Title: The Innkeepers
Director: Ti West
Screenwriter: Ti West
Cast: Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis, George Riddle, Alison Bartlett, Jake Schlueter, Lena Dunham
Screened at: Review 1, NYC, 12/21/11
Opens: December 30, 2011 on demand. February 3, 2012 in theaters
If you’ve done some traveling you know that you have a choice: you can stay at a 5-star Hilton or Intercontinental, or you can stay in less expensive accommodations ranging from a youth hostel to a comfortable, non-chain inn. You will not likely find ghosts at the expensive places: just businessmen and businesswomen in gray suits. Dull. But if you go off the beaten track, like to a place called the Yankee Pedlar Inn (which actually exists in Lime, CT), you have an outside chance of discovering poltergeists–and not necessary friendly ones like Casper. Such is the fate of a few people in a small Connecticut town, two of whom are employees of the Yankee Pedlar, two who are human guests, and at least one specter remaining from the body of a woman who killed herself some time back because her lover left her standing alone at the altar.
“The Innkeepers” has nothing original but deserves to be seen for at least one terrific performance, that of Sara Paxton in the role of innkeeper Claire, one of the last two employees of an establishment that will close within one week. The movie is written and directed by Ti West, whose “The House of the Devil” finds a college student about to be used in a satanic ritual and whose “Trigger Man” focuses on three hunters who are about to be hunted.
Claire and her fellow innkeeper, Luke (Pat Healy), have good rapport, though Luke is too dorky to be considered by her for anything physical. Together, they pursue a hobby: attempting to record evidence that the ghost haunts the basement. When they’re not pursuing that hobby, they’re taking care of the only two guests who show up, both weird of course. One is Leanne Rease-Jones (Kelly McGillis), an actress in her prime who has taken up spiritual healing in her golden years. The other is simply Old Man (George Riddle), who insists on staying in the now evacuated third-floor room in which he spent his honeymoon.
The first half of the movie is ghost-free, and despite the lack of scares is the more enjoyable half owing to the give and take between Luke and Claire. The scares begin when Claire hears the note of a piano sounded when nobody is near the bench, then continues as Claire, though told by Leanne to evacuate the hotel immediately, returns to the basement where the ghost hangs out.
Some homage is made to Alfred Hitchcock, principally by Jeff Grace’s original and effective music which echoes that of Hitchcock’s Bernard Herrmann, but also by the pixie-ish haircut on both Leanne and Claire, reminding us of the style affected by Janet Leigh in “Psycho.” There is also a brief attack by birds.
Though there is something to be said for camp–“Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” being the best horror pic of 2011 in my estimation–there is also something to be said for a deadly-serious ghost movie like this one of the type that copies the genre of the fifties. Good show.
Rated R. 100 minutes (c) 2012 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B-
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B