Dir. Ti West (2011)
Two desk clerks at a haunted hotel are determined to document its paranormal history. With the doors permanently closing in a week, can they prove that the Yankee Pedlar Inn is home to supernatural forces?
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
It takes a lot to tell a good ghost story. There have been very few over the decades of horror filmmaking that have had what it takes to be a good, lasting ghost tale, but when they hit, they hit in a big way. From Poltergeist to The Shining, ghost stories can be the scariest of all horror movies if handled in the right way. Ti West, the "new blood" director responsible for The House Of The Devil and The Sacrament, took his stab at the genre with The Innkeepers, a story of a haunted hotel that was closing its doors but had just enough in the tank for one last scare. In my opinion, he doesn't pull it off very well. His slow-burn style should've fit perfectly with a good ghost story, but it focused on bringing more hardly funny humor to the script instead of a more coherent plot.
Claire and Luke, the two desk clerks played competently by Sara Paxton and Pat Healy, are determined to authenticate the supernatural presence residing at their inn, and prove it they ultimately do, of course. And I think that that's where this film falls flat for me. The dialogue is good, the relationship between the two main characters is charming, but the scares just aren't there. There's a few jump scares (one in particular in the beginning that's used to humorous effect), very little actual creepiness, and a climax that really is lackluster compared to the batshit crazy ending to HotD (although, to be fair, most film endings don't carry the insanity that ended House of the Devil). The Innkeepers just wasn't scary. 40 minutes passed before anything remotely paranormal happened, and the ending was just completely blah. It's not that it's slow, that in and of itself is not a bad thing. Hell, HotD was slow. It's just that it was slow with no payoff, no moment where it went from creepy to horrifyingly scary. It went from a well-lit Holiday Inn to the basement of that Holiday Inn with a ghost in a wedding dress.
I can't tell if she's dead or just has wedding cake smeared all over her.
West is a highly talented filmmaker. I absolutely loved House of the Devil, and The Sacrament was a fantastic reenactment of the Jonestown Massacre with a guy that I could've sworn for half the movie was John Goodman. This one just fell short for me. It's well-acted and well-directed, and the score fits well, it's just not scary in the slightest. It's got a fairly big fanbase, and to each their own, but this movie was more Scooby Doo than The Shining. And that's ok, I guess... just not scary.
Who this movie is for: Slow burn horror fans, Ghost story lovers, Tom Bodett (from the Motel 6 commercials. You know, the dude who would leave the light on for you?)
Bottom Line: Disappointing outing by Mr. West, but it's worth a look if you're really into ghost stories, you don't mind slow plot, and you're really terrified by brides I guess? He's made better movies, this one just didn't hit the sweet spot for me.