The Innkeepers in one of those ‘love it or hate it’ films. It is a horror film, technically, but it is a slow burn horror film. It relies on the likability of the two main characters, Claire and Luke, to build up the terror and suspense and as you get to know them throughout the film. When it comes down to it, though, for me, I was unimpressed. I could see what director, writer, and editor Ti West was trying to accomplish, but sadly the ending completely ruined the film. I feel that this is one of the worst endings to a borderline great film I have ever seen. If it wasn’t for the ending, I probably would be singing the praises of this film right now. As a matter of fact, I am going to sing the praises of this film.
With only a weekend to go before the Yankee Pedlar Inn closes for good, Claire and Luke wrestle with boredom and unhappy customers. In their spare time, they conduct ghost hunting investigations with limited results. On the last night, Claire is warned by a psychic (Kelly McGillis) to get out, her life is in danger.
What this film does so well is build up the character of the two leads. You get a feeling that these two characters are real people, especially the performance by Sara Paxton. She brings a deep realism to her character that make her seem like ‘the girl next door’; someone that you grew up with or went to high school with. She has a svelte beauty that comes across on screen as something more than other more well known actresses. She brings a realism and vulnerability to her character that you just rarely see in film, let alone a horror film.
Pat Healy also brings a lot to the table as Luke. He is the ghost hunting dork (I can relate) who talks a big game, but when something happens he runs for the hills, having never actually experienced anything he has bragged about. He is a smart ass and a mildly rude fellow who has absolutely no business being behind the desk of a hotel. Once again, he brings a realism to the character that is rare.
Kelly McGillis also stars in this film. You may remember her from ‘Top Gun‘ and ‘Witness’. Here she plays a rude, older actress who has taken up some sort of psychic healing in her old age and stays at the hotel while in town for a convention. Sadly, she really has very little to do in this film other than be the catalyst for the final moments of the film.
While this is a very good horror film, the ending completely ruins it. It totally destroys any tension that had been built up throughout the course of the movie. I won’t discuss it here, because I feel that even with the bad ending this is worth seeing, but just be prepared for it. I actually watched the second half of the film twice just to see if there was something I missed. There wasn’t. It was just a bad ending that dipped it’s foot into the waters of normalcy.
The video presentation here is very well done. Shot on 35 mm this film has a very ‘filmic’ look to it. There is just something about 35 mm vs. digital that brings the characters and environments to life. When you have a hotel that is really your only set in the film, it really helps bring it to life and sell it.
I was a little intrigued by the fact that there is a screen before the menu that states that the producers recommend you watch the movie loud. This is the first time I have ever seen something like this, and I would have to agree. This is a slow burn horror film, and you do need to watch it fairly loud to really get the little nuances of the sound design. There is an especially wonderful scene where Claire is doing an EVP (electronic voice phenomena) session and starts hearing a piano playing. She takes her headphones off and it’s gone. When she puts the headphones back on, she can still here it. It is a very effective scene and speaks volumes to the quality of the sound work in this film.
There are also a couple special features here. You have a documentary on the making of the film, and a couple of commentaries from the actors, director and whatnot. While it isn’t a hugely full disc of features, it is nice to actually have something on an independent film’s disc.
Overall, The Innkeepers is a fairly effective little horror film that fails with it’s landing. It is not particularly gory (there is one scene in the movie that is), but it is also not particularly scary. It is more of a character study, I think, on the effects of boredom and a creepy, maybe haunted, hotel. I can’t stress enough the problems I had with the ending. That really holds the film back, but it is still worth a look if you like spooky ghost stories, and who doesn’t?
Movie **1/2 out of ****
Blu-Ray ** out of ****
- THE INNKEEPERS (2012) Review (thebitemagazine.wordpress.com)