Ti West’s House of the Devil is one of my favourite modern horror movies. I love the subtle spookiness and utterly bonkers ending. It’s really my jam.
Which is, of course, why I have never watched any other movie by him. The Innkeepers has been on my radar for a long while. But when you build up expectations, it almost seems inevitable that no work will compare to the favourite.
The Innkeepers is stylistically different to House of the Devil. But there are still touches of nostalgia that make you question what era this is meant to be in.
Claire and Pat are the last two employees at the Yankee Pedlar Inn (filmed on location at the real hotel, which closed in 2015) on its final weekend. They’re both big paranormal fans, with Pat running a website to promote the hotel’s supposed paranormal activity.
The hotel’s most famous ghost is Madeline O’Malley. The tale is that on her wedding day, she was jilted at the alter. After hanging herself, her body was hidden in the basement before burial.
As well as ghosts, the Yankee Pedlar manages to have a few guests on its last weekend. Among them, Claire realises, is actress Leanne Rease-Jones, who leaves Claire star struck. While the woman is initially unfriendly towards the young woman, an event brings them together.
While recording with Pat’s EVP equipment, Clair hears the sound of a piano playing. She goes to the room where the piano is, only to see that no one is playing it. It’s seemingly playing itself.
After relaying the story to Leanne, the actress reveals that she’s at the hotel for a healer convention. She’s a bit of a medium, trying to hone her powers. She uses her crystal pendulum to contact Madeline for Claire, but it’s abundantly clear that they shouldn’t be talking to the ghosts. They have one message: DON’T go in the basement. Loud and clear, ghosts.
Later on, an older man arrives at the hotel, wanting to stay in a room that has already been stripped for the closure. But the man is insistent. So Claire takes pity on him and lets him stay in the room. As she leaves, he locks the door behind him.
Feeling the boredom, Claire and Pat decide to get drunk together. Despite the warnings, they go into the basement to try and contact Madeline again. Claire sees the ghost, which prompts Pat to flee the basement. He admits to Claire that all of his supposed paranormal encounters have been lies, then he leaves the hotel.
Claire goes to Leanne again for help. But when the pendulum smashes, the women both know they need to get out. But the spirits are already pissed off and things begin to quickly spiral into mayhem at the hotel.
The Innkeepers was old-fashioned ghosty fun. It’s just a shame that it didn’t stick the landing. But like The House of the Devil, I think there are plenty of people who will love it. For me, it was almost there. I think even giving some more explanation to better-build the world we were in (ie: what the hell was the story with half the characters here?). It kept feel like I was supposed to “get” more of what was going on.
It reminded me a lot of Mike Flanagan’s The Haunting of Hill House. And maybe I was expecting too much for the story to go that way. But still, I wanted more ghosts. More haunting! More horror!
The story is certainly slow. And not in a tension-building way. Shearing ten minutes off of this would have helped build the suspense. There were many scenes that never seemed to amount to anything. It got in the way of the storytelling. That being said, when it gets going – it hits the ground running.
Lead actors Sara Paxton, Pat Healy and Kelly McGillis are all fantastic. I really loved Paxton’s subtleties. And she works really well with the rest of the cast. Thankfully the cast, paired with the more humorous script, you end up with a rather charming (if mostly scare-free) ghost story.