Title: The Innkeepers
Directed By: Ti West
Starring: Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis, George Riddle, Alison Bartlett, Lena Dunham, Jake Ryan, John Speredakos
Sick of all the same old tricks in the horror genre? Well, get ready because The Innkeepers uses them all. Eerie tracking shots, spooky noises and an unoriginal story, but, oddly enough, writer-director Ti West manages to put enough of his authorial expressivity on the piece to deliver something that may not feel fresh, but is still refreshingly nostalgic.
It’s the Yankee Pedlar Inn’s last days in business and Claire and Luke (Sara Paxton and Pat Healy) are the only two employees left, assigned to keep the facility running until closing day. It’s not as tough as it sounds though. The entire third floor of the hotel has already been sealed off and there’s only two guests on the second floor.
Regardless, the duo agrees to bunk down at the hotel for the final weekend and opt to keep themselves busy with Luke’s hobby, a website dedicated to paranormal activity recordings. Convinced the Yankee Pedlar is haunted, they use an EVP recording device to catch the spirit of Madelyn O’Malley in action, a former guest who killed herself when her fiancé split on their wedding day.
Did you enjoy West’s 2009 feature, The House of the Devil? If so, The Innkeepers most certainly will suit your taste. The entire piece boasts an appropriately creepy undertone, but the first half of the film relies heavily on the relationship between Claire and Luke, which is charmingly fun loving courtesy of the extremely likeable leads.
Healy does a standout job as the awkward and monotone yet genuine Luke, but Paxton absolutely steals the film as Claire. It’s rather refreshing seeing an actress of her caliber and status stripped of distractingly pretty costumes and go through an entire film without a face caked full of makeup. Plus, Claire is quirky and not to the predicable degree that films that pride themselves on their “quirky” classification set out to achieve. She feels real, but still is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. She’s her own person and that trait keeps you guessing.
Then again, in general, The Innkeepers doesn’t really offer much to actually warrant any guessing. The story is very straightforward and all of its bumps in the night and spooky tricks have been used before. So, is it scary? No, not really, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an enjoyable watch and perhaps that’s more of an achievement than anything.
West has a knack for creating intriguing situations out of the simplest concept and with little flair. A good portion of the film has no ghosts at all and then, when they finally do show up, they’re not all that scary, but that’s not what matters – it’s the characters that matter and, in the end, that’s what makes for a more engaging film. While Paxton carries The Innkeepers with ease and seems to be having a blast while doing so, she gets a little help both from Healy and Kelly McGillis who steps in as Leanne Rease-Jones, a once famous actress turned medium. Claire’s relationship with “Lee” takes a rather interesting course, going from super fan and star to the haunted and the only person who can help. Lee’s got a bit of an attitude, but cares just enough, leaving you rooting for their relationship to fall in Claire’s favor.
As for West, he just really knows what he’s doing. He nailed the slow burn style in The House of the Devil and delivers again with The Innkeepers. There’s this all-consuming sensation that this is just any old weekend (despite the fact that it’s the Yankee Pedlar’s last), which, in turn, makes the story feel real. Then there’s West’s attention to detail, which bleeds into the art department and results in a set that takes on a life of its own. The visuals, West’s directorial work and the performances all coalesce into something that isn’t all that original, but, in a way, it takes on the wistfulness of an old campfire story, giving the film a more intimate and charming feel.
No, the format isn’t for everyone, but if you can appreciate a horrific tale that relies more so on the style of conveying the story than the scare factor via twists and turns and terrifying visuals, this one’s a winner.