Filmmaker Ti West has built his name on a number of low budget successes. The latest of those, The Innkeepers, was released December 30th on VOD via Magnet Releasing and will get a limited theatrical run starting on February 3rd. His last film, The House of the Devil garnered him high critical and fan praise. Now, he’s back with the story of a haunted hotel, and the final two employees that are staying there for the last weekend before it closes. Luke (Pat Healy) is an older, nerdy guy who is very into his own interests. He spends most of his time on the internet, seeking out stories of paranormal investigations and posting on forums.
His only co-worker, Claire (Sara Paxton) is equally dorky, and despite her best intentions, she’s an even bigger mess than Luke. Neither seems to have a plan for when the hotel closes, and the owner is already off ignoring the problem. They have few final guests, and one is Leanne Rease-Jones (Kelly McGillis), former actress and current psychic medium. When Claire explains the past of the hotel, that a woman was murdered and her body hidden in the basement, Leanne reads the spirits of the hotel and tells Claire not to go into the basement.
Late at night, on her shift to watch the front desk, Claire gets bored and decides to do some EVP recording with Luke’s equipment. When she hears the piano playing by itself, she suspects the ghost of the murdered woman was the one doing it. When she tells Luke, he is intrigued, after all, their mutual interest in investigating the hotel spurned from Luke’s stories of encounters with the spirit.
When Claire further investigates the next night, she is drawn to sounds in the basement, and freaks herself out. When she leads Leanne into the basement to see what sparked her interest, Leanne has a freak out and leaves the basement immediately, telling Claire to stay out. A final guest comes to the hotel and requests a specific room, and he doesn’t mind that it has no furniture due to the floor being closed for the final weekend.
When Luke and Claire call out the spirit on the final night of the hotel’s operation, Luke gets terrified of the whispers they hear, and leaves the hotel in a fit, admitting he never had any encounters with spirits at the hotel. Claire is left to find answers for herself, and this is where things get crazy.
Like House of the Devil, The Innkeepers is a slow build-up of character moments that leads to a final, shocking showdown. The joy of the film is the way in which it presents its characters, and why they are fulfilling the story being told. It doesn’t hurt that the entire film is expertly shot, with interesting shot compositions and camera movements that make each scene interesting and different. Ti West knows exactly what he is looking for in each scene, and he gets it. The Innkeepers is a fun, scary haunted hotel film, and it exists in a modern genre all its own. Yes, it borrows heavily from horror films of the 70’s and 80’s, but like House of the Devil, it is post modern in its approach, but the end result fits in nicely with the films it is inspired by. This is what fanboy filmmaking should be like.
Both leads have fun with the two lead characters, and the script is miles smarter than it has any right to be. This is because Ti West understands what makes the films he loves good, and how to extrapolate those themes into his own work. The fact that he edits his own films (and shoots with a great eye for editing) makes the whole thing into a neat little package.
Magnet Releasing has released The Innkeepers via VOD, so check your favorite platforms and rent the movie now, unless you live in one of the major markets (NY, LA, Chicago, Dallas) that might get the film when it hits a limited theatrical run on February 3rd, 2012. Kudos to Magnet for continuing to make smart, interesting films of all genres available to the people that want to see them with minimal overhead, without shunning the theatrical life of films. Still not sold? Hear West’s plea:
“Every time you purchase something you are making a statement. You are creating physical evidence that something has value. If something has a high value, then it becomes in high demand. So if you make a concerted effort to support lesser-known, interesting and esoteric things (Art?) then you are helping make those lesser-known things more popular. I’m sure we can all agree that there are incredible movies made every year that never get the attention they deserve – That’s not the movies’ fault. That is our collective fault for not being proactive enough to GO OUT OF OUR WAY to support them.
So yes, I want you to go out of your way and pay for my movie. Not because I’m greedy, but because if the movie makes money (whomever for) that’s tangible evidence of a paying audience out there for movies like mine. For independent films. For something different. Not just bland remakes/sequels or live action versions of comic books/cartoons/boardgames. This is a powerful time for the consumer. With a small platform release like ours (VOD/Theatrical), it’s been made incredibly easy for you to support the film…You don’t even have to get out of bed.”
There ya go.