Mania Grade: B-
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- Rated: R
- Cast: Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis
- Written By: Ti West
- Directed By: Ti West
- Distributor: MPI Home Entertainment
- Original Year of Release: 2012
- Extras: See Below
The Innkeepers Blu-Ray Review
Ti West Short changes viewers on the ending
By Tim Janson
April 11, 2012
I find myself a bit torn in my opinion of The Innkeepers. There’s a lot to enjoy but there’s also a fair amount to dislike about the film. Director Ti West’s story about an aging New England Inn in its final week of operation has a tone unlike most horror films. There are a lot of elements that don’t seem on the surface like they would mix together well, but the enjoyable cast makes the film eminently watchable.
Claire (Paxton) and Luke (Healey) are a couple of twenty-something loafers who work at the Yankee Pedlar, a New England inn that is over a hundred years old. With the owner on vacation, Claire and Luke are the only employees still working at the near-empty inn during its final week of operation. With few guests to attend, and having to work 12 hour shifts the pair do what they can to amuse themselves and pass the time. Fancying themselves amateur ghost hunters, they’ve setup a website to explore the legend of the Yankee Pedlar which is allegedly haunted by the spirit of a Madeline O'Malley, a woman who hung herself on her wedding day when her fiancé jilted her.
As mentioned, The Innkeepers has a strange vibe to it. The early part of the film has a good deal of comedy as the pair of Luke and Claire engage in various pursuits just to get through the day including drinking beer at the front counter, telling ghost stories to the young son of an annoying guest, just to get under her skin, and dealing with the wacky counterperson at the nearby coffee shop. This, along with a slow pace doesn’t fit with what you expect out of a horror film. The tone changes abruptly with the arrival of Leanne Reese-Jones (McGillis) a former actress turned psychic.
As Claire explores the inn at night with recording equipment, looking to pickup some EVP (electronic voice phenomena) she encounters voices whispering within the walls and the playing of a piano in the front lobby. A terrified Claire runs to Leanne for help. The psychic uses her ability to channel the spirits in the inn and warns Claire to stay clear of the basement. The arrival of an elderly guest who wants to spend one last night in the honeymoon suite completes the transition from slacker comedy to full-on horror culminating with Claire’s terrifying encounter with the inn’s spirits.
I suppose it depends on your outlook as to whether The Innkeeper’s faults can be overlooked due to its positives or if it’s positives are neutralized by the faults. West’s slow burn of a film develops the characters of Claire and Luke to the point where you can certainly relate to them. The pair apparently have no prospects once the inn closes. Claire’s redoubtable spunkiness drives much of the action. Last seen in the horrible film “Shark Night”, Paxton appears here, sans tiny bikini and without make-up in a huge contrast from that film. There’s a brilliantly funny scene as she is trying to open a dumpster lid with one hand and toss in a leaky plastic trash bag for the other…that is just a little too heavy for her to lift with a single hand and avoid whatever noxious contents are spilling out of the bag. The dialog sparkles with a casual wit. You feel like you’re eavesdropping on a couple of real people when they are talking.
But The Innkeepers has a major Achilles heel. Too many questions are left unanswered at the film’s conclusion; so many, in fact, that I found myself re-watching scenes to see if I missed the “Shamalayan” moment. What did Leanne really see when she channeled the spirits? And what was with her strange staring out of her room’s window at the end? For all of the development of the two leads, West is woefully short on any exposition when it comes to the spirits. What are their motivations? Why are they after Claire? Why was it that Leanne’s arrival seemed to have triggered the spirit’s activity? These issues prevent The Innkeepers from having the clean ending that most viewers desire. But maybe that’s what West was going for all along.
Two Audio commentaries: One with Writer/director/editor Ti West, producers Peter Phok & Larry Fessenden, and second unit director/sound designer Graham Reznick; and the second with Ti West and stars Sara Paxton & Pat Healy.
Behinds the Scenes Featurette