After seeing Ti West’s House of the Devil some time ago, the young director quickly shot up my list of filmmakers I like to say I really like, but really know very little about. With Devil, I admired its dedication to slowly ratcheting up tension over dealing out visceral scares, even if the ending isn’t really as gratifying as you would hope (with an hour long build-up, though, any ending would have a tough time living up to expectations). Still, the film was beautifully shot, spooky and had Tom Noonan in it.
For his follow-up, The Innkeepers, West implants two sad-sack twenty-somethings turned amateur ghost hunters into a mostly empty haunted hotel for a night to see how their arrested development stacks up against a couple of pissed off ghosts.
Like with House of the Devil, West continues to concentrate on tone and suspense over shoving scary things in your face with The Innkeepers. But, the movie lacks the same pervasive dread that made Devil something special, and, despite looking great, Innkeepers feels flat, muted and, worst of all, not very scary.
It is loaded with some fantastic character moments, though, especially the awkward non-romance between Sara Paxton and Pat Healy, but the spooky ghost story at the center of the movie is a bit of a non-start. West knows how to quicken a pulse—a piano playing itself, a looooong static shot of an empty hotel room—but as soon as the bloodied spectral bride shows up, my eyes rolled so hard that they practically fell out of my head.
West knows the grammar of how build tension on film, but he’s not very good sticking the landing–this was even the case for his short in the anthology film, V/H/S, which was scary up to the point where you find out what’s going on.
Honestly, I’m probably leaning too hard on this film to be more like its older brother, which isn’t really fair. The Innkeepers is Ti West’s Mom-Horror movie, a horror sub-genre made up mostly of ghost stories that are safe to watch with your mom—movies like The Orphanage or The Others. And that’s okay—those movies are all pretty good, and so is The Innkeepers. They’re just not that scary, and neither is The Innkeepers.
Still, The Innkeepers doesn’t really change my opinion on Ti West—he’s still good at what he does and can frame the hell out of a shot, but The Innkeepers is kind of thin, probably by design.
Honestly, I’ll probably like it more after watching it again.
Oh, and Lena Dunham is in this. She plays a barista in the movie, and it’s the closest she’ll ever come to working in the service industry. BOOM! Rich people burn…. Okay, that was stupid. I’m sorry.