The Innkeepers (2011)



Full disclosure: If you have read my reviews for either 'House of the Devil' or 'Cabin Fever 2' you might surmise that I have a pretty big hetero man crush on director Ti West. You would be correct of course. 'House' I found to be the classic throwback film. A little bit of 1982 set forth for our perusal in the 21st century. And despite his disowning of the 'Cabin Fever' sequel, the parts West was responsible for (everything but the awful denouement it seems) were far better than any sequel has any right to be (Godfather 2 and Empire - not withstanding). So let it be known that West has a ton of rope with me when it comes to his films. It's with this mind set that I sat down to watch Wests latest opus 'The Innkeepers.'

The film tells the story of the last days of the (allegedly) haunted "Yankee Pedler Inn." Claire and Luke are stuck running the place while the owner vacations in Barbados. Bored by the guests and lack of overall excitement a front desk clerk job gives them they begin to investigate the rumors that the Inn maybe haunted. Luke (Pat Healy) leads the charge setting up a makeshift website to document his search for the ghost of Madeline O'Malley. Most of the sites content is bullshit. Still, it's enough to occupy Claires (Sara Paxton) time while Luke is off shift. Like you would expect, their poking around awakens sinister forces and leads them down a deadly road.

Much like Wests previous effort 'House of the Devil,' 'The Innkeepers' is what people call a "slow burner." But whereas 'House' kicks it in to high gear right around the half way mark, 'The Innkeepers' never really gets to where it needs to go. There are some effective jump scares, but essentially the first hour of the film is scare free. It's still an enjoying hour to watch, but it's more 'Clerks' than 'Poltergeist.' It's only in the last 20 minutes or so where the film hits anything that might resemble it's stride. By then even the most ardent West fan, like myself, finds it hard to stay focused.

Healy and Paxton have a wonderful chemistry together. They play very realistic, likeable characters. Watching them get "Schlitzed" together and having Luke attempt to profess his love to a clueless Claire took me right back to York College and West Cottage Place. It's awkward to watch, but it should be given the characters. Kelly McGillis is introduced as a bitchy, ex-actress, psychic medium who really has no function in the film but to yell at Claire and warn her not to go in the basement. It felt like she was sort of shoehorned in, and it's one of those rare unfortunate situations where the actress overwhelms the character. While watching her scenes you can't seem to forget it's Kelly McGillis from 'Top Gun.' It might have served the film better to cast an unknown actress rather the woman Tom Cruise serenaded all those years ago.

Despite being a neophyte by Hollywood standards, West has definitely cultivated his own style. It's just a shame that West sought to take the template that worked so well in 'House of the Devil' and push it one step further. I love horror films that take their time. I like understanding characters and their motivations. I like the feeling that I have something invested in them before all hell breaks loose. It's unfortunate that 'The Innkeepers' pushes the patience button so hard, because the payoff for that patience isn't nearly what it needs to be. I still have faith in West. There are some wonderful parts to 'The Innkeepers' but there is just not enough as a whole film to get as solidly behind it as I would like.

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