Ti West (or as my friend calls him T.I. West) burst onto the scene with his terrific throwback feature House of the Devil a couple of years ago. So convincingly early ’80s was HoD that there was legitimate wonder if it was a long-lost film unearthed from a vault. As a slow-burning, non 3D, explosion-less horror film it didn’t catch on the masses, but it did resonate strongly with lovers of old school horror. As one such aficionado, I’ve eagerly anticipated West’s follow-up film.
The Innkeepers holds fast to West’s formula of being very deliberate and plodding, replacing piles of jump scares and big breasted bimbos with light-hearted comical banter and unnerving moments. The setup is simple. Two hotel employees, Luke and Claire, stave off boredom by practicing a little amateur ghost hunting before the hotel closes up shop for good. Claire, played brilliantly by Sara Paxton (Last House on the Left, Shark Night 3D), is a socially awkward, girl next door, pixie sprite type. Luke, played by Pat Healy, is a socially awkward nerd, ghost hunter and a terrible website developer. The two have an ambiguous relationship that fuels that engine of the film with their back and forth banter. The “will they or won’t they hook up” element kept me interested. And it had to as there are only a few scares in the film and most of them are near the end. This could have been an extraordinarily boring film if not the for clever dialogue and solid performances. Oh, and for the record, I was rooting for them to take a trip to bone city.
As the film progresses we learn that some serious bad mojo is alive and well in the hotel. Back in the hotel’s heyday a man left his fiancé on their wedding night whilst staying in the hotel. Like all women*, she overreacted and hung herself, forever marrying her pissed off and undead soul to the hotel. There are a few other guests staying in the hotel. Notably, an old man who demands the honeymoon suite (queue ‘dun dun dun’ music) and Kelly Mcginnis (Top Gun, Stake Land), who is psychic / famous television star. Both play crucial roles as the mystery of hotel slowly unfurls.
But unlike most ghost story flicks this one provides a few interesting twists. In fact, no one I watched the film with guessed the ending. Like most ghost story movies it takes a character that is way too nosy for their own good to move the plot into overdrive. Claire makes many moronic decisions (or brave decisions depending on your take) which escalate the film towards its frenzied ending. For example, who goes into the basement after they have been warned, by the psychic/old man/forewarner, specifically not go into the basement? Claire does. Twice.
The Innkeepers concludes with a satisfying and terrifying final 10 minutes. How rare is that these days in horror? It seems filmmakers and studious are so concerned about setting up sequels that movies almost never have conclusive finales. Kudos to West for making another entertaining stand alone horror film that kicks the current trends in horror to the curb. This is exactly the kind of movie I, as a horror fan, want to see. Bottom line: The Innkeepers is a good ole fashioned horror flick.
Snore Factor: ZZZ