Review: The Innkeepers
PLOT - A man and a young girl are working the last night at a rural Connecticut inn with a spooky past. They determine to find out if there really are any ghosts living at the hotel before the place shuts down for good.
REVIEW - Writer/Director Ti West, after only a few films, has developed a very distinctive style for himself and that style is very much on display in his latest film, THE INNKEEPERS, a tense, haunted house style thriller.
Sara Paxton stars as Claire, a tomboyish girl in her early 20s with little to no ambition in life. Her co-worker (Pat Healy) is slightly older with equally little in the way of ambition, other than to crush on Claire. These are our two leads and, like HOUSE OF THE DEVIL before it, we are focused solely on them for the vast majority of the film.
Without any kind of chemistry between Paxton and Healy, the film would stumble but West wisely doesn't try to immediately crank up the tension in the hotel and spends the first act instead building a rapport with his two leads. Paxton is a charming horror vixen, mainly because she doesn't look like a scream queen. She wears no makeup, dresses in dowdy work clothes and has a boyish bob cut. But she's cute and funny all the same and we understand why her co-worker has the hots for her and uses his paranormal interest to spook her into coming to him for protection.
West is a director of considerable weight when it comes to tone and style and hits the mark beautifully on those notes throughout the film. It's a quiet, lurking affair of impending dread and uses that to build suspense instead of cheap jump scares. West will often hold a shot so long with nary a noise on the soundtrack almost daring you to look away.
But while West excels at those aspects of filmmaking, he still seems to struggle with the development of his scripts. I'm still not really sure what the meaning behind the ghost story was and if you read too much into it, you'll notice how flimsy it really is. There's a ghost at the hotel! But wait, that's not really the ghost! Or wait...maybe it is? But who's that?
It feels sometimes through the movie that West had an idea of what he wanted to do and had to beef up some of the plot around that bare bones idea, filling it with mythological mumbo-jumbo and a psuedo clairvoyant-cum-drunk played by Kelly McGillis. The movie would've been just as effective (and perhaps moreso) if West had kept his mystery a mystery.
While the script is paper thin, THE INNKEEPERS is still an effective little indie thriller that continues to prove Ti West is a horror director worth watching. If he can find a collaborator for his next script, I'd be very interested to see where he can go.