What a surprise, an old Inn is haunted by a ghost, I never would have thought that was possible!
Written By: Ti West
Directed By: Ti West
All jesting from the opening blurb aside, The Innkeepers isn’t a fresh plunge into the world of horror. We have seen this scenario and setup before, but that’s okay. That’s right folks, pure originality has been dead for a long time now. It’s no longer a question of being original, nowadays it’s about how a filmmaker can take what we know and offer something fresh from within that known sphere. Ti West attempts to offer something fresh with The Innkeepers by focusing on build and suspense in lieu of scares and what most people think of as horror. For two thirds of the film Mr. West’s approach is highly effective, but the the final third happens and it was the equivalent of not being able to break open a pinata on your birthday party.
As he showed in the excellent The House Of The Devil, Mr. West is a huge fan of building suspense in his movies. He showed that he understands the value of the payoff, but in The House of The Devil, and most of The Innkeepers, he used a delicate hand to keep the viewer in his grip as he moved towards a payoff. The time we get to spend with the characters in The Innkeepers, and there aren’t many of them, allows us to get to know them. In a movie like The Innkeepers it’s important to know what drives the characters, or in the case of the two layabouts at the core of the film, what makes them drift through life. In many small moments Mr. West uses character beats to let us know the characters and to build to suspenseful moments at the same time.
I really like the way that Mr. West builds the suspense in his films. There aren’t any true jump scares, in fact he lets the audience know when a possible jump scare is coming. By doing that he lets the audience know that The Innkeepers isn’t about things jumping out at them. No, his movie is about building a palpable atmosphere and making the actions of its characters believable. It’s important, to me at least, that I believe in the characters in a movie like The Innkeepers. On that front Mr. West has succeeded tremendously, as I can feel the listlessness of Luke and the earnestness of Claire. By believing in the characters I am able to further buy into the suspense, that cycle needs to be complete in a movie like The Innkeepers and thankfully it is.
The final third of The Innkeepers is a major problem, and truth to be told it undermines much of what came before in the film. Mr. West had been building the film to a definite payoff, but then he sidesteps the payoff and offers an empty final ten or so minutes. Without the payoff all of the suspense and character building doesn’t feel as true. The atmosphere that has been so lovingly crafted slowly dissipates until there’s nothing left of what had once driven the movie so adroitly. I was able to accept the mad dash payoff of The House Of The Devil, but I do feel let down by the non-ending provided by Mr. West In The Innkeepers.
I really enjoyed the first two thirds of The Innkeepers, but it was really disappointing to realize the film didn’t bother with an actual ending. For most of the movie I was highly impressed with what I was watching, but the ending, or lack thereof, is a real problem. I know that a lot of horror fans will love the crafted suspense of the first two thirds of The Innkeepers (although I am aware that there is a very large group of horror fans who do not like Mr. West’s slow build approach). I am one of those fans, but I know that many horror fans will be disappointed by the finale of the film. I know I was, and that’s a shame because The Innkeepers had the potential to be a great horror film.