Ti West is new-ish to the horror scene, but already loved and hated for the same thing: the slow burn. Why? Because when done poorly a slow burn never actually catches fire. You wind up with 90 minutes of build up, no real payoff and angry horror fans wanting their money (and time) back. I don’t fault people for fearing this, but I don’t think we have to worry too much with Mr. West at the helm.
The Innkeepers tells the story of the final days of the storied and supposedly haunted Yankee Pedlar Inn. Claire and Luke (Sara Paxton and Pat Healy) are tasked with the seemingly mundane duty of manning the front desk on this final weekend. They make the best of it as they dabble a bit in paranormal investigating and hope that with the hotel virtually empty they’ll finally be able to capture an EVP (electronic voice phenomena) and prove that the ghost of Madeline O’Malley truly does roam the halls of the Yankee Pedlar Inn.
Yes, The Innkeepers is a slow burn. It’s told in chapters and the for two out of three chapters you get mostly character building, mood setting and a fair amount of comedy.
The setting is perfect. The hotel is charming, but with the emptiness it shows that it is too charming – the kind of place you know is haunted before you hear the ghost story. You’d feel watched upon entering, feel the “history” of the hotel and just know, deep in your bones that something wasn’t right. Our main characters are smart enough and well meaning, but you don’t find horror movies full of smart people making smart choices for a reason. If you did, they’d all flee the scene withing the first 15 minutes or so of the film so I don’t fault them for what they bring upon themselves.
Once the movie enters the third chapter it doesn’t let up. You’re not even in the same movie you were before. It looks the same, but gone is the laughter, the pranks between Claire and Luke. Here there be ghosts. Angry ghosts. And angry ghosts don’t like the living poking around in their haunts.
Like I said, this is a slow burn; very reminiscent of something you’d hear around a fire while roasting marshmallows. It is not going to please everyone, but for me it worked. If you’re tired of remakes and have some patience I definitely recommend giving this one a try.