With 2009’s The House Of The Devil director Ti West proved that he had the creativity and know-how to make horror interesting again, and now he’s checking in with an even more accomplished film, The Innkeepers, inspired by his two-month stay in a supposedly haunted hotel.
Claire (an endearing Sara Paxton) and Luke (a lethargic Pat Healy) are the last two staff at The Yankee Pedlar Inn and have two days left before it closes its doors for good. Expecting a quiet few shifts they decide to start ghost hunting (Luke’s part-time hobby), and pursue the ghost of a jilted lady said to haunt the place.
Claire and Luke’s natural banter, practical jokes and slacker attitude really helps set up the everyman believability of this supernatural story. Their solitude is interrupted, however, when actress-turned-psychic Leanne Rease-Jones (an aloof Kelly McGillis) checks in, armed with vodka, a crystal and an icy stare.
Although the characters are surrounded by a mass of empty rooms, West creates a microcosm that feels claustrophobic, and expertly builds the tension to a nightmarish climax with some nods to The Shining and Psycho along the way. There are the obligatory door slams, bad dreams, and peripheral vision teasers but what’s fresh about this horror is the reliance on sound design – what you hear, or don’t hear – through Claire’s headphones as she stalks around the hotel with a mic and an audio recorder. It’s what your own brain fills in that makes The Innkeepers so chilling and effective, and West knows it.
In addition to all this trickery there are some true, full-frontal, clear-as-day gory moments, timed to perfection. You’ll be heading towards a restless night yourself, soundtracked by a tinkling piano and peppered with scuffles in a basement, just praying for your early morning alarm call…