The Innkeepers (2011)
Director: Ti West
Writers: Ti West
Starring: Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, and Kelly McGillis

The Plot: Luke (Pat Healy) and Claire (Sara Paxton) are two desk clerks at The Yankee Pedlar, which is a not-too-popular hotel that provides them with a very low key job that doesn’t require much from these two slackers. Although this hotel might seem a bit decrepit and old fashioned, it is a building with a great deal of history. In the 1800s there lived a woman named Madeline O’Malley and she had a very personal connection with this building. It seems that O’Malley was permanently abandoned by her husband while staying in the Yankee Pedlar and she eventually hung herself in one of the rooms. The owners of the hotel then hid her body in the basement for years and it is now said that O’Malley’s ghost haunts the hotel. Luke and Claire are amateur supernatural detectives, and with nothing better to do throughout the night, they begin their search for O’Malley. Unfortunately, their curiosity may be their downfall.

The Review
When The House of the Devil popped onto the horror scene just a few short years ago, there was no name hotter than Ti West. Most of the audience loved it as a nostalgic throwback to the glory days of classic horror cinema, but it certainly had its detractors who felt that it was too slow of a burn. For the most part, the consensus seemed to be quite positive. Yet, even with positive word of mouth, most seemed to agree that the third act was a bit of a letdown and gave in to the genre cliches that the rest of the movie tried to avoid. Afterward, West showed that he could direct splatter when he delivered Cabin Fever II, which was a surprise for many audience members. There was some back and forth drama when Cabin Fever was being made, but overall it was received favorably by fans. When word came that Ti West was working on another slowburn horror title, something that would be in the same vein as House of the Devil, many horror fans (including me) were ecstatic. With a great deal of hype, The Innkeepers flooded into the marketplace. Yet, gone was the adulation that came with this director’s earlier releases. Instead, it seems that the fans had built the movie up inside of their heads and nothing could compare with the ridiculous horror that had filled their minds. No, it turns out that The Innkeepers is less of an atmospheric detour into pure terror and more of a slow building horror comedy that loves every second of its genre-bending exercises.

Mixing horror and comedy is not a new goal within genre cinema. However, finding new ways to do it is something else entirely. The majority of horror comedies that audiences run into these days are either very broad (essentially being regular comedies, but set in a horror environment) or they are intentionally manufacture cult commodities. If you look at Dance of the Dead, it stands out as a perfect example of the broad-beyond-horror comedy, while the endless number of Troma-esque gory horrors that are released within any given year are very typical of the faux-cult movies that get a lot of hype. The Innkeepers, despite everything negative that can be said about it, does try to be slightly unique in its humor. Finding a nice balance between overtly silly bits of humor and subtle dialogue-based zingers, the movie is surprisingly strong in its sense of humor. Being centralized around work, the movie obviously earns references to Clerks and Office Space. The latter is even boldly referenced when the camera zooms in on a coffee mug that reads “Someone has a case of the Mondays.” Although I doubt there are many who will give this movie as much credit as either of the previously mentioned films, I believe that in its best moments it manages to show a similar intelligence.

If the movie has a major fault, it is probably its own lack of serious ambition. I absolutely love the characters of Luke and Claire, and this duo has a tremendous amount of chemistry onscreen together, but their adventures aren’t enough to make a classic horror title that fans will want to revisit over and over again. While I love what West does with this material, and I love the way he blends his genres, I don’t think that this is a story that has or should jump out to large audiences. To bring it right down to its basics, the movie is a creeping yet entertaining horror romp. What it does, it does right and it does it to the point of perfection, but the interest level that I have with the movie exists only at the start of the film and concludes in its final minutes. It’s not a title that I would rush out to recommend to all of my non-horror friends, nor do I think it is the movie that justifies all of the hype behind Ti West. The movie doesn’t have any tangible qualities that make it something completely new, innovative, or even worth rushing out to see, but it is good enough that real horror fans should absolutely search it out in order to watch it at least once. It has its elements that will distract some viewers, and I have some friends who genuinely hated it, but for the most part I love almost everything about the movie.

I have discussed the comedy a lot at this point, but it is truly the heart of the movie as far as I am concerned. I know that I wasn’t expecting this to come from the movie, so I can hardly imagine what earlier viewers of the movie might have thought. After the straightforward horror of House of the Devil, this probably instigated a decent amount of the backlash that the movie has received recently. Still, looking at the movie objectively, I have to say that the comedy was the main element of the movie that kept the script feeling fresh. Sure, things do eventually get more serious, but the comedy is very well balanced throughout the majority of the movie. The comedy is what keeps the early half of the move so refreshing and entertaining. Indeed, there are many viewers who may not feel the same as I do. The first forty or more minutes of the movie focus almost entirely on the two main protagonists, and there is actually very little “horror” to be found in any of these scenes. Viewers can expect the creepy scenes to be built up in a very slow manner, but in the meantime the film likes to focus on the quirks of our two leads. We grow to know these characters, we grow to like them, and by the time they are thrown in true danger, we become that much more interested in their survival. The movie doesn’t build these things up in a dramatic and touching fashion, but these things are certainly there if you want to read into them.

The Conclusion
The Innkeepers is bound to continually draw different reactions from audience members. Some will find the characters to be too wild, some will be torn because of the slow build, and I’m sure there are plenty of other reasons not to like the movie, but I found myself very absorbed by the picture. To be perfectly honest, this one lies somewhere between a three and a four, but because I am feeling generous, I will give it the “four.” Yet, keep in mind that it doesn’t receive a recommendation without reservations. Horror fans should give it a try, just to see if it is something they might enjoy.