The Innkeepers (2012)

Directed By: Ti West
Written By: Ti West
Starring: Sara Paxton
  Pat Healy
  Kelly McGillis
  George Riddle
The Innkeepers

Welcome to the Yankee Pedlar Inn, an aging American hotel that’s one more empty room away from permanent closure. The two carefree employees have heard about all the ghost stories linked to the hotel, but they want proof before the Pedlar is closed down and demolished. These amateur ghosthunters set about delving into the past of the place and during the last days of its existence they’re surprised by the arrival of a few new guests, who are returning to the hotel for their own unique reasons…

The Innkeepers is fantastically creepy and exactly what The Woman in Black should’ve been, scare wise; more dread and less jump scares. The Innkeepers frequently surprises and is incredibly chilling throughout, with a cunning sense of foreboding that constantly keeps you on edge. It mixes this cold fear with a charming warmth in the performances of Sara Paxton, Pat Healy and Kelly McGillis.

McGillis, having proved herself an excellent casting addition in Stake Land, also excels here as an ex-TV star turned psychic, providing a brittle but likeable opposing force to Sara Paxton’s curious and boisterous Claire. Paxton is a huge surprise here considering her previous work was in the loathsome Shark Night 3D, where she donned a bikini and ran about screaming like an idiot. In The Innkeepers she has a greatly interesting character in Claire, touched with neurosis and wrapped up in the idea the hotel is haunted – an obsession that leads her down a dark and terrifying path.

Paxton’s Claire is greatly complimented by the lovelorn Luke, played excellently by Pat Healy. The onscreen chemistry between Paxton and Healy is exceptional and carries the movie forward. If you don’t dig it, you’ll quickly hate it, so it certainly won’t be for everyone. Whilst Luke doesn’t greatly take his ghost-hunting seriously – preferring to watch porn or update their ghosthunting website -  he is always keen to impress the dangerously obsessed Claire. It’s a great relationship played out beautifully by the cast.

The Innkeepers is a sharply written, brilliantly directed paranormal horror that is always intriguing and very scary. Let down by a slightly awkward ending that will infuriate some audiences, The Innkeepers none-the-less proves that filmmaker Ti West is a talent to watch after delivering the darkly disturbing The House of the Devil in 2009 (which also divided critics… including Gorepress’s!). With feature film V/H/S and a segment in The ABCs of Death coming in 2012 (and another feature called Side Effect due in 2014) it looks like horror fans won’t have to wait very long for more of West’s excellent work.

I respect that some audiences with LOATHE The Innkeepers because – for the first third of the movie – it hardly even suggests it’s a horror film. The build is slow (although compelling in its character work) and those more pleasured by blitheringly-obvious jump-scaring screamathons like Paranormal Activity and Insidious may find this tiresome and tedious. Much like Ti West’s previous work on The House of the Devil, this feels ‘old’ in its construction, based on gradual build and character and creating a sense of dread & horror. For those who want a quick, brainless scare, you probably should look elsewhere.

Rating: ★★★★★★★½☆☆

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