The Innkeepers (2011) [REVIEW]

 

To say I had high hopes for this movie might be a little bit of an understatement. I am a huge fan of The House of the Devil and couldn’t wait to see how writer/director Ti West would top himself. According to IMDb, he “topped” himself by making Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever. If any of you have seen that movie, I think you know that it was a piece of shit, and are wondering how Mr. West could have been involved in the making of it. Since its release, he has completely disowned anything pertaining to the movie, claiming it to be a product of the producers and executives rather than his vision. Phew! He maintains his track record! After searching and searching for a release date, I found out that The Innkeepers was going to get a limited release in February. Great news! What’s better news? It showed up on iTunes and VOD earlier than that! And I got to watch it! FUCK YES! Oh yeah, my spoiler-free review is, “It’s good!” so you can go ahead and you should go watch it.

 

If you were Joe Pesci or Daniel Stern, you’d get hit in the face with a paint can for looking around like that.

As the Yankee Pedlar Inn celebrates some of its last weeks of being open, its amateur ghost hunting employees Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) decide to spend the weekend there in hopes of finding good evidence. It’s obvious to see why this hotel is closing down, seeing as only a few guests are staying there, including a man who is spending the night in the room he spent his honeymoon in and a former actress, Leanne (Kelly McGillis), who is only in town to give a lecture about parapsychology. Unfortunately for Claire and Luke, they’ve never really had solid evidence of any of the supposed hauntings and while Claire is quite hopeful, Luke is a little more pessimistic. Lucky for Claire, as she goes about her standard hotel employee duties, she experiences a few strange events. Whether it be hearing piano music, banging sounds, or even waking up and seeing a ghost in her bed, she is met with doubts from Luke. When she brings up these events with Leanne, she expects more naysaying, but is instead met with Leanne having “experiences” that justify these claims. Unfortunately for Claire, Leanne makes it a point to warn her to stop her investigating and especially to avoid the basement. Being told not to go into the basement makes Claire want to do nothing but that, so she brings Luke down and the two have a pretty intense experience. Leanne warns Claire to leave the hotel, but makes sure to tell the man celebrating the anniversary of his honeymoon they’re leaving, only to find him dead with a suicide note. A terrified Claire knows she needs to escape, and thinks she hears Leanne in the basement. Sadly, the only thing waiting down there is the ghost of the old man, as well as another ghost that Claire had been searching for, and without finding a way out of the basement, Claire dies of an asthma attack. When Luke asks Leanne why she didn’t warn Claire of her death, Leanne says that there are some things that can’t be avoided. As the final guests leave, we see the door of the room Claire was staying in slam shut.

 

Not to sure why Luke had that weird faux hawk thing, but I’m assuming it was to make him look less like Elvis Costello.

Having such a huge boner for some of Ti West’s previous works, I don’t want to go too overboard with all the reasons I enjoyed this movie. I wouldn’t say I necessarily loved the movie, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and might enjoy it even more with repeat viewings. One thing that West really has a talent for is the way he paces a movie. Some people (read: dickheads) might say his films are way too slow and these people lose interest or gets distracted. I would say the pace of his films are incredibly deliberate and help develop characters and tone of his films. Why do we need to see Luke and Claire bringing guests towels and throwing out the garbage? Because that’s what these characters do for their job, and the more you know about their jobs, the more you can understand their boredom and desire for something exciting to happen in their lives. It also helps establish that this hotel isn’t something like the Ovlerook Hotel from The Shining that just screamed, “HEY HOTEL GUESTS, THIS PLACE IS HAUNTED AS SHIT!” The Yankee Pedlar Inn seemed like a relatively normal, crappy old hotel that had rooms and furniture that gave a lived-in feel to the whole place. Granted, I might be a little biased as to why I am not discouraged by slow films, considering some of my favorite films are Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, and John Carpenter‘s The Thing, which I would categorize as relatively slow-paced movies. If anyone wants to argue that those movies are bad, then they can fuck right off.

 

Certainly nice of Carey Mulligan to drop by–wait, nope, that’s Sara Paxton. My mistake!

If the environment of your film isn’t what is used to convey the tone, then what does? The goddamn actors do, that’s who! Pat Healy was quite good in his portrayal of a college dropout who has bigger plans for what his life can become. He was likeable and the viewer was able to sympathize with his position without feeling pity for him. His subtle ways of making the audience very aware of his unrequited feelings towards Claire were quite an achievement, even if Claire was oblivious to them, or intentionally ignored them. If Healy’s performance is considered “quite good”, then I’d have to say that Sara Paxton was great. She really is what sells this movie. She is giving out a similar vibe to what Luke was going through, except being 15 years younger than him, you got the sense that she was in a really important time in her life of trying to figure out what her life was. She was likeable, charming, quirky, and her enthusiasm and humor never came off as cliché or annoying. In other films, were the lead female to be startled, she’d probably be forced to let out a high-pitched scream, but when a ghost appeared in Claire’s bed, she let out a more comical “GAAAHHH!” and ran out of the room. It was great to see a horror movie with a strong female lead who is portrayed as an individual with their own quirks and idiosyncracies as opposed to only serving as an object capable of high-pitched noises with giant tits attached to it. It’s very rare for me to be genuinely sad to see a character die, especially when it was one who was so delightful to watch.

 

Keep crying and your makeup will run even more, you dumb bitch ghost.

One of my favorite things about Ti West’s films are the small moments of realism he brings into them to connect the audience with something that clearly cannot be real. For instance, while entering a coffee shop who has named all their drinks with wacky names, the camera pans across a drink named “The One-Eyed Cyclops”. My instant reaction was, “Wait, aren’t all Cyclopes one-eyed, by definition?” Immediately after thinking that, Claire asked the barista THE SAME EXACT QUESTION. She then asked for a soy mocha latte, which Rampaige claims can’t exist, but I’m still waiting for confirmation on that. There’s also a really fun moment where Claire has to throw out a garbage bag that clearly has some fluid sloshing around inside, but also has to open up the lid to the dumpster at the same time. I definitely chuckled at the situation as I have had my fair share of garbage-tossing experiences where having a second person would be the easiest method of doing things and the difficulties of finagling a gross trash bag into a dumpster. And even though the aspect of Claire having asthma was to justify her death later in the film, it was incorporated often enough that it didn’t seem like it was being forced down your throats and knew exactly where that plot point was going. The whole thing felt very real and natural.

 

I wonder if Kelly McGillis ever thought she’d be in a movie where she wouldn’t be as desirable as a girl in a blue sweatshirt.

Sounds like I really liked the movie, but why didn’t I love it? To be fair, the reasons might have been just because I didn’t pay close enough attention, and if anyone can point out the answers to these questions I’d highly appreciate it. One common theme seemed to be the different hotel rooms lacking towels. Leanne had to call down to the front desk to get towels, which Claire brought and sparked their introduction, and there’s a scene where Claire takes a shower and reaches for a towel and there aren’t any there. Maybe I paid too much attention to the towels and these were just coincidences, but I kept expecting some sort of towel-related reveal. Another thing that felt unresolved was the man who killed himself after writing a letter to his wife. Was this guy connected to the woman they expected to be haunting the hotel? I can’t think of another reason for him to appear so quickly as a ghost if there wasn’t a connection, but I also thought this guy was too young to have had a connection to the woman. Again, maybe I just wasn’t attentive enough to get my timeline right, but I also didn’t get to see enough of the letter he wrote to fill in those gaps. Lastly, I did enjoy the idea that was implied about Claire’s character haunting the hotel, considering how excited she was about the concept of life after death, but that doesn’t change the fact that the hotel is closing and will soon be a parking lot. It’s not quite like The Shining where we knew Jack Nicholson’s character would sort of became part of the hotel and would be there forever, so not only is she dead, but her hauntings are going to be short-lived.

 

Remind me to invest in stock of blue sweatshirts before this movie comes out. Sara Paxton does for blue sweatshirt what Steve Jobs did for turtlenecks. No, what Archer did for turtlenecks. No, what Archer did for iPads!

Whoa boy, this is a long one, isn’t it? That’s what she said! It’s nice to see that someone can take a character-focused horror movie that doesn’t rely on cheap scares or “clever” twists. West has his own style and sense of authenticity that he’s able to breathe into each project he takes on. Despite all the ways in which this movie succeeds, it was pretty hard to live up to how much I enjoy The House of the Devil. I like to think that this movie will just add another solid hit to Ti West’s belt and maybe give him some momentum to get a larger studio film. Not saying that he can’t accomplish a lot with a smaller budget, I’d just like to see what he could do with an “almost” limitless budget. If he can breathe some life into the current state of mainstream horror, then he’d probably have the door opened for him to be able to do pretty much anything he wanted. Wait, fuck all that stuff I was just saying. I hope that this film adds to Ti West’s, Pat Healy’s, and Sara Paxton’s credentials so they can all go places. Good luck, everybody!

 

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10 responses to “The Innkeepers (2011) [REVIEW]

  1. i loved this. it was everything i wanted and i cant wait to watch it again. strong house by the cemetery feel, i even think the ending is shot for shot. i got lovecraft vibes too but that may just be the east coast setting. i thought his use of alcohol as a plot device was brilliant. like house of the devil this flick just made me happy. its pay off was less intense but it added to the amblin feel. i also do think sara paxton is being over hyped for this, i thought kelly mcgillis stole the show.

    • I don’t think I mentioned this in the review but I’m real impressed with West’s female characters agd actresses he casts. Both Sara Paxton in this and Jocelin Donahue in HOTD are just really genuine and endearing. Guess I’m lucky to have avoided the hype around her performance. I’m assuming you’ll be attending the screening on Feb. 3rd?

  2. Just watched The Innkeepers last night, and I’m still kind of on the fence about it; so I was looking for some other opinions. It was entertaining, there is no doubt about that, but I didn’t think there was enough there for the time I put in. I guess that I leave wanting more is a good sign, but it kind of leaves me empty as well. I laughed so hard at her ‘BAAAAA’ scream, that I watched it over and over again until I could contain my laughing (which was like 16 or so). Good review as always. – Alex

    • Thanks, Alex! I think I’ve said this before about Ti West, or quoted him saying this, but at the Q & A he did for this, he mentioned that he doesn’t necessarily feel like a “horror guy”. It’s more about making a movie that focuses on the relationships between the characters, and it happens to have some scary things in there. I feel that had there not been so much time spent enjoying the two characters interacting together, the end of the film wouldn’t have bummed you out so much. Totally agree about the initial mixed feelings, though, as I had the same. Watch it again! AND AGAIN AND AGAIN!

  3. Well I really liked the two lead characters and esp. Claire!
    Here’s something I thought I picked up on – didn’t the actress say there was 3 in the basement and so that would be foreshadowing….or the video that Claire watched of the door closing, also a twist that ties to her? Just sayin’!

    Anyways, I am a SERIOUS horror buff and I liked it – and I will watch it again, its different in its own way and I get sooooo bored with all the wannabee horror flicks, so I appreciate it!

    Thanks for the review! Love the photo of the dead bride!!!

  4. Pingback: The Worst Best of 2012 List | The Wolfman Cometh·

  5. Pingback: Ti West and AJ Bowen talk The Sacrament, fringe journalism, and balancing creative fulfillment with audience expectations [INTERVIEW] [FANTASTIC FEST] | The Wolfman Cometh·

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