Who doesn't love a haunted hotel? We know Stephen King certainly does — from The Shining to 1408, he's made the genre his own.
I daresay young, up and coming indie horror director Ti West is carving quite a niche for himself by exploring a variety of genres popularized by others by stripping them down to the varnish and actually deglamorizing them. It's a very interesting and intriguing approach. While other filmmakers do the "look at me!" strum and drang, West says, "Listen to this, watch this, think about this."
House of the Devil certainly set him on the path to the Innkeepers both figuratively and literally: while filming that cauldron-cloaked potboiler, West and co. stayed in a spooky little inn called The Yankee Peddler. He was so inspired by the atmosphere of it, he wrote an entire story about it and returned to film The Innkeepers right there on the premises.
The Innkeepers are Luke (Pat Healy) and Claire (Sara Paxton), employees who are determined to uncover the truth once and for all as to the whether the place is really haunted… they have only one weekend in which to do it, because after 100 years the Peddler is shutting its doors for good. A couple of rooms are in service and rented out appropriately enough to a psychic and a mystery man, the ghost-cam website is still up, and things are quiet… but pretty soon that's gonna be all she wrote and no one will ever know why the spirit of Madeline O’Malley is so restless.
The movie feels a bit like Clerks at first, then takes on a bit of The Shining gleam, but it never strays from West's forte of making unbelievable dialogue seem believable while moving a mystery along an inch at a time. Towards the end, much like House of the Devil, monotony crescendos to momentum and the closing weekend comes to a close in the most wicked of ways.
While the film is indeed pithy, talky, and under-the-radar wryly humorous, be assured you will be watching a full-on, no-holds barred horror film.
The Innkeepers is currently available on demand, or you can see it in select theaters beginning February 3, 2012.
= = =
Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson