The Innkeepers (2011)

The Innkeepers (2011) – Without getting too much into spoilers, the new Drew Goddard/Joss Whedon film Cabin in the Woods boldly throws down the gauntlet for horror film-makers. It challenges the genre to reinvent itself and give us something we haven’t seen before, to be daring and take risks. It’s a sentiment I value on an intellectual level. However when I think about my favorite up-and-coming horror film-makers a lot of them have been moving to the past. Ti West’s previous film The House of the Devil was a total 1980s throwback. The ingenious thing about that film was that it was maybe about 85% set-up and 15% explosive bugfuck insane pay-off. There’s a good half hour of the movie where NOTHING HAPPENS and it’s still full of edge-of-your-seat suspense. It’s impressive. Anyway, Ti West’s more recent film is The Innkeepers. Can it deliver in the same way?

The Yankee Pedlar Inn is closing down after a long and rich history… and very slow business. Several floors have already been stripped down and only one floor is available for guests. Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) are the two clerks working at the hotel. Luke is a fan of paranormal investigations and enjoys working at a reputably haunted hotel, and Claire shares his interest too. There are only a couple guests at the Yankee Pedlar: a mother (Alison Bartlett) and son (Jake Schlueter), a former TV actress (Kelly McGillis from Top Gun) who believes in contact with the spirit world, and an old man (George Riddle from The Onion News Network) staying in the room he stayed in on his honeymoon. (Lena Dunham also brings her own odd Lena Dunham-ness to one scene.) Claire and Luke figure that if the hotel is haunted they only have a limited amount of time to get some kind of proof before the hotel shuts down permanently (this is the last weekend of operations). Of course, as is always the case in these kinds of movies, they may just get more than they bargained for.

While the whole “nothing happening for 30 minutes” thing is not repeated in The Innkeepers, this is a movie that also likes to gradually build suspense by taking it slow. I really enjoyed the relationship between Clair and Luke. As a man who has often held retail jobs and been bored working alongside friends, the camaraderie between the two seemed very realistic. The scares don’t really come out of left field. It’s a nifty little trick of knowing something is coming, in many cases even knowing WHAT is coming, and still having a reaction to it when it shows up. There’s nothing in this movie that made me jump out of my seat and I imagine I will have as easy a time as ever getting to sleep tonight, but there is an atmosphere this film builds: a sort of intangible sense of dread. I’m not sure “scary” is the right word to describe it, but I enjoyed this movie. The epilogue seems a little superfluous, but in general I think this movie is worth checking out for genre fans.

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