I might as well start this off by stating the fact that I'm a Ti West fan. I dig the guy's movies, even Cabin Fever 2 which for some reason even he doesn't give much credit to. The Roost and House of the Devil though, I loved. So I had been looking forward to The Innkeepers for a good while, and was hoping I would get to catch it in a theater somewhere last year. Unfortunately I wasn't able to, and I was forced to wait for the VOD release, which came this past Friday. Here we are on Monday, and I've finally gotten to see it. Was it everything I hoped it would be? Was it what I expected? No, not really. Does that mean I didn't enjoy the hell out of it? No, not at all.
The Innkeepers is the story of two hotel attendants, Claire and Luke, who work at the fabled Yankee Peddler Inn, which is said to be haunted by the spirit of Madeline O'Malley. Madeline was a bride who returned to the Inn after being stood up at the altar on her wedding day and hung herself in her room. Every since, guests have reported seeing her spirit still roaming the halls, searching for her lost love. In the present, the Peddler has seen better days, and is scheduled to close it's doors for good. Claire and Luke are working it's final weekend of operation alone, with only two guests checked in. Luke is into the whole paranormal aspect of the place, he has a web page dedicated to the activity that's said to happen there and he has a sound recording device that he brings with him, convinced that he can capture evidence that Madeline still resides at the Inn. Fueled by the boredom of the place being mostly empty and quiet, and a little beer, they decide to try and make contact, and prove once and for all that the Yankee Peddler Inn is haunted. Unfortunately for them, they succeed.
Let's go ahead and get this out of the way, The Innkeepers is a Ti West movie. It's what is known on the internet as a "slow burn" (ugh, I hate that term), but should come as no surprise if you've seen any of his other films. It's pretty much what he's known for. The thing is, Sarah Paxton (Claire) and Pat Healey (Luke) turn in such fantastic performances that you won't even really notice that it's been on for an hour with nary a hint of an actual ghost. I actually found Claire and Luke to be likable characters, which is rare for me in any movie, especially a horror movie. Being that they are most of the cast, and share the majority of the screen time, how you feel about them will likely make or break the movie for you. I honestly could've watched nothing but the two of them interact together for 100 minutes. Can't say enough good things about Paxton and Healey.
Technically, this movie is fantastic. I loved all the awkward camera pulls and movement. There are plenty of creative shots, almost all of which made even the most mundane act (walking down a hall) somehow seem more interesting, or at least make you think maybe something was lurking just off the screen watching. The Inn itself is beautiful, which again is important because the movie only ventures outside it's doors a couple of times, and then it isn't for very long. The music even managed to impress, effortlessly changing the tone from the light-hearted, often comedic interaction between Luke and Claire, to the "impending doom" sort of tension that I've come to expect from a Ti West movie. Sound effects were just as good, particularly during the evp recording sessions.
Now for the good stuff, the ghosts. I've read plenty of reviews of The Innkeepers, and the results have been split between folks who weren't creeped out at all, and folks who couldn't sleep after watching it. I'm going to be siding with the people who had trouble sleeping on this one, but I'm admittedly a bit biased when it comes to really good ghost movies. The thing is, I psych myself out so much that I'm usually still creeped out long after the movie has ended. In fact, sitting home alone as I type this, I've looked over my shoulder at least a half dozen times, and I promise you I've heard every single noise in this house in the last hour since the credits rolled. It took it a while to get there, but after the first time Claire and Luke visited the basement, I was genuinely creeped out. There isn't really much in the way of gore, and as you can imagine being that there are literally 6 characters total in the hotel, there's even less in the way of a body count, but it's a ghost flick, so that's to be expected. The ghosts themselves look great though, particularly Madeline, still in her wedding dress and veil.
Like House of the Devil, The Innkeepers may not be for everybody, but it definitely gets my seal of approval. I doubt it will change the mind of any of the Ti West haters out there, but if you like his method of filmmaking, you will most likely enjoy it. I would also think Insidious fans, particularly those who enjoyed the first hour of that one, will find plenty to like here. Me? I liked Insidious, but loved The Innkeepers. If this is any indication as to what my 2012 will be like movie-wise, then holy shit it's going to be the best year ever.