Somewhat hot on the heels of the similarly-toned Insidious comes The Innkeepers, a low budget, small focus ghost story that’s a wonderful exercise in suspense.
Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) make up the skeleton staff at the Yankee Pedlar Inn in the final days before its closure. They’ve only got three guests in attendance and they pass the time doing EVP recordings and trying to make contact with the ghost that supposedly haunts the place. (Everyone knows what EVP stands for thanks to 2005’s White Noise, though thankfully this film is nothing like that awful, awful Michael Keaton flick.)
As with all great horror films, it is the characters that make you care. From the get go, Claire and Luke are a wonderfully mismatched couple. They’re co-workers who get along swimmingly, though clearly would never, ever hang out in the ‘real’ world. The screenplay lovingly lays the groundwork for characters we truly care about. Paxton is radiant as the tomboyish Claire, totally at ease with herself at the beginning of the film, whilst Healy plays Luke as a geeky chap who clearly doesn’t have much of a life outside of work. The film also features Kelly McGillis (yes, of Top Gun fame) as a famous actress staying at the hotel, but the film really belongs to Claire and Luke, and their comedic banter.
The scares begin with subtlety, and the inexorable menace is perfectly matched by Jeff Grace’s top-notch score. It’s a long while before we see anything actually horrifying – again, a sign of a classy horror film – though unfortunately the tension is much more successful than the scares themselves, which aren’t quite as powerful as they should be. The film makes a wonderful use of its location (which is a real inn situated in Connecticut) and the restrictive setting means we really get a feel for the place.
This is the first film by Ti West that I’ve seen, though he’s been rather busy in the lower budget horror film world, having also directed the sequel to Cabin Fever. He’s a talent to be reckoned with, however, and I’ll certainly be tracking down The House of the Devil, which has quite a cult following.
The only real downside to The Innkeepers is the dénouement, which is a little disappointing considering what came before. It’s satisfactory and nothing more, which is a shame when the quality of the rest of the film is so impressive. Nevertheless, those in the mood for a great ghost story with genuine and likable characters need look no further.Rating: