Ti West is no stranger to making a suspenseful horror film. In 2009 he brought us The House of the Devil, and now he takes his masterful grasp of what suspense truly is and brings it to The Innkeepers. The Innkeepers tells the tale of the Yankee Pedlar Inn in its last weekend of operation. Two front desk clerks, Luke (Pat Healy) and Claire (Sara Paxton) explore paranormal phenomenon and try to understand the strange occurrences in the Inn along with exploring human nature at its core along the way. The film also stars Kelly McGillis as a former actress turned psychic who ends up at the Yankee Pedlar Inn. But then again as Luke so fittingly says, “Nobody just ends up at the Yankee Pedlar.”
The film hit VOD and select theaters late last year but on Tuesday, April 24th it hits DVD and Blu ray. Over the past few months it’s been hard to not see spoilers or everyone’s personal review on the film. You have the die-hards who take it at face value for what it is, a slow burn horror film which takes pleasure in the build-up maybe even moreso than the pay-off. Then you have the side of fans who are irritated at the fact that they didn’t get their gore or thrills the way they wanted to. Recently in an interview with Pat Healy, he spoke on this subject quite openly and makes a great point as well, “There’s this big thing now in film criticism, both amateur and “professional,” where it’s fair for people to judge a film on what it’s not. ‘Well, I thought it was going to be this and instead it was this,’ but this film, is it successful on what it actually is? Yes, I think it is. I’m biased obviously. I will say I have noticed a difference between people who have seen it in a theater full of people as compared to the people who see it at home; it’s just a different experience. Still, the best way to see a horror movie, or a comedy or an action film is with an audience. You get to see that way that so much of the thrill is the ride itself, and you’re not just sitting there waiting for the pay-off at the end or the twist- you just went on a great ride. At the end of a roller coaster they don’t tell you that the roller coaster you were on is really a spaceship. You just had fun because you were on a roller coaster. That’s the pay-off- the journey. And on those terms, I love the film.”
While the film may not have the blood and spills flowing as much as it has dialogue and emotion, it demonstrates quite clearly what Healy is saying. We’re taking a journey, not a destination. So many critics do indeed like to judge a film on what it isn’t rather than what it is. At face value, The Innkeepers is a taut thriller, slow paced, but by design. There is nothing half-presented in this film. Everything is calculated. It’s not a film that wants you to leave unfulfilled, quite the opposite. Forgive it if it doesn’t apply the same conventions of the last four films you paid money for in a theater, but recognize that this film doesn’t need those commonplace tricks to present its story.