The Innkeepers (2011)

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“During the final days at the Yankee Pedlar Inn, two employees determined to reveal the hotel’s haunted past begin to experience disturbing events as old guests check in for a stay.” — IMDb

The Innkeepers, directed by Ti West, came a couple years after The House of the Devil, which I recently reviewed, and I have to say… in comparison, it’s a much weaker film. It takes place (and was filmed in) the real-life Yankee Pedlar Inn in Torrington, Connecticut, which is supposed to actually be haunted… so that was certainly a cool touch. But, overall, I feel like it fell short.

It follows Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy), two apathetic twenty-somethings drifting their way through the last weekend of business for the inn they work at part-time. They’ve taken to filling the long, boring hours of watching the front desk with amateur ghost hunting, and they find out that rumors of the inn being haunted may be more true than they realize…

** SPOILERS! **

Ti West LOVES the concept of a super slow build-up, which I respect and actually admire. I don’t think films need to be chock full of action from the first scene, and I actually appreciate the chance to get to know the characters more deeply and to get a feel for the setting, the history, the back story, etc, especially in a movie like this where the setting is almost a character in itself.

While I really enjoyed Claire and Luke (more so Claire, she was goddamn adorable — I never thought I could enjoy a several minute long scene of someone trying to throw a bag of trash into a dumpster), the lead up felt very long at times. It was occasionally punctuated by a small bit of action, but not quite enough to keep me fully engaged.

The scene when Claire grabs the recorder and goes in search of some fresh EVP material for Luke’s very Geocities-looking ghost hunter website was a great one, maybe the best in the whole film. The tension that was built up by her moving slowly down the hall, face full of disbelief, as she listened to the phantom piano playing was intense… and the climax of the two piano keys being struck all on their own was amazing. Less is truly more.

I wasn’t a fan of Kelly McGillis’s character, Leanne Rease-Jones, at all — a washed up TV actress who was passing through town not for an acting gig but a “healer’s convention”. She absolutely fit into the overall theme of the characters — people who are at some kind of crossroads in their life and figuring out what their next step, or their calling, is — but overall she came across as very cheesy and predictable.

Claire and Luke are convincingly aimless — neither knowing where they’re headed in life and not seeming to care much, either (Claire muses “Why do people have to have such high expectations?” at one point). Claire in particular is almost humorously clueless at times, whether she’s oblivious to Luke’s drunken confession of his crush on her or standing, mouth agape, in her underwear as an angry mother exits the hotel, shielding her son’s eyes from the nudity. But this movie is as much about the frustrating and yet persistent feeling of lacking direction as anything else, paralleling the living with the dead as Madeline O’Malley, the abandoned bride who haunts the inn, is similarly stuck wandering the halls.

I did love that, after everything, we aren’t ever sure how much of the sightings are legitimate or just a figment of Claire’s eager imagination, all the way up to her death at the end (she’s sucking on an inhaler throughout the film so it’s just as likely that she scared herself into a deadly asthma attack being trapped in that basement).

But, I don’t know. It just didn’t do much for me as a whole. It felt as aimless as the characters’ lives, and a vast majority of the movie — over an hour of the 1 hour and 40 minute runtime — was spent building up to an ultimately dissatisfying ending. Not my favorite, though I will still watch anything Ti West puts out there.

Rating: 5/10 | Director: Ti West | Writer: Ti West | Music: Jeff Grace | Cinematography: Eliot Rockett | Starring: Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis, Alison Bartlett, Lena Dunham, Brenda Cooney, George Riddle

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