I had to make a joke out of the title to ease my nerves after finishing one of the most intense horror movies I have witnessed in eons. Yes, Ti West does it again as he did so well with HOUSE OF THE DEVIL back in 2009. Two words can describe West's horror mentality: "slow burn". It is that simple. The tension built in this 100 minute film had me standing up and pacing the floor, tilting my head ever so slightly away from the screen and contemplating hitting the pause button to wait until the daytime hours. THE INNKEEPERS wasn't anything but a ghost story, the only problem my nerves had with the film was it being a damn good ghost story!
Starting off like a very well written novel, the title screen comes up to reveal "Chapter 1". Sara Paxton (Claire) and Pat Healy (Luke) are the two surviving members of a sinking ship (or hotel) known as the "Yankee Peddler Inn". With its glory days behind it, the "Inn" is closing after the weekend and Claire and Luke (who are fledgling Paranormal Investigators) decide to have one last fling with the after-life as they decide to canvas the "Inn" searching for the residents who passed through or passed on, rather. We get great character build up in the first chapter of the film as Paxton and Healy played their parts to near perfection. A ghost story is only as good as its storytellers and Paxton and Healy weave the story and their lives into a soup that is warm enough for you to really begin to care about them. You learn to love Luke's "who gives a shit about life" attitude and Clair's "innocent/not sure where her life is going" attitude. You really learn to love these characters which is what is needed for the next two chapters to take place.
Chapter 2 kicks off and we are introduced to a new face to the hotel. Kelly McGillis (who played Leanne Rease-Jones in the film) enters the scene simply needing a place to stay for the weekend due to her upcoming speaking engament. We learn that Rease-Jones was a former TV and movie star who is now on the downward spiral of her career. In this chapter we learn much about what the crux of the film revolves around. We learn about Madeline O'Malley! O'Malley was a bride-to-be who was abandoned at the altar and ended up killing herself, soon the duo of Clair and Luke find out that the "Peddler" isn't going to go off into the sunset without one last taste of blood.
The third and final chapter is where all the tension building pays off. I don't want to take away anything from the film, this isn't just a slow boring burn, West puts plenty of humor and fun horror movie jump scares in there to let you take a break but by the third and final act. You are ready to start seeing some spirits! Or are you? That depends just how alone you are in your house, how late it is, how much wind is blowing outside? You get the point.
I don't want to ruin any of the movie and delve to deeply on key plot points because this is a "must watch" film for any horror fan. If you liked James Wan's INSIDIOUS, I have to think that you'll like this. I personally liked this film better. Quite a bit better in fact. There were two things that I would have omitted from an otherwise near perfect ghostly tale. I think that the Bidites nation will be able to point out when these two glaring issues pop up. If you are in the right mood and you want a great "slow burn" ghost story, there simply isn't one any better than this.
Ti West is now officially on my radar as being one of the "it" directors in the horror genre. If he makes 5 terrible films after this I will watch everyone of them just to get to see another taste of what THE INNKEEPERS brought to the table. Off topic here at the end but one big thing to note is this film was shot in under two weeks and was literally made on a shoe-string budget. Practical effects are used throughout with a terrific film score. The music, the acting, the story are all there.
Now it's your time to stay the night at the "Yankee Peddler Inn". Just for the love of God don't go in the basement....