The Innkeepers (2011) We’ll Leave the Spectral Light on For You
House of the Devil, I gave the film a 4 out of 5 and praised the director for his period setting, even tone, and use of suspense despite my wish that a little more had been held back. Since that time, I haven't heard much from the one time savior of horror since. I intentionally missed out on Cabin Fever 2 as West was loudly displeased with the film, and unlike everyone else in the horror reviewing world, somehow I have yet to see V/H/S so I can't comment on his segment there. In one way it is promising that West hasn't started turning films out meat grinder style to cash in on the cachet of his name while he can, but I have wanted to see what West had in store for a his next, non-sequel vision. As I am always running behind on new releases, I'm just getting a chance to catch up with the answer to my wonder, West’s The Innkeepers. Combining comedy and horror effectively while still playing around in the 80s horror format that West so clearly loves, he delivers another stunningly deep entry into the horror genre. To discuss the film today, I will be dealing in some spoilers, but rest assured I will let everyone know before I go there and deploy my patented Bugg method for spoilery secrets. So come with me on a trip with Mr. West to a small Connecticut town and the Yankee Pedler, the setting for The Innkeepers.
Exit Humanity and Absentia that mix dramatic elements and horror together in a meaningful way. West does them both one better here by adding comedy into the mix. The Innkeepers seamlessly slides from a comedy first half filled with antics from Claire and Luke that could have been as suited for Abbott and Costello in Hold that Ghost into a solidly serious ending doesn't compromise the character’s natural comic sensibilities while providing some serious scares. Eschewing jump scares, West once again trades in tone, and working once again with cinematographer Eliot Rockett, he creatures a visual flair that matches the mood of every scene. Also particularly effective was the score by Jeff Grace. At once harkening back to old school horror, it never became intrusive while perfectly underscoring West’s intentions. While there were a few areas House of the Devil failed in, The Innkeepers shows of a tighter, stronger vision from a more experienced director, but I do have one complaint. The ghosts just look bad. I don't know whose idea it was to portray the dead bride in a gruesome, gory 80s kind of way, but it just felt incongruous to the rest of the film.
So below you will find the SPOILER SECTION. DO NOT READ IF YOU DON’T WANT SPOILERS. What you will see a blank, but there are words there. To read the spoiler portion of the review just select the text below with your mouse and magically the words will shine through. Mobile users should see the text if they select all. Skip on down to the bottom for the rating and a trailer if spoilers are not for you!
What I really want to talk about with The Innkeepers is about the very meaning of the film, or at least what I took from it, and I can’t see a way to do it without spoilers. The very title itself seems reflective of the two main characters. Luke is clearly keeping in his feelings for Claire, using his knowledge of the “supernatural” to impress her, but Claire is the more guarded of the two keeping everything inside she lacks social graces and confidence needed to function beyond her current job. The only thing that she dares to reach out for is the dead. I think this is because she is searching so hard for a connection in this world, but being awkward, easily hurt, and intimidated by life as Claire is, she’s too scared of people so she looks for someone she can connect to in the beyond. The tragic tale of a bride killing herself is both anti-romantic and intriguing to someone like Claire whose life seems to be dominated by sadness. Every character in this movie is trying to keep something in, from the faded actress downing her regrets in drink to the angry mom who looks to defend her son’s innocence at all costs. The only character that is different is the elderly man who checks in, the husband of Ms. O’Malley, who kills himself. After a lifetime of keeping that weight inside of himself, he had no more to give.
Now there is one other spoilery thing that I want to talk about, and that is Claire’s mind. In the lonely start she was in, getting more and more agitated about the presence of the supernatural, at many times in the film it seems like it could all be the figment of her imagination. While the EVP recordings surely exist because Luke heard them, he never sees anything, and in fact the one time Claire claims the zombie bride is behind him, we never see proof of such. Her demise is brought on by her own panic and health condition, and it can surely be read that she got so anxious; scaring herself about ghosts she was imagining that she brought it all on herself. This might also explain the makeup choice for the ghosts. They don’t look like what we would think of as “real”, but rather more like something someone who has seen too many zombie movies would dream up. That’s why I thought it was wise for West to include the final moment of the film which can still lead to speculation but somewhat assures the audience that they weren’t watching the ravings of a mad woman.