MOVIE: The Innkeepers (2011)

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.

[Prequeue at Netflix | Stream from Amazon]

Genre: Horror
Cast: Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis, George Riddle


6 Responses to “MOVIE: The Innkeepers (2011)”

  1. RogerBW Says:

    I’ve been getting really mixed messages off this one, and the people who praise it don’t seem to be able to pick of just why it works for them (being fair, this is a very common problem with a positive review, particularly since it’s sometimes just the way everything fits together). Not a great horror fan, though, so I’ll probably give it a miss.

  2. Alisaj29 Says:

    Haven’t seen the movie, but it sounds like Supernatural has better story lines. 🙂

  3. megwood Says:

    Definitely seeing a lot of mixed responses. And I completely agree that sometimes a movie just WORKS and you can’t say why — that happens to me all the time (also, the opposite).

  4. briantoohey Says:

    Roger, as someone who liked a lot of The Innkeepers because I appreciated he low-key approach, and how much of the film was spent not seeing ghosts but more accurately hanging with the characters and exploring their confused and apathetic lives and therefore their desire to see something to shake that up (which seems a more honest approach to ghost-seekers and the fact that, more often than not just as with a police stakeout, you’re sitting around while nothing happens), where the movie goes soft is the ending. For all of the slow build, it still needs to build to something. And while it does, the payoff is disappointing, particularly when the movie itself suggests at points that it may be building to something more. I think that if the payoff was something more along the lines of Insidious, certain audiences would have been more forgiving about the slow build in the first two thirds. So even as someone who got something out of it, I acknowledge that they shirked a proper climax with a satisfying payoff.

  5. RogerBW Says:

    I tend to have strong demands of a story – for me, a good film can be ruined in retrospect by a poor ending, while a bad film can’t be saved by a good one.

  6. Morgan Barnes Says:

    I do not believe that nothing could have been done to save Claire! I bet that if Luke hadn’t gone out of her sight and Leanne reappeared in their presence, all three of them could have eventually escaped the hotel!

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