The horror genre has become a little stale, it has to be said. Countless tales of possessions and haunted homes have flooded the cinema and while some were good, the majority felt dumb and boring. Can Ti West’s latest offering, The Innkeepers, buck the trend?
Well, no, not really. But sticking it in the ‘dumb and boring’ bucket wouldn’t be fair, either.
The Yankee Pedlar Inn is on the eve of closure and the remaining two employees, Claire (Paxton) and Luke (Healy), take advantage of its near-empty state in an attempt to document its haunted hallways. There are only two rooms occupied, one by an old man and the other by actress turned psychic, Leanne (McGillis). As with most tales of this nature, the ghost hunt reveals more than anyone bargained for and things turn sour shortly after.
Having read the above synopsis there’s no doubt you’ve probably already thought it sounds very familiar and cliche. To be honest with you, it is. However, if you’re a fan of this particular genre, cliches don’t always equate to a bad film; it’s all about how you execute them. The one thing that kills a horror more than anything is under-developed characters. Fortunately this is one aspect that The Innkeepers doesn’t suffer from, at least in the case of Claire and Luke.
As the only two employees in a virtually deserted hotel, they turn to what I’m sure you and I would in a similar situation: pranks, drinking and friendly competitions. This certainly works in giving them a more personable edge, which is always good when we’re supposed to care, for we have a lot of directions to shout at the screen later on such as “don’t go down there” and “you stupid bitch, why would you go alone?”
In order for those cries to mean anything the on-screen action needs to be suitably tense. With numerous corridors, empty rooms and a rather intimidating basement (aren’t they always?) there is plenty of potential inside The Yankee Pedlar Inn. It’s a potential that isn’t fully realised but the set pieces that have been chosen do a good enough job of keeping things spooky, with a couple of decent scares to boot.
Leanne, the film’s resident psychic, played by Top Gun’s Kelly McGillis, is the default paranormal expert who’s only job is to explain the plot and warn those involved of the danger. It’s another staple of the genre.
Overall, The Innkeepers is a worth while horror…if you’re a horror fan. If not, there’s probably not enough substance here to grab your attention. The atmosphere is great and some scenes do exactly what you want from a ghost flick. Claire and Luke are relatable characters and the banter and humour between them adds a little more depth to the whole thing.