Sunday, 1 June 2014

The Innkeepers


To even the most rational and sceptical of people there is something irresistible about a good ghost story. We've all heard it a thousand times before, family move in to house, unexplainable events start happening, things start to turn nasty, outside help is bought in to fight the ghost and final battle ahoy! Poltergeist, The Amityville Horror, The Shining, Paranormal Activity, The Conjuring... The list goes on. 

The only scary thing about
Most Haunted is how many people
believed that bull shit
So with The Innkeepers, the divisive Ti West presents the story of Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) who work at the soon to be closing down Yankee Pedlar Inn, a hotel which, as is demonstrated in the extensive opening credits, has a lot of local history. Left to run the hotel whilst the owner is away, they use their time as an opportunity to indulge in their passion for the supernatural. They go about some basic paranormal investigation techniques focusing mainly on EVP, the capturing of unexplained voices using electronic sound recording equipment. During their investigations a couple of extra guests turn up at the hotel, an old widower (George Riddle) who wants to re-live the memories of his honeymoon with his wife and a retired, once famous, actress in town for a conference (Kelly McGillis). The aged television star reveals her psychic abilities to Claire and eventually warns her that they must leave the hotel before the ghostly forces turn upon them.

The elements of this story are found a million times over in literature, movies and television. The now thankfully waning popularity of ghost hunter reality TV shows was churning out the same tired back story week after week. The only hope for a touch of originality here came in the form of the lean-faced mumblecore scare master Ti West himself. I thoroughly enjoyed The House Of The Devil,  very little actually happened but the tension created within that nothingness was a testament to great horror film-making. The Innkeepers fell way short of that high standard. The tone is frustratingly light with a bouncy orchestral score that wouldn’t be out of place in a Tex Avery cartoon. Pat Healy is sporting a bizarre Little Rascals hair style and Sara Paxton is a ukulele song away from a Zooey Deschanel performance.

That problem was wholy due to my expectations however and by no means a judgement call on the film itself. So, once the tone was established it was a case of sitting back and letting it all unravel. For the most part I guess it can be said to be a realistic portrayal of a paranormal investigation, by which I mean, nothing happens. A trait that is becoming the directors trade mark, but I know the magnificent Ti West's ability to ratchet up the suspense so I wasn't going to let the slow pace put me off. Unfortunately though the whole thing stays pretty limp, with the tension ratchet handle left uncranked, screaming for Ti West to grip it with his oh so capable hands and give it a damn good cranking.............. Sorry. 

There are a few well performed (if not a little cheap) jump scares and the ending is unexpected but in general the whole thing is just boring. Maybe as a half hour possibly even an hour long film it would have held up. At the very least Ti West is still championing good 'old fashioned' film making, The Innkeepers floating above the mire of found-footage horror shit in which the genre is drowning. The acting is good, script passable and cinematography is nice but none of that saves it from it's own dullness. I am starting to struggle to defend Mr. West after this and his lackluster V/H/S entry. Hopefully his newest - The Sacrament will justify my positive feelings.

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