. Being that it’s the last weekend the inn is open, Claire and Luke only have to cater to four guests-Gayle (played by Gayle Bartlett) and her son (portrayed by Jake Schlueter), who are staying at the hotel because she’s angry at her husband, even though she doesn’t approve of the service; Leanne Rease-Jones (played by Kelly McGillis), a former sitcom actress who now works as a psychic medium; and an old man (portrayed by George Riddle), who insists on staying in the honeymoon suite, even though all of the furniture has already been removed from the room.
Looking for something to do, Claire and Luke search for the ghost of Madeline O’Malley (played by Brenda Cooney), who reportedly killed herself in The Yankee Pedlar Inn after she was left by her fiancé at the alter. The two employees want to document proof that the hotel is truly haunted, so that they can post it on Luke’s website. But with Leanne’s help, they find more than they bargained for, and are determined to leave the inn alive, no matter what the cost.
West, who also edited the movie and has made a name for himself in the horror genre, has impressively matured as a filmmaker with ‘The Innkeepers,’ especially compared to his disastrous 2009 effort, ‘Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever.’ Despite featuring a small cast, ‘The Innkeepers’ features diverse characters who surprisingly mature and evolve, despite being trapped in the hotel over one weekend. Claire is the most memorable character that audiences can relate to throughout the film, as she strives to improve her life after the inn closes. She knows she can obtain a better job, and fearlessly seeks guidance from Leanne, whom she idolizes from her television career.
Claire also proves she’s human by innocently staying in touch with her inner child, by following Luke as he searches for signs of the supernatural. She doesn’t believe his tales at first that Madeline’s ghost is trapped in the hotel, but humors him by recording areas Madeline is believed to visit. After speaking with Leanne about connecting with the other side, Claire decides to continue to help Luke, but with suspicion. She continues her search of the hotel with caution, knowing that if Madeline is truly still there, she will get hurt. She knows the ghost of Madeline is an urban legend, but her curiosity leads her to continue with their search.
West showcased his increased command and understanding of how to create an intriguing, suspenseful film by not overtly showcasing Madeline’s ghost, especially when Claire and Luke went looking for her. While there are some minor happenings that make viewers question if her ghost is truly present in the inn, such as doors moving on their own and the piano in the lobby playing on its own, the writer-director never blatantly presents concrete evidence of her presence. The suspense of Claire and Luke’s continued search for answers makes the audience debate whether the story of Madeline’s ghost is real, or just a myth to keep drawing in guests. Unlike the continued use of gore and blood in ‘Cabin Fever 2,’ which West used to drive the sequel, he thankfully forwent the needless visuals for ‘The Innkeepers;’ the surprising, continuous building of suspense helps maintain viewers’ interest.
‘The Innkeepers’ is a creative, admirable development for West, as it proves that he can truly craft a thrilling, character-driven film without having to extensively rely on gory visuals to drive the story. Despite having a smaller cast, the movie features diverse characters whose conflicting personalities help drive their clashing actions over how to survive their last weekend with the inn’s reported ghost. If West continues to create suspense-filled movies that follow ‘The Innkeepers’ plot and character structures, and veers from blood-filled, plot-less films as ‘Cabin Fever 2,’ he’ll surely resonate more with horror fans who will appreciate his work.
Written by: Karen Benardello