Innkeepers, The (2011)
Directed by Ti West
Ti West’s new one, The Innkeepers, is essentially the Scary Maze Game of the 2011 SXSW Film Festival. It’s a feature-length prank of sorts that draws you in, holds your attention, and then ultimately scares the shit out of you at the last second. That might sound like a bad thing, but it’s not. West succeeds in creating a true horror comedy - one that makes you laugh out loud and jump out of your seat - and that’s not an easy thing to accomplish considering you can probably count on one hand the films that actually succeed at both.
The question is - How can you play with the cliches and conventions of the ghost story without actually becoming the very thing you’re dancing around and trying to avoid? You have to have truly dynamic characters to make it work, and the likable duo of Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) as the last two desk clerks at the all-but-forgotten Yankee Pedlar Inn are the perfect guides for the roller coaster ride of a film Ti West and Glass Eye Pix have orchestrated.
You don’t mind that the two keep leaving each other alone at the worst possible times because it’s played for laughs; when Claire goes down to the creepy basement AGAIN, you forgive her stupidity because she’s just so damn adorable. Kelly McGillis, as a new age actress well past her prime, adds to the proceedings as well, and her character’s involvement in the final act of the film really kicks off the harrowing last twenty minutes where the scares become genuine.
The quirky comedy and eccentricities of Claire and Luke, along with the brightly lit kitsch of the Inn, are just a setup to lull the viewer into a comfortable groove. Once you’ve settled in, the tackiness of the Inn falls away to reveal the haunted history within its walls, and the bold exploration of our two heroes eventually turns into sheer terror.
The only complaints some will have are that there’s just too much setup and the ending doesn’t reveal much of a back-story regarding Madeline O’Malley - the Inn’s haunted mistress and longest resident. Still, if you stuck with The House of the Devil and admire that film's visual flair, The Innkeepers is definitely worth checking into.
4 out of 5
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