The Innkeepers (2012) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

The Innkeepers (2012)

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Director Ti West has it figured out. Take out the horror tropes that are popular right now-- long completely static, jump scares, and unflattering characters-- and tweak those knobs into something more palatable. Gone are the annoying conventions of the found footage genre, now he's out and out ridiculing jump scares, and instead here's something told directly from our main character's perspective, becoming so attached to it that it remains even when she's not around.

The Innkeepers is a film that puts its that main character first and foremost, and then lets the horror happen to them. That is Claire, by the way, (Sara Paxton, more than a little Rory Gilmore-esque), a timid young lady whose outlet seems to be her superstition. This is exploited by Luke (Pat Healy), a horror-geek on a mission to prove that there are actual specters haunting the old inn that the two are caring for during its last weekend of operation.

What if I told you that old inn had a story behind it involving a murdered bride on her honeymoon and a disturbing tale of innkeepers trying to keep the nasty business covered up for the sake of money.

Yeah? Is that getting the old horror film heebie jeebies working for you?


West mostly gets away with it by using hints and speculation to play tricks with the audience's imagination. Especially great is his use of sound to create anxiety in the viewers, as we're as desperately scanning the scenery as Claire, attuning our senses as finely as hers to try and eke out some glimmer of what the sam-scratch is going on.

The film is a slow burn, however, and the tension soon feels as eerily familiar as the inn's necessarily labyrinthine basement. It becomes a short series of exercises, as the film fails to build on any sort of momentum. For a movie sent in an inn, on occasion, it feels strangely familiar.

That brings me to how the film comes to deal with its supernatural elements. Speaking as, as can be politely put, a longtime skeptic of the supernatural, as someone who doesn't believe in ghosts, it's truly difficult to give a fuck about ghost movies. West's previous film, House of the Devil, eschewed this by erring towards cults, murder and the shadows that lurk at the edge of the human condition.

West wisely keeps the ghouls offscreen for most of The Innkeeper's run time, allowing the characters and audience to play with the setting. There are a handful of guests who show up to bid the inn goodbye, and they all have their own unnatural qualities, from a has-been, spiritualist television actress (Kelly McGillis) to a spooky old man (George Riddle) who wants to stay in the inn's bridal suite and remember his own younger days. However, after the characters are put into place, we finally get to see the ghouls in full force.

Here is the inn that is kept.

And that's where the biggest flaw of the movie lies. What you do see of the supernatural is appallingly unimaginative, shot with considerably less ghoulish flair than the opening shock YouTube that Luke taunts Claire with. When removed from the auditory realm, the ghosts become ordinary, plain and unremarkable. For a film that takes such a delight in teasing the audience's knowledge of horror tropes, it unfortunately fails to satisfy them in the third act. Compare this to last year's Insidious, and it just feels like The Innskeepers missed the boat.

West is still a talented bastard, and the film never feels incompetent, only unimaginative. A few different modulations and I might have loved it; as is, it's just whatever.

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Posted by Danny

Comments (3) Trackbacks (0)
  1. wow, the premise sounds amazing! even though you point out a few flaws, i’m really interested to check this out.

  2. This film isn’t anything perfect or out-standing by any means, but Ti West knows how to entertain by giving there enough space and time to build-up tension as well as characters that we care about. Good review Danny.

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