The Innkeepers, 2011.
Directed by Ti West.
Starring Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, and Kelly McGillis.
As the Yankee Pedlar Inn approaches its final days, two young employees attempt to uncover its dark history while they search for proof of ghosts.
Horror fans are most likely to be familiar with director Ti West due to The House of the Devil (2009), an 80s throwback that introduced a likeable character before slowly building until a bungled final reel. Putting that disappointment aside, it is somewhat frustrating seeing West make the same mistake with The Innkeepers.
With the majority of the action taking place in one location – the Yankee Pedlar Inn – and a story that concerns itself with the existence of ghosts whilst toying with the possibility that the spooky events might only be occurring in one of the characters’ minds, The Innkeepers draws comparisons with The Shining (1980). Unfortunately, this movie only serves as a reminder that although it may be easy to create tension, it takes real skill to craft a truly chilling ghost story.
We’re introduced to Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy), two employees that are left to man the inn’s front desk during its final days. Believing the inn to be haunted, the amateur ghost hunters set about in search for proof, with the few remaining guests serving as little more than irksome distractions. However, the arrival of Leanne Rease-Jones (Kelly McGillis), a former actress turned psychic, leads Claire on a path that with potentially fatal consequences.
Ti West attempts to get us on board with the characters and plays the first two thirds of the film with a sense of humour, using minimal cheap jump-scares and instead attempting to mount a sense of dread. The leads are likeable and have good chemistry, and at first it seems The Innkeepers is doing a valiant job in standing apart from the movies like Paranormal Activity (2007) which rely on relentlessly throwing cheap scare tactics at the screen. Ti West seems to be taking a cue from the better ghost movies, such as The Haunting (1963), and works hard to create atmosphere and tension.
Sadly, this hard work is squandered when it comes to the pay-off. The Innkeepers fails to deliver during its final act where the horror should really be kicking in, resulting in a film that is severely underwhelming. There is an ambiguity to the proceedings that allows for multiple interpretations, but it’s unclear whether this is deliberate or down to bad writing. That said, it’s not all bad – music is used masterfully and the acting really is quite good. Unfortunately, for a horror movie The Innkeepers is lacking in horror, so I’d recommend looking elsewhere if it’s scares you’re after. For those that do decide to give this a go – keep your eyes peeled during the final scene, there’s more than initially meets the eye with a final chill that is a little too subtle for its own good.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★