Director (/writer/editor/producer) Ti West is one of those low budget, independent filmmakers that has managed to secure a lot of attention for himself and amass a pretty devoted following, both in audiences and in critical circles alike. Having seen the bulk of his films, I was never quite won over. He made waves with The House of the Devil, a slow, slow, slow burn of a film that was cool and creepy, but ultimately just a little too…slow.
It came as no surprise when his film The Innkeepers again started garnering praise – after all, even his less than great films got a lot of attention. Now, even at less than great, the films are often watchable if not outright good, just of a much different tempo than I prefer. That said, I pressed play on The Innkeepers knowing little other than Ti West made it and people seemed to love it.
A side effect of a slow burn film is that often not much happens in terms of murdering fools. Two people don’t make it through this one.
There is a bloody ghost face, a bloody bath tub, a nasty cut to the head, and a fall down some stairs. The gore is minimal, but effective when it’s there.
Claire (Sara Paxton) is cute and geeky.
When someone advises you to either avoid an area or leave an area, do so. Especially when they’ve got psychic powers!
I can say without much hesitation, The Innkeepers is my favorite Ti West film. It’s also his strongest, in terms of writing, directing, and pacing. That said, the film still has a slow-burn start. There is no inciting incident within the first ten pages to shock you, rather we meet the characters and just go from there. Slowly.
The characters, Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) are likable enough and their dialog is good, but even when you’re hanging with people you like, if you’re not doing anything, you can grow kind of bored. The relationship between the two characters is friendly and cute; it works to draw you in, but eventually that nagging thought of “Where are the ghosts already?” starts to appear.
When spooky shit does start to happen, the film shines in a classical way. There is the slowly rising bed sheets, the ghostly face reveal, and plenty of creepy shots. The film never assaults you with scary imagery, like 13 Ghosts or something, but rather just calmly inserts the ghosts into the story at opportune moments to creep you out.
If there is a problem, aside from the early pacing, it would be when Claire most certainly encounters a ghost – straight up sees it, looks her in the eye, and gets freaked out, but then doesn’t really do anything about it. By the next morning she is cool, ready to drink and play games mocking ghosts, and Luke seems disinterested or unbelieving in the fact that she was literally face to face with a ghost. That would have been my cue to get the fuck out of Dodge.
Still, these slight problems aside, The Innkeepers is a classical, measured ghost film that avoids the in your face attitude of horror these days and opts for a more subtle and ultimately more effective route to scare you. when the ghosts are there, the film is spectacular and spooky. The characters are likable and relatable. All in all, The Innkeepers is a creepy film that satisfies, if it takes a touch too long in getting started.