THE INNKEEPERS has been out for a couple of years, and my most recent viewing was not even the first time I had seen it. But I feel compelled to write about it for a couple of reasons: one, I think it gets a bad rap for the pacing. Two, my opinion of it has evolved over time. I feel better about discussing it now, rather than writing some review back when it first came out without the benefit of hindsight.
INNKEEPERS is directed by Ti West, who you might remember also did HOUSE OF THE DEVIL- if you haven't seen that one yet, I highly recommend it. Overall I've liked West's vision of horror, it appeals to many of the things that made me interested in it to begin with, and evokes a similar atmosphere to other horror films I've loved from decades past without trampling all over them.
In this film, two employees at the Yankee Pedlar Inn are working the last night before the hotel closes for good. There are still a small handful of guests, including a mother and her son, a former actress turned healer, and an elderly man, but otherwise they are alone and very bored. The two employees, Claire and Luke, share an interest in the paranormal. The hotel is supposedly haunted by a bride who killed herself there, which Claire and Luke have attempted to investigate and find evidence of. So far Luke is the only one who has really seen anything, but Claire is determined to finally find proof of the haunting on their last night.
There was quite a bit of buzz around this movie before it ever came out, after the success of HOUSE OF THE DEVIL. I was really excited for it, not only because HOUSE was so good but because I love ghost stories so much. Was my opinion of it colored by this anticipation? In retrospect, a little bit.
I still think it doesn't get enough credit by the naysayers, but I will admit that between the first time I saw it and re-watching it recently, I have come to agree that the pacing is a problem in the first half or so of the film. It's a very slow lead-in to the meat of the story, but it isn't totally lacking a reason. West sets up a lot of things in that first half, in the hopes of them paying off later when the action ramps up. It's all character and relationship development. Is it worth it in the end? Maaaaybe. It depends on you. I probably could have stood to lose a couple of scenes and still felt like I knew the characters well enough, plus the rest of the film would have been stronger for it. But you definitely need some build up to have a better understanding who Claire and Luke are, their motivations for what they do, and better appreciate how everything goes down in the end.
I still really like the film, and it doesn't change the fact that it's a ghost story and I love ghost stories. Once they do really get into showing the activity, there are some awesomely disturbing images, and you get a couple of those nice, classic, "No, you dolt! Don't go down there!" moments. I just find those fun.
While I can't say it's as amazing as some other films that I've anticipated and been absolutely satisfied with, it's still a really nice example of Ti West's talent in the genre. It's not some relentless, bloody, violent, slasher flick- so fans of those should steer clear. But if you're into ghost stories, if you love spooky old houses and buildings with colorful histories, it's a great movie to throw on and let yourself get caught up in.
The Innkeepers via IMDB
The House of the Devil via IMDB
The Innkeepers via Netflix
The Innkeepers via Rotten Tomatoes