Oh fiddlesticks. I really wanted to like The Innkeepers. Actually, based on my adoration for Ti West's House of the Devil and my genuine belief that he was responsible for the good parts of the not really that good Cabin Fever 2, I wanted to LOVE The Innkeepers.
Quick Plot: The Yankee Pedlar Inn is a quaint little historical hotel about to close its doors forever. On its last weekend in business, clerks Claire (Last House On the Left's Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) decide to pull some Ghosthunters action and see if they can find any genuine evidence of its supposed supernatural guests. Along the way, they kinda sorta help out the natural guests: an aggravated single mom with her young son, a mysterious old man, and a former sitcom star (Stakeland’s Kelly McGillis).
What follows is some chipper banter between Claire and the nerdy Luke, followed ever so slowly by the confirmation that yes indeed, there’s a ghost afoot at the Pedlar Inn. Much like House of the Devil, the film’s style is to charm us with its lead before subjecting her to all sorts of scary movie hijinks…at the last possible minute.
I hate being this kind of person when discussing film, but here goes:
The Innkeepers is no House of the Devil.
Now in most worlds, this would be more than fine. No director should spend his or her career making the same film over and over again (helLO Tim Burton), but the issue is that The Innkeepers feels like it’s trying so hard to BE The House of the Devil with a softer edge. It’s not just the concept of the film being a throwback to late ‘70s genre style; it’s that the pacing and characterization feel directly cut from the same fabric, just dyed a different color or some other analogous comment. There’s even a Greta Gerwig stand-in (Lena Girls Dunham as a chatty barista) tossed in for comic relief.
So logic would dictate that if you liked The House of the Devil, you’ll like The Innkeepers…but I didn’t. I didn’t because it wasn’t ever dark enough to be genuinely scary, nor could it ever find its solid footing as comedy. The climax happens in 10 minutes (I know—just like HotD) but for me, it simply did nothing.
As an hour-long Masters of Horror episode, The Innkeepers would have worked great. Perhaps it will age well in ten years as a sort of underrated good genre film that people expected the wrong thing from the first time around. I won’t rule that out. I just also have no desire to rewatch it soon and make that decision.
Much like Jocelin Donahue’s one-woman show in House of the Devil, Sara Paxton finds the perfect notes to make Claire likable, cute, and sympathetic
You know how annoyed I get when horror films make obvious and forced homage to older classics? (i.e., look at how I named my characters Romero and Carpenter!). Hence my utter glee when Luke informs Claire that he took Room 216 and she responds “Of course.” Now anyone with a passing familiarity to The Shining will deduce Room 216 gives a comfortable closeness to Room 217 and can get the joke without another word of explanation. THIS is how you honor a past film
The utter disappointment I felt watching something mediocre and unambitious from a director that I know can do better
Saying I love you on IM is like saying it during sex
Psychic conventions are generally held in small Pennsylvanian towns
Never skimp on bread. You’ll always regret it
Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa????? Moment of Me Watching the Film
I was eager to explore IMDB because I thought the little boy was played by the same child actors as Lysa Aryan’s 6-year-old-and-still-happy-to-
be-breastfed son on Game of Thrones. Sadly, he is not, but GUESS WHAT? The character’s mother? Gina from the early ‘90s era Sesame Street. I have no idea how to feel about that, other than glad she’s not breast-feeding her too-old son
It’s easy to blame my disappointment with The Innkeepers on expectation. But if Ti West was worried that people would be disappointed with Not The House of the Devil, then why make a film that carries so much of The House of the Devil into every frame? Anyway, this is, as you would expect, decently made, affectionately scored, and well-acted. It just did not work for me in the least. I’d love to hear people tell me I’m wrong, so if there’s something I didn’t get, go head and give it to me. Especially if it’s loaded with cheese. I’m really hungry.