Sunday, June 17, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—The Innkeepers (2012) ***

R, 101 min.
Director/Writer: Ti West
Starring: Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis, George Riddle

“The Innkeepers” is the second horror film by writer/director Ti West. West has a classic approach to horror, one straight out of seventies filmmaking. His first film, “House of the Devil”, felt like it could’ve been made in the seventies, and also was one of the best horror films I’ve seen in recent years. His follow up isn’t quite as impressive, but it’s still a solid piece of filmmaking.

The story behind “The Innkeepers” is almost as interesting as the film itself. When on location filming “House of the Devil”, the crew of the movie was told by the hotel staff about how the place they were staying was haunted. The staff was fully convinced of the fact that there were ghosts in the hotel; and by the end of their stay, much of the movie crew were beginning to believe it as well. West observed that the belief of the paranormal presence was based as much on the passionate belief of the staff and townspeople as it was in any actual unexplainable events. So, he came up with this screenplay about two hotel staff members convinced that their place of work is haunted.

West placed his script in the very establishment his crew had stayed during the filming of their first film. He was determined to film the second in the very hotel that inspired it. The owners agreed.

The real question at the heart of “The Innkeepers” is whether the hotel is really haunted or do the characters just desire it to be to stave off the boredom of their everyday lives. The way West directs the film and structures the script could allow for either side of this question to be argued. Certainly upon first glance, it seems the hotel is indeed haunted, which results in the tragic ending. But, if you think about it, there really is only one character that experiences any of the paranormal events.

Kelly McGillis, of “Top Gun” and “Witness” fame, seems to have found a new career acting as a hero spoiler of sorts for horror films. She appeared as a not so nice nun in the indie vampire flick “Stake Land” a couple years ago, and she returns here playing an actress turned psychic who may genuinely be trying to help, or may be playing a very sinister game of messing with someone’s head. Notice how she only “helps” after she’s been angered by the heroine.

“The Innkeepers” isn’t as stylish as “House of the Devil”, but it’s made with the patient hand that all great horror comes from. It’s disturbing and confirms that Ti West’s talent as a filmmaker is for real. I can’t wait to see more from this director.

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