The Innkeepers (2011)
The House of the Devil made Ti West one of the best most talked about newcomers when it came to horror directors in the late 2000s. At the time horror cinema was marred by bad self-referential Scream knockoffs and dreary remakes of Asian horror films and American classics. Like most things from that decade it was loud and annoying, like having Fred Durst scream in one's ear for 10 years.
West's approach as much different. The House of the Devil was a tense buildup to a shock ending, like many older films like The Innocents or The Changeling. It took place in the 1980s to add a sense of place and time to the throwback style and managed to largely get everything right. Happily he did not feel he had to go down the same road for his next original film, The Innkeepers. Although technically he followed up The House of the Devil with Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever, a sequel to Eli Roth's hit debut, he disowned that film due to it being taken away by the producers. Good thing, since The Innkeepers, though nowhere near as effective or as good, is definitely The House of the Devil's spiritual successor.
Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) are the last two remaining employees of the Yankee Pedlar Inn. The old hotel is about to close, its owner off enjoying Barbados, and Luke and Claire are left to deal with a mother (Alison Bartlett) and her son (Jake Ryan) who are staying at the hotel due to a fight she had with her husband. Another guest, former actress turned psychic Leanne Rease-Jones (Kelly McGillis), also checks in. Claire, a fan of Rease-Jones's work, is quite disappointed when she gets the brush-off .
While ticking off their last days Luke and Claire are also doing a little ghost hunting, looking into a legend about the inn that a woman named Madeline O'Malley who supposedly hung herself in her room when her lover failed to show. As strange events begin to happen Leanne begins to grow concerned about Claire. The arrival of a strange man demanding to stay in one of the abandoned rooms seems to stir things up even more.
The problem with The Innkeepers is though it keeps some of the same structure of The House of the Devil there isn't as much of a connection with the characters. Luke isn't too likeable, while Claire is quite annoying. Sometimes their interactions are quite normal, while other times it seems like West was too interesting in making Claire awkward and quirky. Since the connection really isn't there, by the time the supernatural stuff starts happening there's no real tension or investment in either of them. The biggest disappointment in that is the ending, otherwise, is pretty much worth the wait.
Ti West himself started going in a different direction after this as well, with The Sacrament being a pseudo-documentary of a Jim Jones-like cult, and then contributing to a number of anthologies and television shows prior to recently making a comeback of sorts with X and Pearl. Famously, though, he often has a problem with executing his ideas, as great as his movies often look and as interesting as the concepts are. That is all too evident with The Innkeepers.
The Innkeepers (2011)
Time: 101 minutes
Starring: Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis
Director: Ti West