Sunday, May 27, 2012

Movie Review: The Innkeepers (2011)

Okay first of all, how much do I love that awesome retro poster? A LOT, I tell you. It's kind of fantastic. Secondly, how much did I love The Innkeepers? Again, A LOT and I have to say that I would rank it a bit higher than the other ghostly movie I watched the other day - Harry Potter and the Woman in Black... er I mean, just The Woman in Black of course. I'm not the first person to make that joke, am I? Oh, poor Danny Radcliffe. He's always going to be Harry Potter, isn't he? Anyway upon first hearing of The Innkeepers way back when, I was totally jonesing for a good ghost story (I LOVE GHOST MOVIES) and was hoping that this one would not disappoint me. It totally didn't.

On its last weekend open for business, two employees of The Yankee Pedlar Inn - Claire and Luke - have to deal with some pretty strange supernatural and natural guests. The inn has been long thought to be haunted by the ghost of Madeline O'Malley, a woman who hung herself in the hotel when she thought her lover had left her, and Claire and Luke will try to spend the next few days getting proof of her existence in the hopes of keeping the inn open. But they may get more than what they bargained for...

My first experience with Ti West as a director was really not good. I cannot begin to describe how much I utterly hated Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever (one of the reasons being the use of the word "fever" twice in the title) and I wish to erase the experience from my brain. Second experience with Mr. West was much better, with the wonderful The House of the Devil, and that movie gave me more confidence  in what he could do with The Innkeepers. So I guess I kinda like this new golden boy of horror now. We'll see what he does next. With House of the Devil and now Innkeepers, his obvious chosen style is the slow burn type of horror story which I am really starting to like. It definitely works for this particular movie as it is a character-centered story, although that may not be readily obvious in the first part of the movie.

And really, it is the portrayal of the two main characters that first got me loving The Innkeepers. Sara Paxton plays Claire, a somewhat introverted and mousey girl whose age is hard to pinpoint because Paxton always looks like a 14-year-old boy. Comedic actor Pat Healy is Luke, a lonely guy who has an obsession with the paranormal, and a crush on Claire. Their interactions throughout the movie are played so real and lovable and they are exactly the kinds of characters I like to watch in movies because they remind me of how I am with my own friends and co-workers. Some might find Paxton's portrayal especially as a little annoying and a bit like she was "acting" too much, but to me it was endearing. She's not a bitch, and she's not a complete pushover either. She's ignorant of Luke's feelings for her but that just makes Luke all the more endearing as well.

Okay, so I liked the characters. How about the rest of the movie? It is well shot and carefully constructed to wind up the tension very tight and keep it there until the end. The tension is good and there are small releases of that tension along the way, but you can tell that it is all leading up to something much more involved. The scenes of Claire doing the EVP recording, especially the thing with the piano, were my favorite parts to watch. With any ghost movie, these scenes are usually about either waiting for something big to happen or waiting for something small to happen... or even waiting for nothing to happen. For me, it doesn't matter which one of these outcomes is actually followed through with because it's all about the suspense. And I like the suspense in The Innkeepers.

As for the ending, yes, it's unexpected. Yes, it sucks because it's not what we want to happen. But I was okay with it. I didn't get it at first, but another reviewer reminded me of the conversation Claire and Luke had with the psychic about deja vu, and the psychic mentioning that she saw three ghosts in the hotel. Not everybody will pick up on these details, which is probably why I've read so many comments about the ending being uneventful and a letdown. To me it was not exactly satisfying, but I understood it (if not after the fact) so I appreciated the director going for non-happy ending to keep up with what happened earlier in the film.

The one thing I wish West hadn't done was show the ghost full-face before the end... or even at all. The scare with the ghost under the sheet in Claire's bed was very effective but I was almost disappointed at getting to see the ghost so early in the story. More so, I was disappointed at the look of the ghost itself (or herself). She's too generic looking, like every other ghost I've seen in horror movies in recent years, and it reminded me too much of the myriad of female ghosts in Asian horror movies. I just wish the ghost had been kept more hidden until the denouement, which would have made that scene all the more frightening and disturbing.

Otherwise, I'm loving The Innkeepers for the moment. It's got what I like most about horror movies - GHOSTS, I LOVE GHOSTS, GHOSTS GHOSTS GHOSTS! - along with some wonderfully quirky characters, and a tight, yet delightfully slow and drawn out plot. Thumbs up!


  1. I haven't seen the sequel to Cabin Fever, but both The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers are terrific movies! I didn't think I would enjoy them as much as I did.

  2. A well-made, well-acted ghost movie, but unfortunately it wasn't exactly my cup of tea (just like Ti Wests's previous flick THOTD). Way too slow, tedious and boring, especially in the middle, and the ending was just disappointing.
    Nevvertheless, great write-up dudette!

  3. I love Ti West but I wanted more with this movie. I did like it and always enjoy his build up. Plus the characters were awesome & all but I felt like it was missing something.

  4. SuckerForGoodHorrorFilmsJanuary 28, 2013 at 5:54 AM

    I would like to differ with the majority here. In my not so humble opinion, "The Innkeepers" is one of the most boring pretentious POC excuse for a Horror film. At least "House of the Devil" was interesting for 2/3rds of its running time (if not for its very lame ending, it would been a Horror classic) but this Hotel based horror story was/is anything but Horror. For the 1st 60 minutes or so nothing happens in the film (building-up the tension does not mean that viewers are made bored to death by long list of inane scenes). So when something weird (and mildly interesting) finally happens, the movie is already into its final reel. VHS (20 mins) segment by Ti West was better than this 80 odd minutes borefest. #JustMy2Cents

  5. My wife and I love this movie. Great characters, great build up, and lots of atmosphere. I really dig the slow pacing he uses and I thought the ending was solid. Certainly my favorite of Ti West's films.