The Innkeepers

The Inkeepers

The Yankee Pedlar Inn, a cozy, three-floored hotel, is shutting down. On its last weekend open, the owner goes on vacation and leaves the keys to the inn’s only two employees, adorkable Claire (played by Sara Paxton) and nerdy Luke (played by Pat Healy). This is the perfect opportunity (and the last opportunity) to get proof that the hotel is haunted.

See, it’s been rumored that a ghost lurks in the Yankee Pedlar. A long time ago a woman named Madeleine O’Malley was a guest there. Her fiancée was supposed to meet her there so they could be married. But he never showed, and the poor, heartbroken woman hanged herself. Now it’s said that she roams the hotel, waiting for her lover to finally arrive. Luke has encountered her specter before, but has no evidence. On this last weekend, he’s brought with him a microphone to capture what he calls EVP or Electronic Voice Phenomenon. Claire is excited about making contact and wants to help.

Oddly though, they don’t spend very much of the movie trying to collect their evidence. They talk, they sleep, they interact with the few odd guests staying there—an angry mom and her kid, a former television star in town for a conference, and an old man. A ways into the film, you start to wonder if they’re ever going to get serious about investigating. In a typical ghost movie, Claire and Luke would be constantly searching the hotel for the spirit while fighting the urge to give in to their inevitable romance. Maybe they’d have a lot of professional and esoteric ghost-detecting gadgets. They would know everything there is to know about ghosts. Then people would start disappearing. Every few minutes there would be a scare.

Sara Paxton and Pat Healy in THE INNKEEPERS, a Magnet Release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

Maybe that’s why I liked The Innkeepers so much. It doesn’t do what it’s expected to do. Claire and Luke are in no way professional ghost hunters. They’re barely amateurs. Their only method of documenting the ghost is with a microphone, which doesn’t seem like it would prove much of anything since it could so easily be staged. This is in keeping with their characters. Luke, somewhere in his 30’s, dreams of making money off his website which is dedicated to the hauntings, but once we see the site, we know there’s no way he will. Claire, in her mid 20’s, is only now wondering if she should want more out of life than working at the hotel. It’s not clear if they even have plans about what they’re going to do after the place closes down. There’s a complacency about them both that makes their lackadaisical efforts at ghost-hunting so appropriate and more relatable.

What I also liked about the film was that even though it’s a ghost story, the characters are unaware of it. Sometimes when I watch a horror film I get the feeling that the characters only exist inside that window of time in which the movie takes place. They don’t have much of a past, and it seems that their present is focused entirely on whatever phenomenon is taking place in the film, which of course makes complete sense; if scary things are trying to kill you, you’re not going to be thinking of much else. But with this movie, the characters are allowed to think about other things. It may be a ghost story, but the ghost is not the characters’ sole focus.

Sara Paxton and Pat Healy in THE INNKEEPERS, a Magnet Release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

All this is to say that director Ti West does a great job of creating something very genuine in this movie about ghosts, and not only with the people, but also the setting. The inn is small enough, and so much of the movie takes place in it, that I almost felt like I was a guest myself. I knew that if I walked down that hallway, the laundry room would be on the right. If I kept going that way, I’d find the basement. This degree of character and setting development yielded more suspense and tension than I’ve felt in a horror movie for a long time.

That this film is a slow burn goes to the service of the film’s tension. At one point, Claire is warned not to go into a particular part of the hotel. After that you know where Claire has to go. You wait for it and wait for it, and the tension rises in you because you know it’s going to happened, but you don’t know when and you don’t know what the outcome will be. You’re looking forward to it but you’re also scared of it. I liken it to being on a rollercoaster, particularly that first incline, when the cars are slowly being pulled up, the rhythmic clanking of the chains pulling you higher and higher, your chest tightening as the ground gets farther away. Maybe you can see how far the peak is or maybe you’re too far in the back to see it. All you know is the drop is coming. You’re excited and scared. When Claire reaches that peak in the film it’s incredibly nerve-wracking.

Overall I think this is a good movie and good example of character development, so much so that I’d rather not think about one particular scene where Claire makes a decision that is just so totally unbelievable that it pulled me out of the movie. The rest of the movie makes up for that moment. This is the first film I’ve seen by Ti West, but I’d like to see more, particularly his movie The House of the Devil. (Fun fact: Cast and crew resided at the real Yankee Pedlar Inn in Torrington, Connecticut while filming The House of the Devil, and then went back to the Yankee Pedlar to film for The Innkeepers.)

Please watch the trailer below for The Innkeepers if you’re interested in the film, or better yet go see it blind (or as blind as you can be after reading this).

I’m also including an interview that Ti West and Sara Paxton did on the Opie and Anthony radio show. The interview is where I first heard about the movie and the reason I wanted to see it.

 

The Innkeepers
Director & Writer: Ti West (The House of the Devil, Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever, V/H/S)

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Ti West and Sara Paxton interview on the Opie and Anthony Show

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I also just wanted to include this movie poster because it’s all kinds of awesome.

 

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