Blu Ray Review: The Innkeepers

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MSRP $34.98
STUDIO Dark Sky Films
RUNNING TIME 101 Minutes
• Feature Length Commentary with Ti West, Peter Phok, Larry Fessenden and Graham Reznick
• Feature Length Commentary with Ti West, Sara Paxton and Pat Healy
• The Innkeepers: Behind the Scenes Featurette
• Trailer

The Pitch

Another Retro styled indie horror film by love or hate him Ti West, based on amateur ghost hunters in their last weekend working at a haunted hotel..

The Humans

Director Ti West Actors Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis

The Nutshell

During the final days at the Yankee Pedlar Inn, two employees determined to reveal the hotel’s haunted past begin to experience disturbing events as old guests check in for a stay.

Nothing screams 70s like the overhead stairs with old carpeting.

The Lowdown

The biggest hype about this movie is that Ti West directed it. This is my third experience of his work and even though I don’t believe each of them to be masterpieces, this guy is extremely consistent and the more I see of him the more I respect him. The House of the Devil was at the forefront of the retro horror films, imitating credits, sound and film from the 80s. His film arguably kicked off at least 4 dozen low budget imitations in which almost none of them captured the slow crawling, tension building, character driven and jump inducing atmosphere West demonstrated in his own limited expense gem. I didn’t fall in love with House like quite a few other horror fans I know, but I did respect it. It took me back to my youth and it didn’t resort to the torture porn characteristics of today.

The second piece I saw from West was his short ‘Second Honeymoon’ segment in my favorite film of the year so far, V/H/S. While I found his piece to be the second weakest segment in the horror anthology, one thing was clear, his style never left me wondering which of the six segments he was responsible for. He played the crawling tension again, with a renegade styling that just didn’t work as well in such a limited time frame. I enjoyed his short, and thought it was better than most of the last decade of crap Hollywood tries to pass as horror and for it to be part of one of the best horror anthologies I have ever seen, it nowhere close to being a failure and establishes Ti West as a director for me to keep on my radar. With the right project, this guy will hit a home run.

The Innkeepers once again spends the first half of the film with only a few attempts at scares, but it establishes the characters. The main story revolves around a haunted hotel in Connecticut that is about to close its doors for good, and the rumored ghost that haunts the almost abandoned establishment. There is a distinctive play on the modern amateur ghost hunting trend that seems to have popped up due to popular ghost chasing tv series. The entire weight of the film centers around you caring for the characters, and if the lengthy time you spend getting to know them ends up being tedious, the movie will ultimately fail for you. The characters will either engage you to keep watching or bore you to tears.

Pat Healy’s Luke is a porn addicted techno geek who spends little time alone on the screen, but interplays with the other characters very well, but in a way that establishes him as a recluse. He seems to work the front desk at the hotel much more than our heroine, and also seems to have a better grasp on the clientele in the hotel. It was very easy to identify his motives early into the film as he maintains his Simon Pegg look alike non typical hero and shy demeanor with Paxton.

The benefits have to be better at Embassy Suites!

Sara Paxton is forever trapped in low budget horror, and I think that’s good for the indie horror genre. She always seems so relaxed in her characters, whether playing the emotionally scarred coed in Shark Night, the raped teen in Last House on the Left(remake) or her quirky but sexy and smart protagonist here. She is every nerds dream in this flick, both cute and smart, snobby to strangers but approachable to friends. She makes you want to cuddle her when something ghost like scares her and jump/run/skip as she runs to do something for a customer. Her character is continuously intrigued by the past and the supposed haunted history of the hotel.

The pacing of the film is exactly what West previously delivered in the other films I have seen of his. This man was really born two decades too late. This film, with a few technology changes, could easily be directly from the late 70s or early 80s. The score and sound effects are used to build and craft a creepy atmosphere. The dark settings with dull lighting enforce the standards defined by all ghost stories dating back to Hammer/Vincent Price stuff. There are even times where you can noticeably see scenes stretched for tension building by witnessing artifacts from changing the frame rate with editing and not with the camera (usually duplicating frames on a timed basis, leading to a jumpy almost non-interlaced motion). That effect could be perceived as a lack of footage, but I honestly believe it is West’s attention to detail and his deep seated retro style.

The film could have used more of this.

If retro styling was all it took to make a masterpiece, I would gladly say Ti West is just as gifted as Refn. The difference though is the final product. The Innkeepers starts slow but strong. If you can stay interested until when the pace picks up it really becomes gripping. The problem is, with a few moments of exception, the pace never increases until the last 15 minutes of this 100 minute film. Younger audiences rarely want to wait 85 minutes to get rewarded with what they consider horror. We normally need one death early on, with some torturing in the second act and a showdown in the third. West sticks to his guns and we barely get anything besides a creepy environment until well into the third act. The worst part of that is that there is also an epilogue, so that means the more gripping scenes take less than 7 or 8 minutes out of that 100 minutes. That used to happen with a lot in the late 70s and early 80s ghost stories. That’s also the reason a lot of people gave up on them.

I understand there is a big split of opinion on this film (even though I tried not to read or let myself be tainted by a single review, I have seen the Ti West discussions and this brought into them), and this film plays right into the problem a lot of people have with the director. I personally enjoy the retro feel as long as it’s the exception in the horror I watch. I do hope that West shows he can make more than this one style of film, because if he can add this much flavor to a bland story with few thrills, I am dying to see what he can do with a more interesting concept (I know he wrote the story too, but I think he has better to come).

If this is your tenant, it’s time to leave.

The Package

The Blu Ray is kind of bare bones for a genre film by an up and coming director with a dedicated fan following. I would have expected more along the lines of deleted scenes, interactive hotel tours and maybe some history of the hotel without having to listen to the commentaries. Speaking of commentaries, Ti West appears on two of them, the first with the technical side involving the producers and the sound/second unit director Graham Raznick. The other commentary is much more fun involving the actors and has a lot more joking without losing sight of the topics of the film. There is also a short Behind the scenes making of featurette that has some interviews and details on the location. Overall, a little dry for a BD release, but not horrible.


Out of a Possible 5 Stars

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