Ti West followed up his eye-opening “The House of the Devil” with another foray into the horror genre. “The Innkeepers” follows in its predecessor’s footsteps by taking familiar horror movie ideas and freshening them up. It has the same appreciation for the genre that was so evident in “House” while also defining a new set of boundaries for itself.
While making “The House of the Devil” Ti West stayed at the Yankee Peddler Inn in Torrington, Connecticut. During his stay he was inspired to make “The Innkeepers”. The 52 room classic colonial styled inn (with its own rumors of paranormal activity) was the perfect setting for West’s old-fashioned ghost story. And from the opening credits the inn is established as one of the film’s most intriguing characters.
As the story goes the Yankee Peddler Inn is a few days away from closing its doors. The last of the staff members are Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) who also moonlight as ghost hunter wannabes. The two are fascinated with the inn’s rumored haunted past and since there is little else to do they spend their uneventful hours looking to prove the stories true. The only other people in the inn are a mother and her two children and a former actress turned psychic (played by Kelly McGillis).
“The Innkeepers” is the epitome of slow-burning. But where “House” used its slower pacing to build tension, this film doesn’t. At least not in a steady sustained way. That proves to be a hurdle the movie can’t cleanly clear. After an interesting setup the story parks itself and then barely creeps to its intense climax. Deliberate pacing isn’t a bad thing especially when you’re giving audiences l something to cling to or embrace. “The Innkeepers” struggle to supply that.
But while a chunk of the film meanders a bit, it isn’t a complete slog. Claire and Luke are fun characters even if their conversations often go nowhere. There are also a handful of scenes that are pretty tense. They do a good job of building anticipation which is why I wanted more out of them. And I have to mention the inn itself and the way West and cinematographer Eliot Rockett shoot it. Each frame is filled with character and atmosphere and once things finally ratchet up the inn’s presence is amplified even more.
“The Innkeepers” was filmed on a shoestring budget. In order to save money West had the cast and crew both shoot and stay in the actual Yankee Peddler Inn – a decision that had its positives and negatives. It’s an interesting side story for a film loaded with promise but shackled by a script that’s just a tad too lean. There are several gaps where absolutely nothing of interest takes place which is frustrating considering there are frightening moments and several other things the film does well.
VERDICT – 3 STARS