THE INNKEEPERS – Fantastic Fest Review
When I first saw writer and director Ti West’s HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it at first, but after a second viewing, not only did I love it, I also learned something about the films of Ti West… there’s more than meets the eye upon your first viewing. The same can be said about Ti West’s new film THE INNKEEPERS, a smart, funny film with plenty of old school scares and a subtle twist to the haunted house genre.
Ti West has come to be known as one of the most important new filmmakers of the indie horror scene and THE INNKEEPERS is a great example of why that statement is as true as it bold. Unlike many contemporary horror filmmakers today, Ti West moves beyond the standard shock and awe strategy of gore and violence. In its place, West fills his films with a genuine atmosphere of reality-based creepiness, flavored with nostalgia and quality storytelling with tangible characters.
THE INNKEEPER is a tale about two employees, Claire and Luke, who are the lone employees during a historic hotel’s final weekend of business. Luke (Pat Healy) is an amateur “ghost hunter” determined to record proof that the hotel is haunted before it closes, while Claire (Sara Paxton) is there to help as they take turns taking shifts. Fortunately, the hotel has only two guests; a mother in a bad mood with her little girl, followed shortly after by a famous actress (played by Kelly McGillis) with whom Claire is infatuated.
In short, the story revolves as much around the awkwardly familiar relationship between Claire and Luke as it does the haunted mystery of the hotel’s ghostly past. THE INNKEEPERS weaves a charming story that unfolds with the precision of a Swiss army knife, revealing only what’s necessary for the audience to piece together on their own and nothing more, but it’s the perfect portioning for a scary tale that will appeal to a much wider audience than some of its more graphically intense counterparts.
Pat Healy seems to be channeling a little bit of Simon Pegg in his performance as the sarcastic slacker who’s too cool for his own geekiness. Sara Paxton, on the other hand, is unbearably cute as the slightly oblivious and nerdy Claire, fully absorbed within her own curiosity and very easily scared. The chemistry between these two characters give THE INNKEEPERS a lot of its most enjoyably playful moments, while Ti West builds the more frightening elements of the story one brick at a time until the surprisingly simple but brilliantly jaw dropping climax, which will have audiences talking on a level not experienced since opening weekend of THE SIXTH SENSE. On that note, I’ll watch THE INNKEEPERS over and over again before doing the same with Shyamalan’s blockbuster… THE INNKEEPERS has more staying power.
I hesitate in calling THE INNKEEPERS a family-friendly movie, as that tends to convey a level of disrespect for many seasoned fans of the horror genre, but the truth is… Ti West has masterfully crafted an intensely creepy, scary horror-thriller that can be seen and appreciated by audiences of virtually all ages, but does not bend at the knee to dumb down the story, delivering well crafted dialogue with humor and likable, real characters. One of my top 5 favorite films of Fantastic Fest 2011, I’d have to call this my #1 film to recommend from the fest. THE INNKEEPERS currently does not have a theatrical release date, but will become available through Video On Demand on December 30th, 2011. Its really a shame, because THE INNKEEPERS plays marvelously in a crowded theater.