August 12, 2011


Talking with a few people after the screening, I got the distinct impression I was one of the few to enjoy the new film from director Ti West. The Innkeepers is not a freakishly frightening or gory horror film; instead I found it to be an atmospheric, good ol' fashioned ghost story.

The Yankee Peddlar Inn is closing down; it's the final weekend before the old inn shuts up shop for good. Manning the front desk (and everything else) is tomboy Claire and moody Luke. There's two sets of guests staying the weekend - a mother & son and a TV start turned New Age healer, Leanne Rease-Jones. There have always been tales of a ghost that haunts the inn - a blushing bride, cruelly rejected on her wedding day hung herself and was hidden by the owners at the time - and Claire and Luke are determined to track down proof before the inn closes. Things begin to get decidedly spookier, with West building the tension without relying on heavy-handed jump-scares.

Sara Paxton is a grumpy, cute, stompy delight as Claire. She brings just the right mixture of charm, moxy and innocence to the role. She's all wide-eyes, flailing limbs and goofy charm. Claire is also the true believer of the ghost stories; the one who, despite never experiencing any spookiness at the inn herself, believes Luke and his stories. Luke is an altogether different prospect: he operates a crappy website dedicated to ghost "sightings" at the inn and talks often of his own "experiences" with the ghost, though you often doubt him and his stories. Pat Healy is ok enough in the role, but didn't offer any more than a character who is a little bit of an asshole. And yes, it's Kelly McGillis from Top Gun as Leanne Rease-Jones.

The first couple of acts may seem a bit slow and even boring, but I found myself soaking up the spooky atmosphere, before West really brings the scares. In fact, it was the last minutes of the film that were kind of disappointing. The suspense, and the questioning of whether the ghost stories are real or not, has been built up so well the reveal and conclusion feels somewhat unsatisfactory. It's a tough call - how do you ensure you pay off from what you've been building on for an entire runtime? But that aside, The Innkeepers is a spooky and fun ghost story layered in atomsphere in suspense, rather than gore and cheap jump-scares. And that's more than good enough for me.

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