Saturday, January 21, 2012

Review: The Innkeepers

Last night I had the pleasure of watching The Innkeepers on X-box VOD. Thumbs up - lots of fun. The story follows two employees of the Yankee Pedlar Inn during its last weekend of operation. With few guests and little to do, the two would-be ghost hunters spend their downtime exploring the legend of Madeline O'Malley, the Inn's resident ghost.

Ti West is a fascinating filmmaker, and I can't wait to see what else he brings us. He really has a head for story and pacing, and it is just as evident in The Innkeepers as it was in House of the Devil - but in an entirely different way. House of the Devil followed babysitter Samantha through several hours in one night. We watched her explore the creepy ass house she was staying in, and baby step by baby step, the tension was brought up, so slowly that you didn't really notice that it was happening.

The Innkeepers follows a similar principal, but expanded over a period of an entire weekend, so the tension goes through builds and lulls as the protagonists experience creepy paranormal events, and everyday occurrences thrown into the middle. It gives it a realistic feel - you go from a scary event to having to go back to dealing with the customers and then it's time for lunch. If you were working the desk in a haunted hotel, every minute would probably not be devoted to ghost adventures, would it? I'm thinking no.

The setting is perfect - the hotel that is the appropriate amount of old; not crappy, necessarily, but you can totally buy the fact that it is going to be torn down soon. It wears its age elegantly, but everything is colored very drably, and it doesn't carry the level of antique-y magnificence that you expect out of an old hotel.

West really knows how to write characters - he spends time developing them, rather than taking the cheap (and all too often abused road) of just dumping them into a scary situation 5 minutes into the film. He gives the audience the opportunity to get to know them first, which really works to his advantage. The characterization in The Innkeepers was perfect. Claire (Sara Paxton) is an adorably spazzy geek, and Luke (Pat Healy) is a tired, but likeable cynic. They play perfectly off one another, and Paxton and Healy play them to perfection. Kelly McGillis (where the hell has she been, anyway?) is fantastic as the semi-kookie, Shirley McClaine-style actress-turned-psychic. Never goofy - just weird enough, and never over the top. Everyone in this film is a real person, and you are excited to spend the duration of the film with them.

The Innkeepers is a very fun film - creepy, yet light-hearted. It doesn't follow the typical, well-worn ghost story track, so it probably won't have mass appeal, but genre fans should definitely check it out, either during its limited theatrical run coming up next month, or On Demand.

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