Monday, 24 September 2012

The Innkeepers

"The Innkeepers" (2011, Ti West, Dark Sky Films, Glass Eye Pix) is a haunted hotel story.

A slow burning jumper of a film, we follow the otherwise dull lives of two young hotel employees, Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy), who are manning the front desk for the final weekend of the "Yankee Pedlar Inn" being open. There are only a handful of guests staying at the doomed hotel, and the owner is away sunning himself in Barbados.

Claire is an awkward teenager, who has recently dropped out of college and is feeling lost in her now directionless life, as she prepares to lose her job at the hotel. She's heavily asthmatic and is also prone to entertainingly flaky outbursts and exasperated half-tantrums.

Luke is slightly older, and is also a college drop out, but unlike Claire, he is happily nestled into his rut in life. It is he who has the main interest in ghost hunting in the hotel, and he runs a website about the strange happenings. Although it becomes apparent throughout the film that his interests in the paranormal are primarily all talk and he is more of a lazy, casual enthusiast.

Luke's interests in the hauntings by a young woman who hung herself after her new husband left her on their honeymoon at the hotel, has become quite an obsession now with Claire, who is most likely trying to find something to fill the hole in her life. Luke is evidently head over heels for her, and although deep down he has no actual interest in finding or facing a real ghost, he keeps up the charade to be close to Claire.

One guest is a retired actress-cum-psychic who uses her divining crystal pendulum to communicate with the spirits. Now, I have friends who are into this kind of stuff, and I can promise you that is not how you're meant to 'use' a crystal, but whatever! I enjoy that the 'wise man' part is played by a 'wise woman', considering that the main character is also female.

It seems that Claire and Luke's meddling in the supernatural with their EVP recording equipment, video cameras and so on have caught the attention of the spirits and kind of pissed them off, because soon it seems that they are now after Claire. Although she doesn't help herself much. Seriously, I spent quite a lot of this movie shouting things like "Why? Why, Claire? Why are you going into the basement?! Didn't you listen to The Ramones song?"

The film is slow paced with little happening for a while. The repartee between Claire and Luke is realistically casual and good fun. In fact, for a while you can maybe even forget that you are watching a horror movie at all, as you just take in the lives of this young pair and their awkward not-a-romance.

Now and again, though, West likes to remind you that the hotel is haunted and give you a quick flavour of horror. Although it's not a guts and blood squelch-fest, these little titbits of ghostly activity keep the pace up and keep the audience engaged.

Back to the original style of ghost story telling seen in latter day black and whites such as "The Haunting", most of the jumps are false alarms or tension breakers which are thrilling and also lull you into a false sense of security.

My only problem with this film was the end. The whole way through, tension is built up and up, keeping you waiting on a twist that's not coming, a big finale, or a prelude to a non-existent sequel. But... nothing. The end is the end. The plot is rounded but also unfinished and the hotel remains haunted!

One thing you have to say though is, all those horrorfans who like to boast about always seeing the twist in a film, well you should make them watch "The Innkeepers", because they will definitely not see the 'twist'.

A good little yarn with some relatable characters and a setting that isn't actually overly eerie, despite following the same set up as "The Shining" (virtually empty hotel with ghosts).

Definitely worth a watch, but not sure I'd sing about it as loudly as others have done.

[Image: Dark Sky Films & Glass Eye Pix]