Friday, April 27, 2012
Let Sleeping Ghosts Lie: The Innkeepers (2011)
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).
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.
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.