A couple of years ago, young director Ti West made a little horror movie called ‘The House of the Devil’ that got horror fans all in a salivating tizzy, and a film we liked quite a bit here at the FCU. Fast forward a couple of years and we see that Mr. West has jumped back in the director’s chair to craft a ghost story that we had heard was even better than ‘The House of the Devil’. Uh…. Okay.
It’s the final days at the Yankee Peddler, a cozy little hotel that nobody stays at, in a cozy little town that very few people live in. Right now the Yankee Peddler has a staff of two in Amateur ghost hunters Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy). One of the reasons the Yankee Peddler could be closing might be because Claire and Luke absolutely suck at their insanely simple jobs. Seriously, the hotel has one resident and these two losers can’t keep that one lousy room stocked with towels.
But considering that the hotel does have a history behind it, something involving the wrongful death of a young woman way back when, I guess our ghost hunters have something more important to do than their jobs. This important something being surfing the internet, listening to static on the ghost microphone apparatus, and if you happen to be Luke… sleeping a lot.
Then the Yankee Peddler gets another guest in drunken famous actress Lee Rease-Jones, as played by Kelly McGillis who is looking a lot like the late actor James Coburn these days. Hey, we loved James Coburn so don’t be giving me a hard time. Anyway, why is this famous actress here at this out of the way hotel that’s closing in two days? At first we thought she was just there to be rude to Claire, clearly disappointed that the young woman isn’t something we would call ‘goal oriented’, but she is there for a couple of reasons beyond that. One of these reasons is to discover the bottom of her bottle of Vodka, but the second reason is a little more mysterious.
And so it goes. Luke sleeps while Claire hears weird sounds, freaks out and takes a couple of hits from her inhaler. If anybody in a movie uses an inhaler, I think we all
know it will either not be available when they need it most, or it will be drained when they need it most. This much we know. After an eternity of what some may call ‘suspenseful build up’ but what others my call ‘boredom’, the real weird stuff starts happening. The final guest shows up and he’s a weirdo, the dead chick shows up and she’s not happy, Luke joins Claire in freak out mode, and Claire needs her inhaler. Just like you knew she would. But is any of it real? Who the hell knows?
Now with ‘The Innkeepers’, if Ti West’s goal was to illustrate to the audience, at least this audience member, what it’s like to have an incredibly boring, dead end job on an incredibly slow night with not a lot to do… then my man has pulled that off. I mean Sara Paxton is a cute kid and all, but watching Claire look at her computer or watching Claire walk down long brightly lit halls or watching Claire listen to static on a pair of headphones was a challenge. I know these scenes were designed to build up suspension, I know these scenes were supposed to be designed in such a way that I was supposed to be as scared as Claire was listening to this static or walked down those long brightly lit hallways, I know this was all prep for the big payoff when Scary Mary or whoever this woman was supposed to be showed up, but none of that was working for me.
But that’s cool though because we’ve been bored to death in horror movies before only to have it all turn around when the Big Payoff Explodes! That moment that we’ve been waiting for when everything becomes clear and it sends that chill down your spine because you’ve missed the obvious up to that point. That moment you learn that the crazed killer is actually making the phone calls from inside the house, that Carrie really isn’t dead in that grave, that you’re one of those dead people that freaky kid is looking at. Now the big payoff might arrived in ‘The Innkeepers’, but unfortunately it went right over my head if it did come, which isn’t an inconceivable notion.
The Scary Mary premise wasn’t developed near well enough to have any kind of impact when she did finally show up, since I didn’t really know what she was all pissy about, but she did look freaky at least. It wasn’t like there wasn’t ample time to develop this, instead of watching Claire’s large blue eyes look at computer screens or watching Luke sleep. Don’t ask me who the old man was that checked in late, because I don’t know. The old actress might’ve been a drunk and all, but apparently she knew what was going on from the get go. Did she tell us? No she did not. She just looked out the window, like I was supposed interpret that action in some kind of meaningful way.
Hey, we liked ‘House of the Devil’ over here at the FCU. A lot. A bunch of people more knowledgeable than me liked this movie more than ‘House of the Devil’ a lot more. This time around we must respectfully disagree with those knowledgeable people.