Director Ti West’s “The House of the Devil” (2009) made him a fan favorite in the horror genre. Although the film offers nothing new to the genre, it was praised for creating horror elements from realistic, atmospheric situations and reviving memories of classic Hollywood horror movies. West’s recent effort, “The Innkeepers” (2011) utilizes the same framework from his previous film. The emphasis is still on the characters, keeping gore and violence to a minimum. Likewise, “The Innkeepers” is led by a female protagonist, Claire (Sara Paxton), who is shown as a daring and strong-willed character as the story progresses.
Claire works with Luke (Pat Healy) at a local inn that will soon be permanently closed down. We gather there are not many guests living in this inn. Claire and Luke feel that the inn is haunted by ghosts. Luke shows Claire a video segment shot in the inn’s basement, but it is more of a gimmick. In spite of being initially scared, Claire slowly starts getting curious about the ghosts in the inn. She starts snooping around the inn and interacting with mysterious guests, mainly Leanne Rease-Jones (Kelly McGillis).
West maintains focus on Claire throughout the running time and the entire movie takes place inside the inn; we rarely see an outdoor shot. Even when the movie’s plot is unstructured, it’s the manner in which story elements are composed that makes this film extremely linear. Therein lies the main problem with the film because for almost an hour one is waiting for something to happen. After all, how long one is going to listen to characters talking when the characters only interact for the sake of discussing? Surely, there are details revealed about the inn, but mostly, Claire and Luke are killing time with their dead-end jobs. A few comic exchanges occur that are merely serviceable, but it keeps the film’s tone slightly light-hearted. Sadly, apart from a few scenes, the shock elements are predictable, too. We know after staring at one object for too long, things are going to pop out from somewhere; sound getting louder and a disfigured face popping up, are expected from this setup.
There is no question that West is a talented filmmaker. We see his skills with intricate camera movements and precise placement of objects and characters in the inn. Indeed, “The Innkeepers” is a nicely shot film, and for the most part, the camera helps in developing surprises, excitement, and the spooky mood. In addition, even when the film slows down, filmmakers don’t substitute character-developed, fear-inducing scenes for cheap thrills and gore. Nonetheless, the film remains watchable mainly for this reason. In the acting department, Sara Paxton is charming and performs well, but her character comes across silly on several occasions.
I believe West’s intent was to develop realistic scenes at the inn and let the characters dictate the course of events. But unfortunately, it takes too long to develop something significant in the narrative. At a hundred minutes, the film runs feels overstretched. The first act could have been trimmed out a bit, which would have helped the film’s pacing. In the end, “The Innkeepers” is just another entry to the horror genre, borrowing heavily from early haunted-house movies.
“The Innkeepers” is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and encoded using an AVC codec. This is a beautiful-looking transfer, consisting of well-balanced colors. The detail and sharpness is remarkable throughout. Even in dimly lit night shots, the 1080p transfer has solid blacks with solid sharpness. The close-ups are tight and skin tones appear realistic and warm.
“The Innkeepers” is an atmospheric film and the 5.1 DTD-HD Master track is impressive in capturing the silent moments in the inn. Mostly a dialogue-driven affair, the dialogue remains fairly audible and clear. The mid tones are boosted and the bass is dynamic, although it is never aggressive like modern horror movies. The whispers sound realistic and creepy, and the sound effects are well produced by this mix. The rear channels are activated in the climax and the track manages to deliver surprises and shocks.
First, we get a regular “behind-the-scenes” featurette, taking us on location at the real-life Yankee Pedlar. In addition, there are two audio commentary tracks. The first track is with director Ti West, producers Peter Phok and Larry Fessenden, and second unit director Graham Reznick. The second track features director Ti West and actress Sara Paxton. The first track gets into the technical aspect of the film, while the second track is a bit lighter as Paxton and West sound relaxed and funny at times. Finally, a film’s theatrical trailer is also included.
“The Innkeepers” is an average follow-up to the critically acclaimed, “The House of the Devil”; the former comedic undertones make it lighter, while the latter was more dark and unsettling. For me, Ti West’s “The Innkeepers” was slow and boring and overly predictable. The filmmaking aspects are definitely good and the filmmakers’ restraint in using excess gore is commendable.