Ti West, aside from his absolutely terrible segment in ABCs of Death, has cemented himself as the horror fan’s director. The House of the Devil showed how adept West is at building suspense while tipping his nostalgia hat to bygone days of horror. The Innkeepers grabs the same baton of slow-burn suspense and carries it into new spooky territories.
Set in the real life Yankee Pedlar Inn, which is supposedly one of New England’s “most haunted buildings”, the last remaining employees try and prove that there are more than just empty rooms in the hotel before it is shut down to the public. As Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy), two amateur ghost hunters, enter into the final days at the inn, a number of odd guests check in, and the pair’s desire to uncover spooky happenings causes a turn for the worse.
While I cannot recommend The Innkeepers to everyone, I feel compelled to express how much I enjoyed every moment in this movie. The pacing reminded me of old episodes of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits, which I know are science fiction, or even the R.L Stine Goosebumps books that I used to read. At the beginning of The Innkeepers we are drip fed the suspense, and more often than not West is playing with the audience. He uses the camera, lighting and sound to subjectify certain rooms or pieces of furniture, and these shots and sounds chisel away at your guard throughout the first two acts. Looming darkness becomes a character, and slow zooms enhance the mystery and suspense while complimenting the pace.
Paxton is great in the lead role as Claire, bringing a charm and a sense of humour to the movie, almost embodying the winking West behind the camera. Her relationship with Healy’s Luke is the most normal part of the film, acting as a shining light bursting through the gloomy, mysterious darkness of this ghostly tale. There are only a handful of other characters in this movie; a man checks in to the inn to pay his respects to his dead wife, and a psychic becomes the catalyst for Claire’s desire to understand what resides in the basement. The final act crescendos and we are treated to a resolution that goes against everything you would expect from a tale of ghosts and spectres; layman film fans may feel it’s an anti-climax, but in an age when horror moviegoers are calling out for realistic characters, the final lines of dialogue answer this call.
The Innkeepers is the perfect antidote for anyone suffering the sickness of gore and torture porn. It’s clever, tense and doesn’t treat its audience with disrespect. As I mentioned, it’s not for everyone, most likely due to the very slow pacing, but I for one was definitely taken inn.