“If you expect nothing from people, then you go through life being pleasantly surprised.”
Perhaps the fact that I went into this film with high expectations is the reason why I ended up feeling disappointed. I should’ve taken the hotel employee’s advice and not expected much from it and perhaps then I could’ve been pleasantly surprised. Although I hadn’t seen a film from Ti West, I had heard great things about him (and I did enjoy You’re Next, a film he had a supporting role in). It had also been well received by critics when it was first released and I can see why West’s visual style was appealing. There are some great shots and he takes his time to slowly build the atmosphere, but after having seen The Conjuring we learned that it’s possible to do those things while also being frightening. My greatest complaint is that this haunted hotel tale isn’t scary at all and it never unsettled me. There were perhaps two slightly disturbing scenes, but there wasn’t more than that so I found it hard to identify with the main protagonist’s fear. I had no problem with the slow pace because I actually enjoy it when they take time to build the characters, but the fact that the film never goes anywhere interesting was a downer. In the end it was just another ordinary and predictable ghost tale that simply told its story in a rather unconventional slow pace.
The film begins with an establishing shot of the Yankee Pedlar Inn, a hotel that has been operating for more than a century. Business hasn’t been going too well as more and more claims of the hotel’s haunted past has affected its attendance. Only two employees remain for the final weekend that the hotel will stay open, and before it shuts its doors forever Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) are determined to find evidence of the haunting. We learn from their interaction with each other that a guest named Madeline O’Malley committed suicide in the hotel years ago and in order to avoid the bad press the owners decided to hide the body in the basement. They are convinced that it is her ghost that is scaring off the guests. Currently only two people are staying in the hotel: a mother with her son and a former actress named Leanne (Kelly McGillis ) who is in town for a conference. It isn’t long before Claire finds evidence that the hotel is haunted indeed.
The Innkeepers never works as a horror film because the hauntings never deliver scares, but many have appreciated it more for the relationship between the two co-workers. They feel like authentic and real characters and the movie does take its time to build that relationship. Paxton an Healy deliver solid performances, although Paxton gives somewhat of a campy performance at times. There are some inconsistencies with the characters and the things they say and do. For instance, Claire is warned by Leanne not to go to the basement and then a few scenes later both of them go into the basement to explore it. Leanne makes contact with these spirits in the hotel and refers to them as “they,” but the only evidence of the hotel being haunted at the moment is Madeline’s ghost and the film never explores what Leanne was referring to. Lena Dunham also has a supporting role here but her character is underused and that entire scene between her and Paxton could’ve been deleted from the film. There were several scenes like that one that never really went anywhere and didn’t seem to do anything to build the story.