The Innkeepers eschews jumps and false scares for an enjoyably character-led story.
The follow up to his well-received The House of the Devil, Ti West’s The Innkeepers is on first glance just your average ghost story, but it soon becomes clear that there is much more to it than meets the eye.
Following Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy), the last two employees at a hotel (The Yankee Pedlar Inn) due to go out of business, as they staff the final weekend of its existence, The Inkeepers is a film that is far more about characters than scares. They are a pair of geeks with a rather sweet friendship, whose pithy exchanges early doors get the audience straight onside, with a virtuoso touch providing an amusingly “meta” scare early doors. The pair are interested in the paranormal, and decide that the weekend would be the perfect opportunity to try out a little ghost hunting in the hotel, which has all the usual local legends that you would expect attached to it.
West has stated that he set out to make a “charming” horror film, and it has to be said that he has succeeded here, giving us two fleshed-out, genuinely interesting main characters to invest in, propelled by a fine pair of performances. Paxton is wonderful, taking a goofy, dippy turn as Claire, while Healy’s slacker with a heart performance as Luke gives her the ideal partner to play off. We really feel for Claire and Luke, so much so that you could almost forget the ghost element entirely for much of the first half of the film. Elsewhere, Kelly McGillis pops up as a faded actress, injecting some real pathos into the story.
Where The Innkeepers succeeds as a character-led film, it does falter slightly as a ghost story. Audiences heading in expecting scares may be disappointed, as the film’s laudable low-key approach is heavy on atmosphere, but low on content. The Yankee Pedlar is a wonderful location, lending itself to the genre perfectly, but you do get the feeling that a little more could have been made of the horror element. That said, it is the thick atmosphere that makes the relationship between the two leads all the more refreshing, coming as welcome levity after some mildly intense sequences of ghost hunting. Not all ghost stories need to be schlocky jump scares, one after the other, and The Innkeepers is a welcome example of this, even if it does lack any really haunting moments. Perhaps this lack of real punch is a weakness, but for many it will be balanced out by the genuine geeky charm that surrounds it.
A refreshing genre movie with a lot of heart, The Innkeepers eschews jumps and false scares for an enjoyably character-led story, with a pair of fine performances at its heart. West continues to make a name for himself in the horror world, and on this evidence shows no signs of slowing down. Audiences expecting another ghost train ride will be disappointed, but The Innkeepers is certainly not your usual ghost flick, coming across as far more Ghostbusters than The Woman in Black.