Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Movie Review: The Innkeepers

Directed By Ti West

Starring: Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis

During the final days at the Yankee Pedlar Inn, two employees determined to reveal the hotel's haunted past begin to experience disturbing events as old guests check in for a stay.

Ti West continually frustrates me. The Roost was a promising debut that I enjoyed. The House of the Devil showed more promise, with some tense scenes, but ultimately over-indulgent with little to get excited about. Cabin Fever 2 was just horrible and I couldn’t believe that the same director had made it. When I saw the trailer for The Innkeepers I got excited at the prospect of a Ti West movie that would finally showcase his obvious talent as a Director, and it does to a point. Unfortunately it suffers from the same problem as The House of the Devil; not much actually happens. 
For the most part of the movie we are observers of conversations between Claire and Luke. They are both likeable characters so I forgave the jovial tone of the movie expecting it to darken as the film carried on. After all, the trailer made the film look tense, spooky and thrilling. Sara Paxton is great as Claire; a slightly kooky, off-kilter character. I found Pat Healy likeable but his acting seemed forced and I blame the screenplay for making him little more than a spokesperson at times. Otherwise both Paxton and Healy worked well off each other during the frequent exchanges that make up most of the movie. The trouble is for the movie’s duration there’s just too much of the banter, and no adequate build up of dread. When tension comes it is well crafted by West, who generates dread and tension during the latter spooky scenes, but it’s too little, too late. The jump scares do nothing to help a movie that would have been better developing on the subtler and more sinister moments. One cheap jump scare spoilt the mood of the beginning, for me.
Kelly McGillis, who I liked in Stake Land , doesn’t get much to do in this film but she is nonetheless important to the plot and provides much of the mystery we’re left with after the credits roll. 
Ti West clearly bases some of his camera shots on the Kubrick perspective shots in The Shining; which is ok, but this film doesn’t come close to The Shining in its execution. There’s even a cheeky nod to the finale of The Shining at the end of The Innkeepers that I did find amusing purely down to the fact I thought West was going to emulate the final denoument of the Kubrick movie.  
The make up on the female ghost is effective and advertised on the poster art. There is always something scary about eyes that have rolled up into their sockets. I would have been happier if I had seen more of that spookiness in the rest of the picture.

I don’t mind when a film neglects to answer questions and leaves it for the audience to work it out for themselves but there has to be an interesting reason for the audience to want to do that. The Innkeepers doesn’t provide enough interesting material for us to be bothered by what actually happened at the end. I get that the movie is an unusual take on the haunted hotel story but I have to ask “So what?” I don’t watch a romantic comedy to get my scares so why should I watch a movie touted to be a horror movie for what is essentially a light-hearted character study. Considering the time taken to get to know the characters, the tragedy at the end should have been far more shocking than it was. 

The Innkeepers will divide movie viewers, into those who slap themselves on the back saying “I got it, it’s not like any old horror film”, and others who when they watch a Western want to see a shoot out. This is by no means a boring movie, I must be clear about that, but it does fall short of what I felt it could have been, judging from the publicity. I wanted to enjoy it and in some ways I did. Ti West still has a classic movie within him somewhere, because he sure can write fleshed out characters and generate tension in scenes. I just hope I get to see it. 

Score: 5/10

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