The Innkeepers (2012)
June 12, 2012 1 Comment
With the owner of the Yankee Pedlar Inn on vacation in Barbados, and the once grand hotel itself due to close its doors for good after one more weekend of business, university drop-outs Claire (Sarah Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) are splitting the last few shifts between themselves as a favour. Using their hours at the deserted front desk to investigate a presence that has been alledgedly haunting the corridors for years, the duo attempt to solve the legend of Madeline O’Malley while seeing to the needs of the last remaining guests – a mother and child, an enigmatic old man and former actress-turned-medium Leanne Rease-Jones (Kelly McGillis).
Taken as a horror movie, The Innkeepers fails dismally. When its not actively making The Cabin in the Woods look about as scary as The Shining (for anyone who actually finds The Shining scary, that is), The Innkeepers is haemorrhaging what little tension it does manage to accumulate at a truly amateurish rate. About as creepy as your average episode of Supernatural (with creature designs that even series creator Eric Kripke would be ashamed of), Ti West’s film relies on atmosphere and character to keep audiences invested. Seen the trailer? Then you’ve seen all the scares.
Luckily, however, The Innkeepers isn’t a horror at all. Not really. B-movie scream queen Sara Paxton (of The Last House on the Left and Shark Night 3D) keeps her clothes on and her dignity intact, instead delivering one of the most measured, good humoured and likeable performances the genre has ever seen. Whether starstruck at her once-famous guest, ordering coffee from the self-obsessed coffee barista next door (played with breathless glee by everyone’s favourite Girl, Lena Dunham) or trying desperately to avoid wayward bin juice while taking out the trash, Paxton cuts a very sympathetic protagonist throughout.
For the most part, this is a mystery through the eyes of a living, breathing (though asthmatic) human being. If, for instance, you have ever wondered why characters in ghost movies don’t simply run away, then you are clearly thinking along the same lines as West himself. Healy’s Luke is similarly well observed, his character proving the perfect foil for Paxton’s – the slightest tinge of danger his character invokes arousing just enough suspicion to warrant extra close scrutiny and tension. Their rapport is so natural, so winning, that it’s a shame that the film inevitably has to push ahead with its scatter-shot finale.
Unfortunately, The Innkeepers‘ climax fails to hold true to its set-up – our interesting and sympathetic heroes falling back on cliché as they split up, run off for ridiculous reasons and refuse to stop and think about what it is that is actually happening. While under different circumstances the finale could be considered as novel or innovative, in this particular instance the chosen ending just serves to cheapen all that came before.