The Innkeepers Directed by: Ti West Cast: Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis Running Time: 1 hr 40 mins Rating: R Release Date: February 3, 2012 (Chicago)
PLOT: Two people (Paxton and Healy) working at an old New England inn investigate their workplace for ghosts.
WHO'S IT FOR? It's scarier (and funnier) than any recent mainstream horror movie. If Saw-loving teenagers had a slightly-long attention span, even they would love it. For now, it’s a horror film bound to satisfy any patient moviegoer, and to ultimately scare the crap out of anyone who questions it.
Like The Shining before it, The Innkeepers creates an incredible sense of atmosphere in a location that can fluctuate between amusing (or even hilarious) to absolutely horrifying. In the case of The Innkeepers, dark, empty basements are piss-your-pants scary once again.
West creates this pivotal atmosphere with skills that have been matured since his previously overrated The House of the Devil, a cult-y copycat work that yearned for the same vault quality that Quentin Tarantino does with his '70s homages. The slow burning in this story is incredible, in that it never feels truly “slow,” but it never relaxes. The two title characters have excellent chemistry with one another, which allows for genuine comedy. Yet at the same time, the film’s tension is nicely spread out to keep the film’s freakish uncertainty prevalent. For a great chunk of the movie, it’s never even known what we’re to be afraid of, but we still fear it. Even when the two leads are lounging around and drinking beer on the job, we're not settled in.
Aesthetically, West’s film is very slick. Dutch angles (camera tilts) are used expertly in times of anxiety, and his long tracking shots are beautiful. Once the third act ramps up with its main course, the truly surprising, if not disturbing visuals stay in your head, like unwelcome guests.
Innkeepers raised my personal bar of expectations for horror movies, fitting the requirements of the genre with ace skill. (A movie like The Woman in Black will benefit from those who have seen Innkeepers first). It dumps unbearable tension on you, it has a sense of humor, and it is definitely horrific.
One of my scariest theatrical experiences ever, The Innkeepers welcomes you into its atmosphere, but doesn’t even think to let you go until the credits. Its terror is inescapable.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10