Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Innkeepers (review)

THE INNKEEPERS got a bad break.  It got a trailer that billed it as a jump out of your seat horror scare fest. One look at the trailer might have you thinking that you're going to see ghosts jumping out of the walls five minutes into the film. Don't watch the trailer for this film. 

However, if you've seen THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, you may already know that the film's director has more in mind than just jump scares and gore.
Director Ti West serves up another slow burn with The Innkeepers. He takes his time and tells a fantastic, creepy tale about two inn workers on their last shifts at an inn that's closing it's doors.  Their relationship is on a slow burn as well - buddies that may or may not like each other in "that way".

 Sara Paxton and Pat Healy play the inn workers and turn in great little performances as the bored folks who would rather play than work in an inn with a total of three guests. Kelly McGillis also stars as a somewhat washed up and out star staying at the inn while attending a conference. The characters drift around the big, empty inn and do their best to stay awake for the final, long weekend.

But, is there something else in the inn?

This is where the trailer leads us astray a bit. We're not looking for shocks and scares in the traditional, modern sense here. West takes his time and builds up character relationships - including their relationship to the hotel - and doesn't hold to traditional pacing. It's off-putting at first, but once you see what he's doing, it allows you to settle in and really take part in the build up.

And better still, when the characters are in scary situations later, you actually CARE that they are in potential peril. This is far different than the way things usually go in modern horror these days. Today's films often use what I refer to as the "set 'em up and knock 'em down" approach. They toss a group of "teens" at you, show a boob or two, talk about the scary thing in --fill in the blank-- and then they start getting bumped off one by one in Ten Little Indian fashion until the final girl breaks the spell or whatever. You don't really care about anyone, you just want the killing to start.

It's different with these West films. You don't want to see these folks get hurt. You lean towards wanting to see them make it out of danger.

If you choose to take on the particular challenge of watching this movie, make sure you have the volume up or listen with headphones. Particular care was put into the sound design and it's well worth making sure you hear it in all it's layered glory.

Downsides time. There are not many.

It's a strange film. No doubt about that. The pace is very different from other films of it's genre. Things came to light on my second viewing that I really enjoyed, but the first time through was like watching a new driver grind the gears trying to get things into place. I wasn't sure what I was supposed to be doing. Do I laugh? Am I scared? I blame the trailer for this and I have to agree with people when they say you are better off not watching it. It confuses the situation and muddies the water.

This film unfolds in a delightful, "old school" way. And, I say that with the utmost respect of Mr. West and his work. (SEE: THE HAUNTING in the Hill House Film Review) Older films took their time. They told a story. They let things unfold and let the imagination do some of the work. West does all that here and it works really well.
Ti West
THE INNKEEPERS is funny and creepy, tells a great story and has some fun characters. It's well worth a view! Check it out and let me know what you thought about it.


  1. Thank you for reviewing these films, Malcolm! I went online and rented this movie before leaving my office at DISH. It had downloaded to my Hopper DVR by the time I walked in the door and it was ready to watch. I didn’t see the trailer, so I didn’t have any preconceived notions about the film as I started watching it. This movie really is a slow burner, but it’s worth it in the end. The atmosphere was genuinely creepy, and I like that they didn’t rely on CGI to anchor the film.

    1. First - thank you for taking the time to comment. It felt good knowing that it was helpful!
      I agree with your comment about the slow burn. I loved the characters being built up and the time that was spent on dialog and story. And, the old school concentration on in camera effects over CGI. The DVD commentary that Ti West and the crew gave alluded to the fact that there were more shots planned that were heavier on the CGI, but budget prohibited their execution and they were scraped. A plus for sure - like Hitchcock shooting PSYCHO in black and white to cut back on costs. :)