You down with EVP/ Yeah you know me!
Directed by: Ti West
Stars: Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, and Kelly McGillis
MPAA Rating: R
Ghost stories come in all varieties. Some can be quiet tales of inner turmoil the likes of Shirley Jackson or THE SIXTH SENSE. Others can be violent tales of possession or oppression like THE AMITYVILLE HORROR or INSIDIOUS. Ti West, creator of THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, brings us his own supernatural offering with THE INNKEEPERS. Does he make the goosebumps crawl or our hairs stand on end?
THE INNKEEPERS are Claire and Luke, two young people tasked with overseeing business operations of the Yankee Pedlar Inn during its last weekend before the doors are closed permanently. They opt to stay in the hotel all weekend long to perform some final EVP sessions for Luke’s paranormal website and to attempt to contact Madeline O’Malley, the spirit that reportedly haunts the inn. Do overactive imaginations get the better of their fatigued constitutions, or is there genuine ghostly activity of a possible threatening nature?
Writer, Director, and Editor Ti West has expertly crafted an effective, old-fashioned spook story with THE INNKEEPERS. It is deliberately paced, allowing the characters and events to unfold organically instead of forcing information and exposition unto the audience. It maintains a nice atmosphere throughout sprinkled with a few tense scenes here and there, but reserves most of its scares for the final stretch of the movie. This film is a terrific example of build-up and payoff with each terrifying moment at the climax working like a charm.
A lot of those moments work in large part due to terrific performances from the cast. Sara Paxton leads the charge as the subdued and slightly withdrawn Claire, playing her as bored but never dull. Pat Healy complements her beautifully as the odd and quirky Luke, giving us a character who is distinct but never overbearing. Kelly McGillis gets the stereotypical role of weathered spiritual elder, Leane, but plays her convincingly. The supporting cast also delivers in their small, sometimes very intriguing ways.
Technically, the film is well-suited to its material. The cinematography and sound design convey the loneliness of the locale with ease, whilst also appropriately staging the more intense setpieces with moody lighting and audio. The special effects are very well-done. As previously stated, the scares are limited, but the film does not shy away from shedding some blood and providing some ghoulish sights. All seem low-budget yet still professionally accomplished. I couldn’t spy any CGI effects, so if any is present they are effectively woven in and underplayed. The music score by Jeff Grace also deserves a mention. It manages to be haunting and eerie when needed, but allows the scares to work on their own. It never telegraphs to the audience what they should be feeling, instead accompanying us and the characters on the journey. It’s quite beautiful as well.
It’s important to note that this film won’t be for all horror fans. Those looking for a fast-paced, thrill-a-minute rollercoaster will be severely disappointed. Gorehounds looking for consistent visceral kicks should also steer clear. However, if you want a more thoughtful horror experience with great performances and impressive production value, you can’t go wrong with THE INNKEEPERS.
THE INNKEEPERS is currently available via Video on Demand. It will play a limted run in theaters starting February 3rd. The film comes highly recommended by this critic.
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