Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Innkeepers - Movie Review

I watched The Innkeepers last night and it's interesting that this was released the same week as The Woman in Black.  Both are ghost/haunted house stories, but set in different times.  They had drastically different feels (and presumably budgets) about them.  You'll have to forgive me if I make a lot of comparisons to The Woman in Black in this review, but when you release two ghost/haunted house movies in the same week, that's what you're going to get.

The Innkeepers is about Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy), two hotel employees working for an old hotel, The Yankee Pedlar Inn.  The Yankee Pedlar Inn, which is actually a real hotel, is closing soon (in the movie, not in real life), so it's largely unoccupied and running on a skeleton crew.  Skeleton crew!  Ha!  Do you see what I did there?  Initially, you think that these two are ghost hunters, but then it becomes clear after a bit they are just bored employees, passing time until the hotel closes.

As with all ghost stories, the hotel has a history that explains the hauntings and mysterious events.  What I liked about how it was handled in The Innkeepers is that, unlike a movie like The Woman in Black, they don't spend too much time on the back story or even try to solve the mystery.  I'm not going to either.  The story is  just about how Claire and Luke are tying to capture evidence of ghosts that they can put on on a website they are working on.

You spend time getting to know Claire, who is an adorable, somewhat clueless, goofball and Luke, who's awkward and clueless in his own right.  The one hotel guest that gets any significant story time is Leanne (Kelly McGillis), a former actress and now spiritual healer/psychic.  Leanne's talents come into play once Claire confides with her about what they are doing and she even tries to help them make contact with the ghost of the hotel.

The first 40 minutes or so felt like it was played for laughs more than anything, which I didn't mind.  Movies like this would benefit from not taking themselves so seriously.  It helps being a little tongue-in-cheek.  Break the tension up, you know?  The problem is that way too much time goes by before anything happens.  For a movie that's 101 minutes long, there's just too much dead time.  Ha!  Dead!  I did it again!

The last 20 minutes or so the tension does ramp up and there are some genuinely creepy moments that actually gave me the chills.  It's pretty rare when a movie can actually creep me out on any level, so it gets extra points for doing that.

Another thing I really liked in The Innkeepers is that they did a lot without showing you much, having fancy effects, or relying on lots of jump scares.  It's more atmosphere and creepy noises and it's used to good effect. I criticized The Woman in Black for using too many jump scares, but on the other hand, I felt like The Innkeepers might have benefited from using more of them.

The performances are all fine.  The story focuses on Claire and I think Sara Paxton did a good job with the role.  I kind of have a thing for her though, so I might be a little biased.  I thought Paxton was the only good thing about Shark Night, by the way.  I was surprised to find out that Leanne was played by Kelly McGillis.  I didn't recognize her.

This was written, directed and edited by Ti West.  I think I like this guy.  I really like the effort here.  However, as I've alluded to earlier, I think the real problem of this movie was the editing.  This movie is a good 15 minutes too long.  If this had been cut down into the 85-88 minute range, I think it would have felt a lot more tense and then my above point about needing more jump scares would be moot.  I can understand wanting full control over the finished product, but West really should have let someone else edit the film.

The Innkeepers is a good movie betrayed by it's length and early slowness.  I appreciated it though for what it tried to do with what it had to work with.  If you like ghost stories and you're willing to wait it out, I do think the end was worth it.  It is genuinely creepy.  The Innkeepers is currently available On Demand and in limited theaters.  I'm not going to say to rush to your cable box and pay for it, but if you can round up a friend or two to watch it with you, go for it.  Turn off the lights and turn up the volume, especially if you have a good surround sound system.

3 (out of 5) Death Stars - If this movie had been 15 min shorter, it's a 3.5 or a 4.

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