The Innkeepers (2011)
Directed by: Ti West
Starring: Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis, George Riddle, Alison Bartlett, Jake Ryan, Lena Dunham, Brenda Cooney
(out of 4)
PKE readings right off the top of the scale! Buried the needle!
I’m reluctant to say anything bad about Ti West’s films for fear of being branded as that guy who “doesn’t get it” or who “only likes Saw and Hostel movies.” Trust me, dear readers, I’m not that guy. In fact, I believe I do “get” films like The Innkeepers and West’s previous entry The House of the Devil. It’s just that there really isn’t much to get. West certainly likes to take his time with his films – lots of time. He loves spending it with his characters, no matter what, even if all they are doing is walking around listening to a walkman or taking out the trash, or just, you know – hanging out. The problem with a movie like The Innkeepers is that there is a difference between getting to know characters and just “spending time” with them. There’s also a fine line between slow-burn and complete boredom, and West is fond of dancing on that line.
It’s the end-of-days for the Yankee Pedlar Inn, a hotel with a lot of history but now one that is ready to shut its doors for good. Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) are two young employees working the hotel’s final weekend, which finds precious few guests, save a mother and son, a former actress named Lee (Kelly McGillis), and an enigmatic old man (George Riddle) who requests a specific room on the top floor. The rest of the time, Claire and Luke talk about his ghost-centered website and the old story about Madeline O’Malley, a woman who killed herself at the hotel and was supposedly hidden in the basement by the owners. Fascinated by the inn’s ghostly past, the pair make attempts to record any signs of paranormal activity and discovering if Madeline really does haunt the hotel, before the place closes permanently.
Try “Real Hauntings” – the best adult content on the net right now…. wait a sec – “Tubgirl Soup?!!!” Eww…
The Innkeepers spends much of its running time with Claire, showing her putting up with an annoying barista next door, shooting the breeze with Luke, and bringing towels up to Lee, who dresses Claire down a bit for having no direction in her life. Then Claire decides to do some recordings of electronic voice phenomena and comes face to face with a piano that briefly plays itself. After Lee (who is also a psychic) helps Clair make contact with the hotel spirits, she receives a dire warning not to go into the basement. Later, after a few beers, Luke and Claire decide to investigate the basement anyway, where Madeline makes another appearance. Luke freaks out and runs off, leaving Claire and Lee to face the ghosts of the Yankee Pedlar Inn on their own.
The ghost of Kelly McGillis makes an appearance.
The strengths of The Innkeepers lie in the abilities of the actors more than the layout of the inn itself. Paxton and Healy both have a naturalistic quality to their acting, which I liked. McGillis’ character is interesting, also – somebody who has been beaten down by the world and has therefore decided to try to reach the next world. In fact, there’s this idea that Claire and Luke are like ghosts themselves, stuck in an empty hotel in dead-end jobs. I like how the film introduces the idea that it’s not the ghost of Madeline that she’s chasing, but something closer to what we saw in films like Don’t Look Now. I also spotted a few references to Ghostbusters and definitely The Shining.
Michael Myers checks in at the Yankee Pedlar
The problem is that The Innkeepers is way too subtle. It tries to go for a realistic approach to hauntings, which results in questions like “Did I really see that or is it in my head?” It seems obvious that the hotel is haunted, but I got the feeling the movie would rather spend more time listening to the characters chit-chat about spirits than actually encountering them. The film invites comparisons to slow-burns like The Shining, Don’t Look Now, The Changeling, and Session 9, but things actually happen in those movies, while in The Innkeepers, things barely happen at all until the very end. In addition, the conclusion of the film hinges on a character doing something stupid; I would rather see characters trapped by events out of their control other than the unreasonable action that the plot requires them to perform. A perfect example of the film’s over-indulgence in subtlety is the final shot, which shows something so faint that I dare anyone to try to see it the first time. While I found House of the Devil to be drawn out in similar fashion, I think I prefer that film to The Innkeepers, which wants to be an old-fashioned spook story but doesn’t have enough interesting things in it to make it worthwhile. The bitch of it is that when the film ends, we don’t know anything more about the spirits of the Yankee Pedlar Inn than when we started. Like the spirit-themed web site featured in the movie, I think The Innkeepers would be more fun if it was edited down into an episode of Ghost Hunters.
- Bill Gordon
Can you see the ghost?