The Innkeepers (2011)

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In the few remaining days before the Yankee Pedlar Inn closes forever, the two remaining employees, Claire and Luke, take it upon themselves to try to find evidence of the supposed resident ghost, Madeline O’Malley, a woman who hung herself in the honeymoon suite after being jilted on her wedding day. During the day, the amature ghost hunters spend their time slacking off and irritating the last remaining guests. At night they try to capture evidence of Madeline. Claire, in particular, wants to get closer to the elusive spirit and learn more about her, but as the fate of the Inn draws to a close she may end up getting a little too close.

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Just sitting here alone, looking for ghosts. Nothing to see here….Literally.

The Innkeepers could possibly be one of the poster children for the slow-burn horror genre. The first two thirds of the film move at a very measured pace, before finally ramping up at the climax. Some people dislike this form of storytelling, but I think it generally works well when it comes to telling ghost stories.

Short of a brief summary, we learn very little about the spirit of Madeline O’Malley haunting the halls. Instead of focusing on the spirits, the story focuses more on the characters. The two main leads, Claire and Luke, share a nice chemistry here. They get along like you would expect two people in their position to get along, especially with one being older than the other. They’re supportive of one another, they make jokes and they have awkward moments and get over them. It’s the kind of relationship many would like to have with their own coworkers (minus the ghosts).

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Dude, you weren’t kidding. You’re browser history is f*cked up.

Of the two leads, it’s Claire (Sara Paxton) that steals the show. Though Luke operates as a partner of sorts, it’s Claire who’s the atypical focus. She’s not snotty or a puritanical waif, like most horror films tend to portray women. She comes across as an awkward, slightly paranoid, aimless soul who’s stuck in between two chapters of her life and is clinging to this one element of her past because she doesn’t know what the future holds. She acts chipper, but that’s clearly just a facade. She’s not trying to find ghosts to make herself famous, but more because it’s something to give her a purpose when she feels like she no longer has one now that the inn is closing. It’s a very relatable time in life, that of being in-between and unsure what to do about it.

Her place in life also serves as a parallel to the three secondary characters in the film. Each one is also stuck in between periods of life: the wife taking a break from her husband, the aging actress turned psychic and the elderly man staying in his former honeymoon suite. These characters are used as a method to bring out the personalities of the two leads, but they’re more than just props and mirrors. They all have their own unique personalities and backstories, and the mysterious, psychic actress staying at the hotel works as the catalyst for moving the climax forward.

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Sorry. Normally this would be faster, but I left my Ouija board at home.

Unfortunately, the film may focus a little too much on the two leads. While their chemistry is wonderful, the moments of humor they elicit often undercut the film’s carefully built tension. Movies like The Innkeepers rely on the build up, so when you inject too much humor you have to slowly build up the dread again and that interferes with the film’s momentum. Instead of slowly tightening the noose during the film, the movie keeps tightening and loosening the rope, making those few moments of of apprehension feel more like a tease instead of the slow build up of unease that it should be in order for the climax to feel appropriately satisfying.

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I didn’t know what to put here. But here’s a sulking Sara Paxton.

One thing this film gets supremely right is the visuals. The Innkeepers is a very pleasant movie to look at. The lighting, the colors, the angle the scenes are shot it, all of it complements the mood of the film. Some of the scenes may have been a little too dark for my liking, but other than that I have no complaints in the visual department.

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Overall, I found The Innkeepers to be a pleasant ghost story. The characters were relatable, the visuals were appropriately moody and it’s got enough scares to keep the film moving. And though I complained about the addition of the humor, that is more a complaint about it’s placement. I found the humor itself to be rather pleasant, and found several moments to be genuinely funny. I just wish they hadn’t spaced them out like they did. The movie isn’t going to be for everyone, but if you enjoy slow-burn ghost tales, than give this one a shot. I feel it’s one of the better ones in recent memory.

The Innkeepers is currently streaming on a variety of platforms.

It is also available on DVD and Bluray.

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Michi

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