Friday, April 27, 2012

Let Sleeping Ghosts Lie: The Innkeepers (2011)

Greetings again from me, Marie! What you are quickly learning about me is that I am a sucker for a ghost story. In fact, they are my favorite kind of story!

I’ve been lucky enough to find two deliciously chilling stories of specters from the very same year! 2011 has been kind enough to give us The Awakening (the film I reviewed in my last post), and The Innkeepers.

The latter comes to us from fledgling horror director Ti West, who is best known for his 2009 picture House of the Devil. If you have not seen House of the Devil, you simply must! But that is a topic that would stem an article of its own (go watch it, it’s on Netflix!).

Now we all know that hotels are creepy as hell, we can thank Stephen King for that (thanks, Steve), and the Yankee Pedlar Inn is no exception. And nothing is creepier than an empty hotel, and this particular one is pretty near hollow—most of the rooms stripped of all furniture—for it is the hotel’s final weekend open.

As the film starts out, the building is occupied by only a few souls. There are the two young staff members—the adorable and quirky Claire (played by Sara Paxton, who has acted in such cinematic achievements as Shark Night and the Last House on the Left remake), and the snarky and dorky Luke (Pat Healy). And there are the three occupants—a mother and her child (who Luke affectionately refers to as “that bitch and her kid”) and an aging actress past her prime in town for a convention (Kelly McGillis).

Luke just so happens to run a website on the Yankee Pedlar, which provides a history of the building and accounts of encounters with its alleged ghostly occupants. Even though Luke is the only person who has had actual experiences, Claire is eager to have one of her own and thinks that since the hotel is nearly empty, they have a good chance of making “contact”.

The ghost in question is that of Madeline O’Malley, who was once a guest at the inn and believed to have hung herself there, her body then stowed in the basement by the original owners to avoid bad press.

As night descends Claire is left alone after Luke goes to seek some shut-eye in one of the empty rooms.
Out of boredom and curiosity Claire picks up the EVP recorder (for those of you who aren’t ghost nerds like me, that stands for Electronic Voice Phenomena) that Luke has left for his ghost hunting and makes her way from room to room, trying to pick up the disembodied voice of Madeline O’Malley. The darkness and the silence of the hotel causes Claire to become tense and alert to every small sound, but little actually happens except for some mysterious knocks and rattles and the gentle tinkering of a piano.

As she becomes overwhelmed by her experiences, she receives some unexpected help from Lee Rease-Jones, the retired actress who is residing in the hotel. Lee reveals that the convention she is in town for is a gathering of psychics and healers, and that she herself is a medium. She says that she can help Claire come in contact with Madeline O’Malley through means of her pendulum, her psychic tool of choice.
She does indeed get the ghost on the line, and manages to provide Claire with one important piece of advice—don’t go in the basement.

The next morning, a final guest checks in; a strange old man who insists that he have room 353, even if he has to sleep in it without any furniture, for that room has already been stripped in preparation for the hotel’s closing.

Later on the staff prepares for another long night of boredom by cracking open some beers and going on another EVP hunt. Silly drunk Claire suggests that they investigate the basement (you know, the place where she isn’t supposed to go), and as things get downright spooky, Luke becomes overcome with fear and flees the hotel, leaving Claire alone with the two remaining guests, and whatever ghosts are present as well.

Here’s what I can tell you: Luke isn’t the paranormal expert he claims to be, Lee knows something that she isn’t telling anyone, the man in room 353 has picked his room for a very specific purpose, and Claire is in some serious trouble.

Now, I will admit the first hour of the movie is pretty slow-paced—okay, very slow-paced—and I can’t guarantee it will be able to hold you (I almost gave up on it myself), but I certainly hope it does because the ending is well worth it. The final moments are packed with some serious creepy action and I am just crazy about the ending.

I must say, though, I am really into this Ti West guy. House of the Devil was crazy amazing and that movie and this one show how stylish and clever of a director he is. He loves to start off with a steady-paced story and then—BOOM! Lay the scares on you all at once. It does have a good effect—that is, if you’re into having heart attacks—and I think his ideas are very original.

The characters in The Innkeepers all have a very natural feel to them, particularly Claire and Luke. Their close friendship and sarcastic sense of humor make them very realistic and believable, and they generally seem like fun people to pass the hours with. Okay, maybe not Luke, he’s kind of a prick. But I would definitely be down to hang out with the creepy old man in room 353 or Madeline O’Malley.

I’m ceasing to make sense now, but you should give this film a chance, it may not have enough action to keep your interest sparked, but one thing I must ask is that you keep an eye out for Ti West. He seems to be a very promising young horror director with good ideas and great style, and hopefully he will keep pumping out films that are worthy of the genre. It seems we should see more of him around Halloween this year—I believe he is contributing to a horror anthology film called V/H/S. Sounds interesting enough.

Anyway, here is the moral of the story: let restless ghosts haunt.


James Gracey said...

Great review, Marie. You've really whet my appetite for this film now. I'm not sure if it's available on this side of the pond yet, but I should really seek it out if it is. I also loved House of the Devil, and if West uses the same slow-burn approach in this as he did in that, I reckon I'm in for a treat!
The only other film I’ve seen by him is The Roost, a VERY low-budget, but still pretty damn creepy film about rabid bats whose bites turn people into mindless killers. Sounds clichéd and trashy as hell, but the way it’s filmed and the suspense he creates just by taking his time to build atmosphere is really quite effective.

If you’re into ghost stories, you might find this news quite exciting… The BFI is making the complete series of the BBC's classic Ghost Stories finally available on DVD this year. Lots and LOTS of M.R. James ;)

Eric King said...

The first half is actually what I enjoy the most. Kinda reminded me of Clerks in a haunted inn. The characters are well written and Healy and Paxton had great chemistry. The second half is what fell kinda flat for me. So much build up in the beginning of getting to know the employees that I actually would have preferred it just stayed on the humorous. side. Overall, really liked the movie, though.

Good review. :)

Marie said...

Thanks guys!
James- Um, talking about whetting your appetite, you've just made me rabid by telling me about the Ghost Stories DVD release!! I can't believe we have to wait until July!! Gives me some time to save up I guess!

Eric-My friend (whose name is also Eric) told me he loves the first half, too! I feel like in this day it is almost a risk for a filmmaker to make a horror film with a slow burn because mainstream horror kids are all about the jumps and kills. But true fans can appreciate a well crafted story and impressive filmmaking!

Dr Blood said...

I didn't like "House of the Devil" at all but I'll probably like this one since it's a ghostie story.

Marvin the Macabre said...

I'm with the James's on this one. I didn't find The Innkeepers the least bit boring, but I was horribly disappointed with the ending.

I'm currently trying to force myself to like this movie more, which actually sometimes works. I was a tad disappointed with House of the Devil on my first viewing, but after a couple more viewings I adore it. So I guess I'll just keep watching The Innkeepers until I love all of it.