I rented this movie from Amazon Instant Video a month ago, made it about 30 minutes in, and then gave up. It completely failed to engage me at all, due largely to lame writing and even lamer acting (especially on the part of Sara Paxton, who annoyed me from frame 1).
In the weeks since, though, I’ve come across several fairly positive reviews of it. Despite the fact I wasn’t terribly impressed with director Ti West’s last movie, 2009′s The House of the Devil, the thumbs-mostly-up reviews got me to give it a second chance (I am fool, hear me rawr.)
This time I made it through the whole thing, but my overall take on it remained pretty much the same. That overall take? Is yawn.
The story is about two early 20-somethings, Claire (Paxton) and Luke, working boring, dead-end jobs as front desk clerks at the run-down Yankee Pedlar Inn. As the film opens, the inn is about to close, and Claire and Luke are the only employees left, scheduled to stay on duty for its last 48 hours straight, trading off shifts at the front desk with shifts snoozing in a second-floor room.
They only have three guests — a mother and her little boy (who play almost no role here at all, except for a scene in which the little boy is used as a conceit to get the story of the inn’s ghost told to the audience), and a former actress, Leanne, played limply by the only recognizable actor in the picture, Kelly McGillis.
Claire is a huge fan of Leanne’s and becomes even more so when Leann tells her she’s now a psychic. Why is that a good thing? Because Claire and Luke like to ghost hunt, and since they’ll be working through two nights at the inn, they’ve decided this is the perfect time to try to find and communicate with the inn’s infamous ghost — a woman who died there decades ago and whose corpse was stashed in the basement for a time. Leanne can surely help them make contact, and, of course, as we all know, talking to ghosts always works out SO WELL, so it should be a great weekend, right?
The first night, while on duty as Luke watches porn upstairs on his laptop, Claire uses an EVP monitor to try to pick up on some ghostly vibes and is startled when the piano begins to play by itself. She reports this to both Luke and Leanne, the latter doing a little psychic energy reading before warning Claire sternly not to go into the basement.
So, naturally, Claire goes straight to the basement. The ghost is there. Etc. etc. And the rest, as they say . . . is absolute balderdash.
Though there are some well-written banter-y scenes between Claire and Luke at times, overall, this is a pretty lamely written film. The plot is beyond stale, and the ending takes us out with a fizzle rather than a bang. Making matters worse, the inn itself is a dull setting — not spooky so much as just in dire need of a paint job. The late addition of an elderly male guest who requests a specific room even though it has no furniture — “I won’t be sleeping, mua ha ha ha!” (I paraphrase) — goes so predictably I was surprised the characters themselves didn’t call it the moment he walked in the front door and hit the bell.
The one thing I did like about The Innkeepers, though, was the way both Luke and Claire continue to pursue the ghost even after several spooky incidents — and I liked this because it rang so true to me. In most films of this type, the ghost hunters really believe in ghosts, right? But here, it’s almost like Claire in particular — right up to the denouement — can’t believe her own eyes. She persistently seems to think what’s happening can’t possibly really be happening. This is why she goes to the basement — not stupidity so much as a fairly relatable sense of rational denial.
It’s not enough to save this movie from its deep pit of banality though. West seems to like making scary movies with unusually slow pacing (for scary movies, anyway). But in both this case and The House of the Devil, the pacing ends up being more insufferably slow than suspensefully so. Claire and Luke have really, really boring jobs, and watching them work at their boring jobs is — guess what! — really, really boring!
Possibly worth a rental if you can find it for a few bucks after it’s left theaters. But certainly not worth TWO rentals, like I did. I’m THAT DUMB. Yes, yes, I am. Will I never learn? Answer: no, I apparently will persistently remain in a fairly relatable (to some of you, anyway) sense of irrational denial. Such is life when you are dum.
Cast: Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis, George Riddle