DVD Review: The Innkeepers

Posted on June 25, 2012 by Ben 3 Comments

Review by Stephanie Scaife

I first saw The Innkeepers at FrightFest last year, and was thrilled that Ti West had lived up to my expectations with his follow up to the fantastically creepy The House of the Devil (2009). I was keen to revisit it on DVD and see if it played just as well second time round. It’s definitely a film that works best on a first viewing but there is still much to admire upon repeat viewing.

If there’s one benefit that arose from the technical problems Spielberg had with Bruce the shark in Jaws, it’s that we’ve learned that the less you see on screen the more frightening something can be, because what your mind conjures up on its own is often worse than the reality; something that 90% of filmmakers currently churning out horror films should probably pay more attention to. However, Ti West is the current master of the slow build, something which seems to polarise audiences – you either love it or get extremely bored. I fall into the former category and relish the opportunity to find myself actually empathising and caring about characters in a genre film, where more often than not they can be treated as nothing more than cannon fodder, and experiencing some genuine scares.

With The Innkeepers we spend a lot of time getting to know Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy), two slackers working at the Yankee Pedlar Inn in Torrington, Connecticut. The film takes place during the last weekend before the Inn closes. Claire and Luke are the only two members of staff working that weekend and they are determined to find proof that the Inn is haunted before it closes its doors for good. One of the things I like best about The Innkeepers is the relationship between Claire and Luke; they’re utterly convincing as they joke around and goof off with relatable naturalistic dialogue that is funny and real, again something that is often times alien in a genre with a tendency rely on clunky, exposition heavy dialogue.

The Innkeepers is sort of like a mumblecore (but without the pretention) ghost story that actually delivers a few decent tense and spooky moments as it progresses towards its devastating climax. What’s key here is that West takes a believable situation with likeable characters and adds a supernatural element that is shocking, and because it’s so grounded in reality it becomes all that more believable. Kelly McGillis also pops up in a small but effective role as Leanne Rease-Jones, an actor turned psychic who may or may not know more about the Inn and its history than she initially lets on.

As mentioned, this is a slow burner that rewards the patience of the viewer. Initially it seems like a quirky rom-com but ever so gradually you begin to realise that there is something far more sinister going on, and what West delivers in the final 20 minutes is definitely shocking. I would say that although I enjoyed it the second time around it didn’t deliver as much of a punch in the gut as it did upon initial viewing, so if you haven’t see The Innkeepers yet then I’d encourage you to see it knowing as little as possible about the plot, so I won’t spoil anything here.

If The Innkeepers and The House of the Devil are anything to go by then I’m certain that we can expect great things from West in the future. He has a very unique style and old school approach to filmmaking that is a breath of fresh air in the horror genre where so many releases are formulaic, or rehashes and remakes of better films. So do yourself a favour and forget about the likes of Insidious and Paranormal Activity 3; The Innkeepers is where it’s at if you want a genuinely spooky ghost story that delivers the frights along with credible writing, acting and direction. I will say one thing though, what is up with that dire UK DVD artwork? It really does the film no favours whatsoever.

The Innkeepers is out now on Region 2 DVD, Blu-Ray and VOD from Metrodome.

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  • Dan says:

    One of my favorite of 2012. I was fortunate enough to attend the red carpet premiere in Torrington, CT at the Warner Theatre. After the screening, the audience got to visit The Pedlar and to see first-hand where and how the film was shot. Got to meet Ti West and a few from the cast/crew. Very humble and appreciative folks. Can’t wait to see what they churn out next. Great review Stephanie!

  • Billy Baroo says:

    It’s so refreshing to get protagonists who aren’t grating obnoxious cardboard cut-out assholes. That you’re actually kept anxious about just what is going on (consequently wondering what the payoff might be) and looking for any little crumbs along the way to clue you in also keeps this one from ever really feeling tedious. Quirky characters+effectively piqued curiosity=no problem with the slow burn pacing.

    For all that waiting, the glimpses of grisly practical effects in this and House Of The Devil are what really push both over the top. Going back to House Of The Devil, Mother’s make-up was the freakiest since Zelda from Pet Sematary. It doesn’t hurt that West is also 2-for-2 in casting impossible cute girls as the leads.

    Getting back to the climax of The Innkeepers, what an abrupt jolt. All that being said; no, I just don’t think this one lends itself to being re-watched again any time soon. That’s the only downside to going with the slow burn method AND being so efficient at delivering a worthy payoff.

    Now, conversely even though I do think the middle section of The House Of The Devil could’ve stood to trim 5-10 minutes without losing any tension, overall, that one still lends itself to more future revisits than The Innkeepers. The authentic-sounding soundtrack, scenery and then the weirdness of meeting Noonan and wife are enough to carry House into the wanky middle section of the movie. Then it’s just a matter of making it through some padding to the batshit climax.

    But the Innkeepers, it got its point across well enough in one viewing but past that, what’s the real point in another viewing? Of course, so bad-it’s-good cheesefests are what repeat viewings are for and there’s more than enough of those out there. Nice to have a good GOOD effective genre movie for a change.

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