101 min. (plus extras)
$27.98 (DVD)/$34.98 (Blu-ray)
Available April 24
Grade: 3 stars (out of 4)
It’s the “end of days” at the Yankee Pedlar, as Luke (Pat Healy) puts it early in this highly enjoyable and chilling horror movie. He and protagonist Claire (Sara Paxton) are running the 120-year-old hotel for its final weekend in business. The owner is away on vacation, the guests are few, and the atmosphere is thick with spooky going-ons. Kelly McGillis stars as one of the guests, most of whom have their own secrets they wish to hide.
The Innkeepers is the latest effort from director Ti West, who has built a loyal following in a few short years with his solid work as a writer, director, and editor of horror movies. His last film, House of the Devil, was a superlative retro homage to the genre. The inevitable question is: Does Innkeepers live up to the standard set by that movie? The answer is no, though Innkeepers is nonetheless an excellent movie that any horror-movie fan should have in their collection.
West is the punk-rock director of the horror industry. His movies do away with much of the pomp and unnecessary layers that have gradually become en vogue over the last few decades. This is bare-bones horror, and it’s done very well. West is a future master of the genre, if he hasn’t already achieved such status.
Some fans will not like his style, specifically those who like stories all wrapped up with a bow, and those who like torture porn or having the scares fly amuck from the start. This movie is 40 minutes in before anything supernatural happens; it’s a beautiful, gradual build-up that makes the payoff all the sweeter.
Another issue is the conclusion. (NO SPOILERS.) I didn’t even see what appears in the final scene, nor did I even know there was anything there to see, until I listened to the commentary track with West and the two lead actors. In that, West stresses he was aiming for subtlety in that final scene; and it is that — it’s too subtle, is the problem. I had to watch the scene several times before I saw said mystery object and another few times to fully make out what I was seeing. Once you see it, then the story and exactly what’s going on at this inn comes full circle. Without it, the movie is still well worth watching, but it lacks the answers to the questions clearly asked within the movie.
However, the cast does a fine job adding to the suspense and thrills. They’re believable and they make the story come to life; what more can you ask of actors? Healy as the geeky, bespectacled half of the hotel-staff duo particularly excels once the pacing becomes more frantic and weird stuff comes to light.
As for the extras, there’s also a making-of feature and a second commentary track with the technical crew and West. The commentaries aren’t particularly insightful, and at times West & Co. spend their time making fun of their own movie in humble but silly ways. Interesting tidbits pop up here and there, though, such as the few comments by the crew revealing that the hotel where they filmed the movie is actually allegedly haunted.
Fans of old-school horror will revel in The Innkeepers. Fans of spooky movies with atmosphere to spare should check out this movie. You won’t be disappointed, and don’t be surprised to find yourself among the growing legion of Ti West fans.
Ray Sidman is a former associate editor and longtime reviewer for Comics Buyer’s Guide. Read his reviews in CBG each month. You can read more Ray’s Reviews here.
(Image (c)2012 Dark Sky Films/MPI Media Group)