It’s always sad for me to say how much I dislike a movie if I enjoyed the director’s previous work. So it is with today’s entry on The Innkeepers, a movie directed by independent director Ti West. His last film, The House of the Devil, is a fantastic, unsettling and taut thriller that hearkens back to the 70s era of demonic cults. The best thing about House of the Devil was how simple the scares were, all of them revolving around the noises that are heard when a young girl is alone in a house. Some call it boring and slow, I called it unique and fun. Unfortunately, I did not have the same thoughts while watching West’s second film. The Innkeepers is that boring film I wanted to avoid with a pretty grating and horrific performance from leading lady Sara Paxton. I recommend everyone see House of the Devil and skip this mess.
The Yankee Pedlar Inn is in its final weekend before closing. Employees Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) are left to watch the hotel while the owner is away, and they hope to find proof of the hotel’s ghost before it closes. The hotel is supposedly haunted by the ghost of a woman named Madeline, and Luke has supposedly encountered the spirit. With the help of a fallen actress turned psychic (Kelly McGillis), Claire gets more than she bargained for when things become weird in the hotel.
I can’t help comparing this to House of the Devil so I apologize in advance if you haven’t seen that film. In that film there is a clear plot involving a babysitter caring for a mysterious woman who isn’t seen. The majority of the film is her going about her routine while at the same time a bizarre series of events, including a murder, start to make the girl question what the true job is. In this film you can’t find a plot for at least 45 minutes. The first 45 minutes involve introducing Luke and Claire, they talk about ghosts, a few guests show up, they talk about ghost, and Claire sleeps. That is the most mundane 45 minutes I’ve seen. And it wouldn’t bother me so much if we had a clear idea of what this movie is about. Sure the duo talk about the ghost of Madeline, they tell the story behind her, but they never do anything about it! Claire may sit in a room for a few minutes trying to get some EVP but that’s it.
When the film does start to get a plot going with the arrival of McGillis’ character you’re about 56 minutes into the film. The true horror and plot doesn’t get going until an hour…and this is an hour and 41 minute movie so you can see how the pacing is a problem. There’s a lot of questions that arise that are never answered including what is the significance of the bitchy woman and her son, and just when is this film set. In House of the Devil you knew it wasn’t a current time as indicated by the 70s titles, the lack of cell phones or any other need to establish a time which I enjoyed. Here the consistency of the time period is all over the place as the technology of the EVP looks old yet there’s a computer. Said computer has a few crappy websites that might be early 2000s but you end up focusing on trying to date this movie instead of being wrapped up in the story.
The acting also ruins any remaining scraps of goodwill as Sara Paxton is atrocious! She’s usually relegated to smaller parts, the last thing I saw her in was as the abused daughter in the remake of The Last House on the Left. Here she’s our heroine and she plays the character like a 20-year-old trying to play 15 by watching teen movies. She makes weird faces, flashes her doe eyes, and thinks that running around and saying “dude” will make her endearing. She’s always asking questions or flopping herself down and sleeping. I honestly thought she had narcolepsy at one point because she’s carrying on a conversation with someone and she starts to either look extremely disinterested or she wants to take a nap. There’s a great scare sequence involving a body rising up covered in a sheet, I was scared until Paxton jumps out of bed…takes a good five-minute pause, and lets out a shriek I haven’t heard since Macaulay Culkin slapped his cheeks in Home Alone, it sounds that fake.
The other actors are just lifeless with Pat Healy trying to play Simon Pegg, if Simon Pegg did nothing in this movie. McGillis was already a shock to see in this as I didn’t recognize her (time has not been kind sadly) and she just monologues about New Age stuff and death while shaking a crystal around.
By the end the plot rushes so badly to come together in the last five minutes that while West may call the end ambiguous I call it lazy. There’s no explanation for it and while many on IMDB try to say it makes the audience question whether there was ever a ghost, I call it a lazy way to cover up the movie’s obvious flaws. There’s about two good scares, both of which come over an hour into the film, not what I’d call a good horror movie.
The Innkeepers isn’t a good horror movie, and it’s not a good movie in general. I’ll keep an eye out on West’s work but so far I’m sticking to my House of the Devil DVD.
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.