SXSW 2011: THE INNKEEPERS Review

Todd Brown, Founder and Editor
Ti West is quickly establishing himself as a master of minimalist film, a director who starts with a simple, concise idea and then works it through to its logical end in the leanest manner possible. It's a style originally developed, no doubt, out of necessity as he began his career working with microbudgets and sparse resources. But at this point it's become a signature. And there's absolutely no mistaking The Innkeepers as the work of Ti West.

The core concept here is simple enough. The Innkeepers is a movie about ghosts or, more specifically, how the living feel about ghosts. It's a film that moves from idle curiosity, to the thrill of discovery, to a growing sense of dread.

Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) are the last employees of the Yankee Pedlar Inn, a historic building shutting down due to the simple fact that it hosts more ghost stories than it does guests. The Yankee Pedlar is on its last legs, Claire and Luke watching over its final weekend before shutting down.

The place is sparse. Two staff. Three guests. Which leaves lots of idle time for Luke and Claire to investigate the rumors of a ghost wandering the halls. Things start off playful at first, all jokes and gags and harmless flirtation to deal with the boredom. But then Claire captures something unexplainable on Luke's tape recorder and the supposed psychic on the second floor warns Claire to never set foot in the basement.

Though very similar in style to West's previous picture, The House of the Devil - both show an obvious love for the indie horror fare of the 1980s - The Innkeepers is entirely different in tone. While House of the Devil is ominous from moment one, the entire film built on the dread of knowing what's coming and waiting for it to arrive, The Innkeepers is a comparatively light, even playful film. It's not that the scares don't come, it's that they're not nearly as much the point as they were in House. Rather than being about the end, The Innkeepers is about the journey getting there. The film belongs purely to Claire and Luke, the nuances of their friendship and their slide from curiosity to terror in respect to their otherworldy guest.

While still working in his now familiar style West is giving us something a little bit different here, showing off a variation on a theme. But whatever he chooses to play I'm happy to keep on listening. While The Innkeepers is a less intense film than its predecessor it still argues strongly that Ti West is one of the most distinctive voices in American film today. There is simply nobody else quite like him.
Around the Internet:
blog comments powered by Disqus
​​