As my first foray into the world of Ti West since 2005’s The Roost (I’ve also seen Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever, but we’ll come back to that), I came into THE INNKEEPERS fully aware of the director’s reputation for a more “methodical” approach to horror. Its a methodology that some have labeled unconventional in genre more recently run rampant with gore and CGI, but one that directors like Roman Polanski and David Cronenberg have relied on for years.
Done right, a “slow burn” horror film can create tension, build suspense and deliver fear that is both physical and psychological. West has proven in the past that he’s capable of tapping into this sub-genre of horror with films like House of the Devil and the previously mentioned The Roost, but unfortunately his recent project finds itself stumbling in the darkness of its own device.
The film begins by introducing us to Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy), the last two employees of the soon to be closed Yankee Pedlar Inn whose sole occupants – aside from Claire and Luke – include an unnamed mother and her son and Leanne Rease-Jones (Kelly McGillis). While the mother and son have no bearing on the plot whatsoever, Ms. Rease-Jones at least lends herself to a Tangina-type role (Poltergeist) with a bit of psychic prowess.
Deviating a bit from his previous films, West casts Claire and Luke into a sort of DIY Ghost Hunters parody. Neither one possessing any real “ghost-busting” experience, but sort of pulled together in their macabre interest of the supernatural (not to mention their unending boredom at work). However, West seems to spend far too much time developing these characters instead of moving the plot forward. The result only cheapens the ending which, I won’t reveal here, moves way too fast to leave an impact on the viewer.
The film does offer a few genuine scares, not many though, but the real disappointment are the woefully ineffective ghosts whose appearances in the hotel are never fully explained or effective. It’s made clear that there’s some connection to the basement, not dissimilar to FX’s recent American Horror Story series, but the events that took place there and the reason for its ominous reputation are never revealed. Fans of West will no doubt find to defend some of his decisions here, but ultimately I’d have to say this is one haunted house best left condemned.