I remember when The Innkeepers first came out it got a lot of positive press. I was super excited about it because I love a good ghost story. The movie was written, directed, and edited by Ti West, the man behind The House of the Devil, which I’m actually very fond of. I had high hopes for it so I guess I felt extra let down when it ended.
The movie is broken up into chapters with these title cards that I actually liked quite a bit.
The movie follows Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy), the last two employees at the Yankee Pedlar Inn.
It’s the last weekend that the inn is open and they want to try their hand at ghost-busting. The Yankee Pedlar has its own resident ghost, Madeline O’Malley, a bride who hung herself on her wedding day. The movie starts out like a comedy, with the two slackers dealing with weird guests, including Leanne Rease-Jones (Kelly McGillis), an actress who starred in an eighties sitcom. Lena Dunham also has a bit part as a chatty barista in a scene that felt entirely disposable.
The movie gets more serious in the second half. Claire hears ghostly voices and the piano playing in the banquet room. The inn goes from a relatively friendly old place to a claustrophobic and dangerous old place.
Claire confides in Leanne who is in town for a psychic convention. Her post-acting career is as a medium/healer. She warns Claire to stay out of the basement where Madeline’s body was allegedly hidden after she died.
What I dislike about some ghost movies is that the ending is usually too happy. At the end of Poltergeist they get Carol-Anne back and she’s fine (If you ignore the sequels.) I like the more contemporary ghost stories because the endings seem more bleak. It’s not ghosts banished forever and the family lives happily ever after. I think the one thing that The Innkeepers has going for it is that it has one of the bleakest endings I’ve ever seen in a ghost movie. Not only are secrets revealed about the characters but someone dies. It just seems really rare where there’s a haunting movie that has actual consequences for the character. Too often it feels like nothing is at stake.
There’s a part in the movie where Leanne asks Claire what she does and Claire’s response is something like, “I…work here.” The whole thing is incredibly awkward in a way that only people who work in retail can understand. I think this movie is supposed to be a commentary on aimlessness and how our choices in the present can affect our afterlife (If there is an afterlife.) Maybe if you don’t really have a purpose in this life you can be a horrifying ghost, I guess? The whole thing feels incredibly ham-handed.
This movie felt incredibly disjointed and that keeps me from recommending it wholeheartedly. The first half was lighthearted and funny, mostly dealing with the weirdos that Claire and Luke encounter. The second half focuses more on the haunting. There are some good creepy moments that I didn’t screen cap because I want people to be surprised if they decide to see it. The movie opens up with historical pictures of the Yankee Pedlar Inn (Which is actually a real place in Torrington, Connecticut. These pictures are almost scarier than any of the ghost scares in the movie.
I think the main problem with the movie is that Ti West wrote, directed, and edited the movie. Sometimes you need to step away from a project and let someone else see it with fresh eyes. Instead, he went the Tommy Wiseau* route and it shows. My other major problem are the performances. The acting gets better towards the second half but the first half felt stilted and phony. I really dislike saying this because I want to support the movie and the actors but I have to be honest. Claire and Luke’s speech patterns feel so weird and forced.
On the plus side, the movie has some of the creepiest music I’ve heard since The Eclipse. This definitely works and helps with some of the later scares, especially when Claire ignores Leanne and goes into that damn basement or when Claire’s alone in her room.
I honestly wish that this movie could have been split into two movies. One could be a buddy comedy about slackers working at an inn and the other one could be all the ghost parts. This movie suffers because of the two mismatched parts.
*The notorious writer, director, editor, and star of the hilariously awful movie The Room.