What’s most frustrating about THE INKEEPERS is that it’s far less clever than the film tries desperately to be. With Ti West’s script (and direction, and editing, and production) we get a passable genre piece with illusions of grandeur. Mixing the matter-of-fact dialogue of PULP FICTION with a spookified hotel channeling every film that came after Kubrick’s THE SHINING, we’re left with an extremely predictable, at times stultifying take on the Haunted House genre.
At the outset, we’ve got a kind of light comedy repartee between the two leads. Claire (Sara Paxton) is a pixie-haired blonde with a snarky attitude. Her coworker, Luke (Pat Healy) is slightly older and even more jaded, spending his working hours putting together a website chronicling the spooky late night goings on at the Yankee Pedlar Inn. With the place near abandoned, and about to be close forever, the two banter about work and life.
When Claire starts to hear some creepy noises (after Luke has gone to sleep, leaving her alone as per any of a billion horror movies), her investigations uncover a bunch of whispered voices, pianos playing by themselves, and other such predictable dreck.
West’s script tries hard to bring a fresh look at these goings on, but once things get rolling after about an hour of buildup it really does turn into something appallingly pedestrian. Blasts of noise and creaky doors shutting by themselves, along with telegraphed scenes of horror, make the payoff even more annoying. The film, in attempting to do something different, runs out of ideas so quickly it’s almost more startling than the dozen or so “scares” that the film tries to muster.
By the time that we learn that the aging actress in the room upstairs can use crystals to talk to the dead (played by Kelly McGillis, far more engaging in the delicious STAKE LAND), the film completely derails.
THE INNKEEPERS will have its fans, but I found the lack of any credible suspense or horror throughout to be downright boring. The actors throw themselves at the work, but it’s clear that West’s one-man-band attitude has a desperate need for collaborators to tell him when his ideas are meandering and pointless. To say it’s not a complete disaster is faint praise, perhaps, but what’s clear is that the film lacks the pace or visceral intensity to make it a worth addition to a Midnight Madness slate, nor is it clever or unique enough to make its residence at the Lightbox a foregone conclusion. Clearly there are those that think otherwise, but for me this one inn I have no interest in ever visiting again.
THE INKEEPERS plays the Bell Lightbox starting on Friday, February 3rd. Click HERE for showtimes.