The Innkeepers DVD Review
Written by Joel Harley
DVD released by Metrodome Distribution
Written and directed by Ti West
2011, Region 2 (PAL), 101 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on 25th June 2012
Sara Paxton as Claire
Pat Healy as Luke
Alison Bartlett as Gayle, Angry Mom
Jake Ryan as Boy
Kelly McGillis as Leanne Rease-Jones
Lena Dunham as Barista
George Riddle as Old Man
A pair of hipster hoteliers encounter paranormal activity in the basement as they man the skeleton crew at the spooky, soon to be closed Yankee Pedlar Inn. What begins as light hearted fun and games becomes something far more terrifying when the kids realise how out of their depth they are.
Director Ti West came to prominence with 2009's affectionate but slightly dull House of the Devil and his kooky but rubbish Cabin Fever sequel. The Innkeepers combines the affection of the former with the kookiness of the latter to create a superior project. Like both of those films, there's a sense of displacement – there are laptops and hip, modern coffee shops, but The Innkeepers could easily be set during any period of time and the plot wouldn't change too much. It's classier horror for the discerning crowd, more concerned with building tension and atmospherics than gore for the sake of it.
Which isn't to say that The Innkeepers isn't scary. Sweet and funny as the tone may be throughout, it still manages to be scary in all the right places. West is very much a fan of the cheap jump-scares, of which there are plenty in this film. I never jump watching movies at home (the cinema, however is a very different matter – I screamed like a girl at the start of The Hills Have Eyes) but The Innkeepers had me on the edge of my seat throughout. Had I watched it at the cinema, I would have been constantly leaping from my seat. But those jump scares are backed up with a more subtle threat and slowly building doom. The first proper glimpse of the hotel's ghost is truly chilling.
Much of its success is due to the likeability of its lead duo: Sara Paxton and Pat Healy are great as Claire and Luke. She has an elfin, vulnerable Zooey Deschanel like quality about her, making her easy to care for. Healy is very funny as the geeky but cool Luke. There's an element of unrequited love in their pairing, which is oddly sweet. The constant dalliance between comedy and horror is nice. It's not quite a horror comedy, but feels like it should be. The horror story is important, but feels secondary to the characters and their banter. Never mind the ghosts, I found myself fascinated by Healy's haircut.
It hits all of the right beats along the way, so it's disappointing that the film never actually seems to go anywhere in the end. It feels like there should have been a last minute twist or even a whole final act that West forgot to film. The ghost never seems to make the transition from spook to actual character, leaving this feeling like a superior version of Paranormal Activity or an episode of Most Haunted.
By the end of 2012, The Innkeepers will be making waves in a lot of Top Ten lists. It's atmospheric, classy, scary and very well made. But for this reviewer, it just feels like something vital was missing from the ingredients bowl. The Innkeepers is thoroughly enjoyable, but there's room in the inn for improvement.
Video and Audio:
It looks and sounds like a treat. The Yankee Pedlar looks great under the gaze of West's camera. I doubt that The Innkeepers was intended as a promotional video for the hotel, but it certainly works that way.
There are two commentary tracks – one for Ti West and his producers, and another for West, Paxton and Healy. A behind the scenes feature gives a few interesting titbits, especially regarding the history of the Yankee Pedlar (an actual working, supposedly haunted hotel that one can stay at, should you be so inclined). It feels like a real character in the film, like a cross between The Overlook Hotel and Fawlty Towers.