This review may contain spoilers.
"The Innkeepers" discards the rapid-fire scare tactics dominating the horror genre today and presents an engaging, traditional ghost story with a slow build and an ardent eye for character development.
Written, directed and edited by Ti West, who helmed the 2009 horror film "The House of the Devil," "The Innkeepers" is now available on Blu-ray and DVD from MPI Media Group and Dark Sky Films.
The film follows two hotel employees, Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy), as they work their final weekend shift at their employer's haunted New England business, which is poised to close its doors for good. With few guests left to occupy their time, they seek confirmation of its supernatural past.
Claire in particular is fascinated by the prospect of making contact with a ghost. And she soon seeks the help of a hotel guest, played by Kelly McGillis ("Top Gun," "Stake Land"), whose background as a psychic may hold the key to making contact with the hotel's ghost.
Unlike "The House of the Devil," "The Innkeepers" takes a much lighter tone early on and favors flashes of comedy before embracing the horrors lurking in the inn. These breezier moments help breath life into the two lead characters and help sell the coming scares. The end result is another notable film from West, who stands in the ranks of horror's best directors.
Points Of Interest
1. The Yankee Pedlar Inn where the film is set is an actual hotel in Connecticut. It opened its doors for business in 1891.
2. West found inspiration for the film while he stayed at the inn during the filming of "The House of the Devil."
"The House of the Devil" defined West's flair for unnerving, slow-burn horror. His use of long takes and calculated pacing creates a fascinating and effective degree of tension. And this film enjoys that same technique; although, it never quite reaches the intensity of "The House of the Devil."
There are no video cameras in this film; Claire and Luke's use of an EDP (Electronic Disturbance Phenomena) device to capture ghostly transmissions is a welcome change of pace. With so many films using video today, seeing an audio device employed actually heightens the creep factor.
Paxton also deserves credit for helping to sell the chills. She is immediately likable and engaging as Claire. With a possible malevolent ghost on the loose, you certainly feel invested in her impending plight.
What Didn't Work
"The Innkeepers" takes its time exploring its characters lives, and consequently its leisurely pace may be off-putting to those who crave a bombardment of supernatural encounters.
In addition, West isn't concerned with expanding upon every story point regarding the mysteries of the inn and its ghost. He'd rather leave his audience to ponder the meaning behind certain scenes. This ambiguity may leave impatient audiences very frustrated.
However, I felt West's use of pace and mystery works as a strength here. Only the ending of "The Innkeepers" seemed to fall short; after all, it's hard not to want to know more about this inn and its gloomy past.
--The Innkeepers: Behind the Scenes
--Commentary with writer/director/editor Ti West, producers Peter Phok and Larry Fessenden, and second unit director/sound designer Graham Reznick
--Commentary with writer/director/editor Ti West and stars Sara Paxton and Pat Healy
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
"The Innkeepers," which is now available on DVD, Blu-ray and for download, stars Sara Paxton, Pat Healy and Kelly McGillis. It was written and directed by Ti West.
See our exclusive interview with West about the "The Innkeepers" and his future projects here.
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