Twitch's THE INNKEEPERS Review Roundup
Ti West quickly established himself as a director to watch with The Roost, his first feature film, and he's built on that foundation with his subsequent work (Trigger Man and, especially, The House of the Devil). Even his ill-fated Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever showed great big flashes of his distinctive style.
And by that, I don't mean he's simply done the same movie over and over again; instead, it's clear that he's attracted to a variety of material and makes the type of movie that serves the material best. While I wasn't bowled over by The Roost or Trigger Man -- in fact, some sequences in the latter film drove me friggin' nuts -- the films are transparently the product of an individual's creative inspiration, and deserving of respect for their ambition and drive.
West has built a small but loyal following, and The Innkeepers, which opens in limited theatrical release in the U.S. tomorrow, promises to expand his audience. The film, set at an historic inn in its final weekend before closing, focuses on the activites of two bored inn workers, Luke (Pat Healy) and Claire (Sara Paxton). As I wrote when the film had its World Premiere at SXSW last year:
"They're likable co-workers; Luke is a bit older and cynical, Claire a bouncy, extraordinarily cute young woman with spunk and energy. They're both low-level employees without much drive or ambition, it seems, content to work their dead-end jobs without much thought or hope for the future. But, still, they're likable and their banter and interactions are very funny.
"Events head into unsettling territory that's intended to be creepy and spooky, and which caused the packed house at the Paramount Theatre last night to jump and jolt and sit upright. Except I wasn't on the same wavelength as the audience or director Ti West. There are both callbacks to other movies and intentional efforts to play against those tropes. To my eyes, the brightly-lit interiors were the most perplexing, and it's not just a debate of 35mm versus digital video. Obviously it was intentional, and I applaud anyone who tries to make a daytime ghost story, even though almost all the action takes place indoors and at night. It's an effect, there's something behind it, but distracts rather than enhances. ... Judging from the positive audience reaction, though, that's a distinctly minority reaction."
(You can read my review in its entirety here.)
And, indeed, that has proven to be the case. Subsequent reviews published at Twitch have been much more positive. Todd Brown's thoughts were also published during SXSW. He concluded:
"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."
Andrew Mack saw it a few months later at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival. He, too, had a very positive reaction:
"While it is distinctively a West film, revisiting that 'old fashioned' feel of horror films from the 80s, a tag that West does not mind at all, it is also very different from his prior film. It is proof that West can be very much diversify his direction yet still maintain his own distinct vision of the horror genre. ... the film is still very much good, scary fun."
Kurt Halfyard also saw it at Toronto After Dark. In his review, he recounts a certain scene in the movie, and then comments:
"And so goes The Innkeepers, a haunted hotel story that trafficks in the gentle, snarky comedy of its pair of underpaid and unambitious wage-slaves before breaking out the Shining and the ghosties and turn-of-the-screw tension to become one of most effective horror films of 2011. One of the smartest, too."
As you can see, even those of us who were not completely enamored with the film (me) can agree that it's very much worth seeking out as soon as possible. It's also been available via various Video On Demand platforms for several weeks, so that may be another option for our U.S. readers.
The Innkeepers opens in limited theatrical release in the U.S. tomorrow.