What It's About: 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.
Review: I was incredibly impressed with Ti West's 2009 thriller The House of the Devil. It was literally a time capsule back into the 1980s, right when there was a mass hysteria regarding satanic cults who would kidnap and brainwash civilians, commit heinous murders, and generally were the scapegoat for the time period. So needless to say, I went into The Innkeepers with high expectations. Ti West definitely has a definitive style in creating a creep factor - while I found Innkeepers to be a little predictable at times, I still found myself yelling classically at the screen - "don't go down those stairs, stupid!" "Get out! Get out now!" It's certainly not a film for everyone, but for those who like a good old fashioned ghost story...
It's the last weekend for the Yankee Pedlar Inn, and the remaining staff members (reclusive and nerdy Luke, and his sidekick manic pixie Claire) are staying the entire weekend in order to cater to the few guests who have chosen to remain at the inn for this auspicious occasion. Throughout his time at the inn, Luke has built a small website, advertising the inn's resident ghost, Madeleine O'Malley; what inn worth its salt doesn't have a ghost? It's one of the last prominent features of a building that has seen better days. The inn itself is gorgeous in its reproduction of 18th century America, with Victorian furnishings and a full piano in the lobby. The third floor has been sectioned off and stripped, leaving only the first and second floors available for vacancy, something that isn't a problem because there are so few guests.
The theme of relationships runs very strongly through this film and each seems to portray some aspect of the story of Madeleine O'Malley. There's Claire and Luke, a mother and her son, a retired actress turned medium, and a widower. The mother has brought her son to the inn for a few days, staying away from her apparent craptastic husband in order to teach him what he is missing when she's not around. The widower has returned to the site of his honeymoon for one last trip of nostalgia. Claire and Luke most obviously represent Madeleine and her cold-footed fiancé; Lee, a retired television actress turned spiritual guide, gives the explanation of how it's all tied together, or at least, in my mind, that was how it was meant to be perceived. In her words, everything is connected, there is no beginning, no end. Almost as though everything is preordained, meant to be, and we have no control; we are merely passengers along for the ride.
Though the bumps and scares are scattered very sparsely throughout the film, it's very consistent and the tension is always on par. This is certainly a slower film, and it's meant to be that way: it's a slow boil (much in the vein of The House of the Devil, but I would venture to say that Innkeepers is faster) to the finish line. Like most stories, it's not about the ending, but about the journey along the way - Claire invests in Luke's project, insistent that they find some kind of final proof of Madeleine's existence before the inn is closed and torn down. Her fervor in seeking out paranormal phenomenon may be what wakens the inn's "other" inhabitants to begin with; when things start getting too hot for Luke, he 'fesses up and reveals that he never saw Madeleine at all, that he never heard or saw anything. Much like Madeleine's groom who left her at the altar, he splits, unable to deal with the pressure that is mounting and the frightening spectral activity that seems to be taking over Claire's mind.
For what I found predictable, the moment the widower set foot in the honeymoon suite, I could tell instantly what his intentions were. I thought it would be interesting if it turned out that he was Madeleine's cold-footed fiancé, but I don't think he was old enough to meet the requirements. One thing that I do really enjoy about Ti West's films is that they leave a lot of questions, letting the viewer think for themselves and come to various conclusions - it makes you want to watch the film over and over, to see if there are clues scattered throughout. But in the long run, the important details of the story are there; anything else that is left unanswered was considered dead weight and sloughed off like unnecessary skin. Again, I believe the main theme of the film is relationships, not necessarily those between people but also those found in nature, like between the living and the dead.
Just because you can't see them, doesn't mean they're not there.
Overall, The Innkeepers is just as satisfying as both a film and as a horror film. If you enjoyed The House of the Devil and don't mind both character and story development along with your scares, I highly recommend Innkeepers; it will keep you up at night.
For those interested, the Yankee Pedlar Inn is real!