Friday, February 10, 2012

The Innkeepers Offer More than Fresh Towels

There was a time when horror films did not have to rely on elaborate death scenes to get a reaction out an audience. All it took was a few creaky doors, some strange whispers, and possibly a couple of well placed cats rustling about, to keep the viewers on edge. As with all cycles in film, the horror genre seems to be slowly reverting back to that era when creativity and not excessive gore was at the heart of a good chilling tale. The best modern day example is the successful Paranormal Activity franchise. Now director Ti West’s latest film, The Innkeepers, looks to join the fold with its own unique take on the paranormal lore.

Set within the Yankee Pedlar Inn, two employees, Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy), are left in charge of the hotel while the owner is vacationing in the Caribbean. As the inn is set to close its doors for good, business is rather slow. Bored out of their minds, and with no real sense of direction for what they want do with their lives once the hotel closes, Claire and Luke pass their time by looking for signs of ghost activity in the old establishment. The Yankee Pedlar Inn is rumoured to be haunted by the ghost of Madeline O’ Malley, a woman who hung herself in one of the rooms after being left at the altar. Determined to find proof that the ghost of O’Malley still roams the halls, Claire sets out with Luke’s recording equipment to document the strange occurrences that are happening in the inn. What starts out as a fun pastime soon turns into a nightmare that Clair will never forget.

Though an enjoyable film, The Innkeepers is a film that is bound to divide audiences. It is a horror film that will play extremely well to the casual horror fan. However, hardcore fans of the horror genre, more specifically those who love excessive gore, will be greatly disappointed. The film not only stakes it allegiance to the classic ghost stories, but it also dances to its own beat from beginning to end. The fact that it takes 70 minutes of the film’s 101 minute running time for the scares to start shows that West is playing by his own rules.

The bulk of the film of plays more like a comedy than a straight fright flick. Ti West spends a lot of time establishing Clair and Luke’s friendship, as well as their interactions with the few customers at the hotel. The fun thing about this is that it is easy to forget that The Innkeepers is a horror film at all. Claire and Luke are so charming that this film would be just as entertaining if the horror aspect was not even a part of the film. The chemistry between Sara Paxton and Pat Healy really elevates the film above others in its genre. Paxton in particular gives a strong performance as Claire. She creates a character who is filled with curiosity in all things paranormal, but is unable to find any direction or real meaning in her day-to-day life.

Ti West’s choice to have such a long build up is a bit of a blessing and a curse. On one hand, when the scares ramp up it comes as a bit of a shock to the viewer. The abrupt change in pacing is effective in catching, and keeping, the audience off guard for the remainder of the film. The only downside to this is that the film will be a test of patience for those simply looking for fast and quick scares. Still, when the scares come, West manages to achieve maximum effect through minimal tactics. Just the image of a ghostly character at the end of the hallway is more chilling than having that same ghost chase characters from room to room. Although The Innkeepers may not follow all the conventions that modern horror fans would like, the film offers up solid entertainment that should play well on repeat viewing.


  1. I'm not a fan of the horror genre for the most part. But from what you say - a film that earns its scares due to a chilling atmosphere - this sound appealing.

  2. This film has some of the usual scary cues and tense moments, but the setting, the old Yankee Pedlar inn, emerges as a more interesting character than any of the people. Good review C.S..

  3. @Sam - If your not a fan of the genre than this would be the perfect film for you. It is primarily atmosphere with very little gore.

    @Dan O - Yep the Yankee Pedlar is practically the third star of the film. Ti West gives it a similar feel to the hotel in The Shining. On a smaller scale of course.


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