Like The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers is a film where Ti West takes a far slower, more naturalistic pace than we are used to seeing in a modern horror film he seems to delight in filling his films with the dull minutiae of his characters lives. We see (and indeed feel) the boredom of Sara Paxton and Pat Healy in their desk duty at an empty hotel, watch the things they do to fill the lack of happening. The dialogue has a cleverness and modern hip irony that sits well. Ti West shows an ability to tersely depict his characters just the cut from barista Lena Dunham launching in to ask Sara Paxton about her relationship to Paxton returning to Pat Healy empty-handed, saying of the cup of coffee she went to get they ran out where we are not sure whether she is referring to coffee or her exiting the store, or the way that Kelly McGillis asks Sara Paxton What do you do? and her small oh that cuts through Paxton like a knife.
This first half of The Innkeepers is a slow accumulation of mood. When it comes to Sara Paxton wandering about using the EVP equipment, the almost audible whispers on the soundtrack and then the sudden jangling of piano keys shatters the slowness with abrupt effect. It is only around the 50 minute mark that West produces a more traditional shock in having Sara Paxton wake up in bed to find a corpse next to her and even that feels gimmicky and forced in an otherwise low key film. There is an intensely spooky scene with Sara Paxton and Pat Healy down in the cellar calling up the spirit of Madeline OMalley, although notedly this is a scene where Ti West conjures something acutely atmospheric without ever showing anything all that we get are ambiguous hints such as whispers on the threshold of periphery, the peaking of the EVP monitor and then Sara Paxton abruptly telling Pat Healy shes right behind you, even though we never get to see if anything is there or not. The Innkeepers is, like The Innocents (1961), for once a ghost story where everything rests in ambiguities and a refusal to say whether things exist outside the characters imaginations something that is never even fully resolved by the ending.
The Innkeepers gives opportunity for 23 year-old Sara Paxton to show what she is capable of doing. After moving out of various teen roles, Paxton was stuck in generic blonde roles in films such as The Last House on the Left (2009) and Shark Night 3-D (2011). Here she gets a role where she is allowed to play an ordinary girl and does rather well in her balance of happy-go-lucky cheerful and vulnerable. The other actress that Glass Eye Pix have give a second chance to has been Kelly McGillis who was once a bombshell name after appearing opposite Tom Cruise in Top Gun (1986) but by the mid 1990s had dropped away to tv movies and supporting bit parts, largely due to a decision to place her career on the backburner and raise children. In Stake Land and a more substantial role here, McGillis returns appearing her real age and shows she is becoming Glass Eyes quietly understated ace.
When The Innkeepers was released, Ti West took the unusual step of releasing a statement and asking people not to download the film and give it a chance in theatres and/or cable so that he can have the opportunity to make more films. Wests statement can be found here at the Glass Eye Pix website. To Ti Wests credit, many downloaders appear to have taken his plea to heart there are surprisingly few leechers for the film out there. I did download the film to which I offer justification that it did not play theatrically in my area, where I would gladly have paid to see it, nor did Glass Eye Pix or the distributors see fit to forward me a screener copy. Secondly, in writing this, I am hopefully persuading more people the opportunity to see the film with my recommendations than would normally have had the opportunity to do so.
I can support Ti Wests comments but equally from a users standpoint they seem disingenuous. For example, would not the maker of almost any independent film make the same claims? that you should pay money for their film rather than seeing it for free because they think it is worth something. Alas, I can say from the standpoint of someone who watches a vast degree of independent films that the majority of these are not worth their audiences time. If you extend that thinking to all films then you end up with a depleted pocket book but at least the moral satisfaction of having allowed some relative unknowns the clout to make some more films. The rate at which downloaders dent the potential of commercial films is debatable and something that more in-depth studies have shown is not hurting their chances quite as much as the recording industry claims it is. Downloading and legal copyright needs to find a happier medium between the two. Furthermore, as a non-America, Ti Wests appeal to keeping it American-made and supporting American business instantly switches me off. This is protectionism by any other name the appeal should be made based on the quality of product, not where it was made whereupon it simply becomes one of patriotism. To all of this I would add that The Innkeepers is something I consider a worthwhile film that taking the time to acquire legitimately would not be money wasted.