I like independent horror. It is a welcome treat and provides a freshness that Hollywood horror had often ignored. I lucked out when I managed to view Ti West’s latest limited movie release on demand. Admittedly, I wasn’t all that much ecstatic or impressed with director Ti West’s 80‘s baby-sitter horror homage “House of the Devil”. I thought the film was good, but felt a little incomplete. One thing I could not deny was that Ti West had vision and he may well be the next horror filmmaker to look out for. His style is something of a cinematic slow burn which I liked and with 2012’s “The Innkeepers”, he seemed to have created something delightful, funny and at the same time, scary.
A hotel that had been opened for a century called the Yankee Pedlar Inn is located in a spot in Connecticut and is set to close its doors. Guests had just stopped checking in and this is the last week that it will be open. Employees Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) are the only ones on duty servicing the last few guests that they have (this includes a former actress played by Kelly McGillis). The two decide to spend their last few days working in the hotel recording sounds and bumps to capitalize on the hotel’s ’haunted’ reputation because of a woman who had committed suicide named Madeline O‘Malley. They intend to load whatever evidence they find onto a website Luke had been designing to make some money. But, things become much stranger as Claire and Luke gets in too deep…
Ti West sets the tone rather quickly in the film as he shows displays Luke load up a grainy video of an old rocking chair in a computer when a scary image all of sudden shocks young Claire. That is what you can expect with “The Innkeepers. Much of the film’s premise is simple, but West keeps a solid handle on the story’s execution. There is a lot of waiting in the film accompanied by some jump scares and clever humor and wit to help the film’s flow. West seemed to emulate horror classics such as “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Shining” all the while maintaining a sense of playfulness with its structure. West wants to slowly build up to a truly climactic conclusion, he maneuvers the viewer to become invested in the story all the while developing the characters through their interactions. It is a simple formula really, but West manages to keep everything engaging from Claire’s moment with a weird barista, her interactions with Luke, to the hotel guests that also include a former actress and a woman with a child.
I suppose what really made the film work is the sincerity behind each scene. I mean, you can see Paxton’s character as someone who can be young and naïve, and yet there is an amount of attractive curiosity about her. I mean, Paxton plays her character with an aura of playfulness that resembles a kid, and yet there is something really attractive about her. West made a simple scene such as taking out the garbage say a great deal about her. Kelly McGillis is the one guest that actually commanded certain sequences. Her character as a former actress that now has a new profession made certain set ups much more credible and believable. West keeps the story tight and isolated with his limited number of people, it all happens in one place and in a limited number of nights and days, and given its simplicity, it was indeed a good move to keep the setting enclosed.
It was also a good idea to have the film broken down into chapters, as characters are introduced and one chapter prepares the viewer for another significant scene. It is a bit and pieces kind of story that some details are revealed and some are worth taking note of. West keeps the film moving with some sly humor and jump scares that may mean nothing, all to build up on the scares that really matter. I know what you are thinking, the film is a slow build and much of it relies on dialogue and wit, so does the film deliver on the final act? Well, it sure does. West was able to generate a feeling of claustrophobia and the scenes that were indeed meant to be suspenseful was able to be as such. It was a case of do not tempt the fates as something that the characters had wished to be myth, does indeed become real. The entities in the film are not the usual vengeful ghosts that we have gotten used to, but rather Ti West leaves it to the viewer to decide if such things seen were indeed real or a figment of the character’s imagination. I mean it was wise for the director to leave some sort of question in the viewer’s mind, that made the final act much more clever as it is something quite probable.
“The Innkeepers” is indeed a film that is a slow burn, but with its nudges and humor, it was a pretty good film that kept me interested and left me guessing as to what would be next. Ti West was totally in control as writer and director; he never allowed any scene to get away from him and practiced restraint when the film needed discipline and skill. West once again proves that he is a calculating genre director and while it may not be easy to become attached to the story, the characters were able to command the film’s pace. The film is creepy and at times charming; it is a haunted hotel classy horror treat.
*** out of **** It would seem that haunted house movies are making a return. Most recently, we got the surprising little horror flick "Insidious" - which dealt with a struggling family that was literally facing demons - and in 2009, there was this delightfully suspenseful and tense film known as "The House of the Devil"; and while it wasn't technically a haunted house film - since the house wasn't technically possessed or haunted by anything (it … more
THE INNKEEPERS I am a big fan of ghost movies mainly because I think they really exist and I have reason for thinking that. That all is another story for another time but as of right now I am talking about "The Innkeepers", which was a really good film by "The House of the Devil" director Ti West. Now I did like that film and West's style so I was pretty sure I would like this one. Thankfully I … more
This was a really well done movie and had that old school fell to it. I really enjoyed the commentaries on this disc and the special features. I do recommend this film but know that it is not your typical horror film. But if you stick with the film there are some genuine creepy/scary moments.
Star Rating: I’ve noticed that when a filmmaker has the temerity to develop horror movie characters beyond what would be required of them in slashers, which is usually nothing, the films are deemed slow, uneventful, and completely lacking in thrills and chills. Have we lost our ability to care about what happens to these people, to appreciate the anticipation of a scary moment, to savor suspense as it builds to a screaming climax? Genuine terror has been … more
The Yankee Pedlar Inn is closing down for good; and but two employees must work in those final few days. In that time, they come face-to-face with the phantoms and ghosts that lie behind the hotel walls; all while two guests - both who seem to know their fair share about the building's grim past - occupy two rooms.