When you look at the poster for The Innkeepers and read the quotes from the likes of Eli Roth and Total Film, you’d expect a nail-biting ghost/horror story. What we get is an initially slow-moving film that eventually juggernauts at full pace towards an unsatisfying climax.
I’m not really sure of the difference now between a ghost story and a horror story, as the genres seem to have merged, but the results usually include ghosts stuck in different dimensions in some sort of limbo, scaring humans, which either results in the spirit being laid to rest, or the humans meeting an untimely grizzly death. Perhaps after the spate of Gorn (Gore and porn) and ‘found footage’ movies over the past ten years (e.g. Saw, Hostel, Paranormal Activity), the film industry is starting to realise we might be getting desensitized. Perhaps we’d like something with a decent story for a change, a slower pace with the odd ‘scares’ thrown in for good measure, such as recently successful The Awakening and Woman In Black.
For authenticity Ti West (House Of the Devil) filmed The Innkeepers in a real haunted Inn (well, supposedly haunted, anyway) named the Yankee Pedlar Inn in Connecticut, where numerous reported ghostly apparitions have been sighted over the years. The premise for this film is that the Inn is closing down in two days time, and two employees/ghost hunters who are looking after the hotel, are hoping to capture images of the resident ghost bride, Madeline O’Malley.
The film has at a very slow pace initially and is split into four segments. The lead character is the quirky and comical Claire (Sarah Paxton), who wanders around the hotel interacting with the very few guests (some quite pointless) and trying to record any ghostly shenanigans on her Ghostbusters-style equipment. As the film progresses so do the paranormal activities, including voices, doors slamming and piano playing, and although she’s warned not to go to certain parts of the Inn (by an ageing Kelly McGillis), in true horror style Claire inevitably goes where she shouldn’t.
The film is by no means a classic, but it seems as if director Ti West has found his niche, alongside such recent horror giants such as Eli Roth and Rob Zombie. There are certainly nods to The Shining, with long sweeping shots down corridors. Ti West is not at the top of his game yet, but does show a lot of promise, managing to direct a semi-effective ghost story nonetheless. The characters are often too quirky, including Luke (played by Pat Healy) who looks like a cross between Tin Tin and Simon Pegg, and although the tension does mount through the film, the jumps and scares are ineffective – is it a comedy? Is it a horror? It’s certainly not Shaun Of The Dead.
As the film rushes to an unfortunately unsatisfactory and somewhat predictable ending, it does raise a few questions. Who are the three ghosts and what is happening in the final scene?
Overall Verdict: For real horror fans, or those with nothing to do on a rainy summer night.
Reviewer: Stephen Sclater