Movies revolving around the supernatural have always felt lacking. Of course, the most recent ones are mostly remakes so they already have an uphill battle ahead of them but there are very few movies featuring ghosts or the supernatural that I feel are worth mentioning in a conversation about great films. Ghostbusters, The Orphanage, The Shining, Shutter (the Thai original), The Ring, The Frighteners, and The Devil's Backbone are about it for me. It's a sub genre of horror that just hasn't meshed well with me over the years much like exorcism films. In the same breath, I still haven't been able to get a clear read on what I think of Ti West as a writer and a director. The House of the Devil was really disappointing. Its slow pace made the film seem practically uneventful and didn't really feel worthwhile in the long run. The Innkeepers has a similar pace as The House of the Devil yet feels slightly more methodical on West’s part in comparison.
Luke (Pat Healy) and Claire (Sara Paxton) are the only two employees working during the final days of the Yankee Pedlar Inn. This hotel is rumored to be haunted by Madeline O' Malley, a woman who hung herself in her room after being stood up by her fiancé at the altar. Luke and Claire try to make contact with the paranormal through EVP recording devices in between watching the front desk and handling the few stragglers who come to stay during the hotel's final weekend of operation. Needless to say, Luke and Claire begin to see results as the guests at the hotel become a bit stranger.
I'm surprised the score to The Innkeepers was as good as it was. It's a little bizarre to have such good things to say about movies coming out in between January and March since these are the months that studios decide to push whatever's been sitting on their shelf for a long period of time or release something they expect to do poorly at the box office. The score is really fantastic though, especially during the opening credits. It's usually very strings heavy and puts you on the edge of your seat on more than one occasion. It helps add that extra bit of tension. At other times, a lack of music speaks volumes. The way the film encompasses the importance of sound into the overall experience of the film is pretty extraordinary. Suddenly listening to a film is just as important (if not slightly more so) as watching it.
The camera work is really spectacular, as well. Slow, winding shots make it seem as though you're grudgingly snooping around the corner along with the characters on screen. The camera's pace as it travels through the hotel's hallways make you feel like you're walking through it yourself. There are also several shots directly behind Luke or Claire that feel very third person. It's just extremely solid camera work that's more stunning than you may be expecting.
The Innkeepers won't be for everyone though as it's incredibly slow moving. It crawls at almost a snail's pace, but it's the little things that keep you interested. Everything is very dialogue driven as Luke and Claire play tricks on each other and talk smack about each guest that comes to stay at the hotel. Claire's ghost story about Madeline O' Malley is around the time things really get interesting and Leanne's (Kelly McGillis) pendulum speech make the smallest things seem larger than they really are. The Innkeepers spends every expense establishing this thick, creepy atmosphere and is the prime definition of a slow burn at its finest.
The Innkeepers may seem a little dull on the surface, but all it needs is a chance to let its layers unravel right before your eyes. Character development and a horror film that isn't in your face showing you every gratuitous and gory detail is almost unheard of anymore. With its unsettling score, its superb cinematography, and engaging script, The Innkeepers delivers a rare horror gem that's a breath of fresh air to the genre.
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