Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Ti West
Stars: Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis, George Riddle, Alison Bartlett, Jake Ryan.
Writer/director Ti West (The House Of The Devil, Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever, etc) is a young filmmaker who appreciates and understands the tropes of the horror genre. One of the more promising practitioners in the genre, he has crafted his skills over the past decade on low budget features, and he again employs them effectively in this subtle and low key variation on the classic haunted hotel theme. The Innkeepers may evoke memories of such eerie and unsettling classics as Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.
West understands the importance of character, setting and atmosphere – it’s not just psycho/stalker/serial killers, virgins, gory special effects and buckets of blood. West skilfully spends some time introducing us to the main characters before unleashing a barrage of spooky happenings in the final reel. This is a slow burning horror thriller with a very deliberate pace, which may not appeal to today’s audience raised on the rush of in-your-face horror and sadistic violence. There are plenty of laughs along the way to temper the occasional shock moment.
The bulk of the film takes place within the Yankee Pedlar, a haunted hotel in Connecticut that is going out of business after 100 years of operation. During its last weekend a young couple with an interest in psychic phenomena are doing desk duty while trying to find evidence of paranormal activity within the sprawling hotel. The hotel is rumoured to be haunted by the ghost of Madeline O’Malley, a bride who committed suicide on her wedding day.
Claire (Sara Paxton, from Shark Night 3D, The Last House On The Left, etc) is a drifter waiting to move on to the next town. Luke (comic Pat Healy, from The Assassination Of Billy The Kid By The Coward Robert Ford, etc) is establishing a website that supposedly documents the hotel’s spooky history, but he also likes looking at porn sites while filling in time. The pair takes shifts wandering the century-old hotel with old-fashioned equipment hoping to record EVP (Electronic Ghost Phenomenon).
Claire also has to deal with the handful of guests who have checked in for the weekend. Leanne Rease-Jones (Kelly McGillis, barely recogniseable from her Top Gun days) is a former television star who has since turned to the profession of medium. There is also an angry mother and her obnoxious young son (Alison Bartlett and Jake Ryan), an enigmatic old man (George Riddle) who checks in but never leaves. Strange events occur, and the pair realise they may be in for more than they bargained for.
There are effective contributions from West’s regular collaborators. Graham Reznick’s haunting sound design accentuates every creak and groan. Eliot Rockett’s eerie cinematography uses shadow and light effectively and there are long, slow tracking shots down shadowy corridors. Jeff Grace contributes an effectively atmospheric score.
The performances are also solid, with Paxton and Healy creating a credible vibe and rapport.
The Innkeepers has its moments, but there is a familiarity to much of the film. As far as haunted hotels go, The Innkeepers is, unfortunately, not in the same league as Kubrick’s classic The Shining or even Hitchcock’s Psycho, both of which featured hotels you’d rather not check into. But it is superior to Nimrod Antal’s disturbing 2007 thriller Vacancy, in which a couple check into a seedy motel for the night and almost become the next stars of a snuff film.
The Innkeepers is worth checking into as an homage to the atmospheric old school horror films that Hollywood doesn’t seem to make any more.