Movie Review: The Innkeepers / Cert: 18 / Director: Ti West / Screenplay: Ti West / Starring: Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis, / Release Date: June 8th
Director Ti West is claimed by many to be one of the new wave of horror filmmakers who have brought a sense of fun and invention back to the genre. The House of the Devil was a great throwback and felt exactly like a film made in the late seventies. It had pacing issues and eventually turned out to be merely a good film rather than the classic it threatened to be. The Innkeepers is West’s latest film and the good news is that it’s better than House of the Devil, however it suffers from an even bigger flaw than pacing and is a sign that perhaps West should work with another writer rather than himself.
The story takes place in The Yankee Pedlar Inn (an actual real place), a supposedly haunted hotel that is going out of business. During its last weekend we find slacker types Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) forced to man reception and care for the few guests left at the hotel. Claire and Luke have a side-line in amateur paranormal investigations and believe that the spirit of a woman who committed suicide haunts the corridors of the hotel. They capture on tape strange bumps in the night and electronic voice phenomenon. When an ex actress claiming to be a psychic (Kelly McGillis) checks in along with a creepy old man, things get worse.
Some have complained that The Innkeepers suffers from the same pacing issues that affect House of the Devil and I would have to disagree. The pace is definitely on the slow burn side but the characters portrayed by the oh-so-cute Paxton and the likeable Pat Healy and their interplay and dialogue offset any sluggish pace that may be present. It’s a genuine joy to be around these two and I could have watched a movie with just the two of them starting Luke’s low rent ghostbuster web site. Alas the plot must actually intrude and from the start West builds the atmosphere with a brilliant musical score from Jeff Grace. There are some really long, tense and painful to watch shots that go down hotel corridors reminiscent of the best parts of Kubrick’s The Shining. During one scene in particular set in a basement, West uses shadows and lighting so effectively that as an audience you are constantly looking into the dark corners, certain that there was something there. The film has a refreshing lack of computer generated pyrotechnics and still manages to actually get to you. This is an example many filmmaker’s could learn from, less really is more here. This film may be derivative of the aforementioned The Shining and something like Clerks or any number of 90s independent cinema but it’s also a testament to West’s directing skills which is why it’s such a shame that The Innkeepers is ultimately less than the sum of its parts.
The film is split into three chapters and a prologue, so you would expect that the film would follow the traditional three act structure present in most things. The Innkeepers fatally lacks a final act that really delivers. It has a very definite ending, but it’s abrupt and sudden and comes at a point where you would traditionally expect the film to kick up another gear for a great pay off. It’s not that it’s a bad film; it’s just that what comes before is so strong that the weak ending is a real tragedy. All through the film I was convinced it was going to turn out to be my favourite of 2012 and then all that hope went out the window when the credits rolled.
The Innkeepers is 75% a great film and for that alone it’s worth watching. It’s still far superior to most of the other things that get a cinema release with the label ‘horror’ attached.
Expected Rating: 9 out of 10