'The Innkeepers' Review: Old-Fashioned Suspense Makes a Comeback

“The Innkeepers” is the type of movie audiences don’t get a lot of anymore. Instead of relying on grotesque torture sequences (i.e. any entry in the “Saw” franchise) or scenes where things pop up to scare audiences (i.e. “The Woman in Black”), it delivers old-fashioned chills.

With no major stars to speak of and a cast that wouldn’t fill up a small elevator, this old-fashioned ghost story is definitely worth a look.

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Written and directed by Ti West ("The House of the Devil"), the movie offers a familiar setting in an old, nearly-abandoned hotel. The creepy building is scheduled to close at the end of the weekend so only two employees remain on the property. Sara Paxton and Pat Healy play Claire and Luke, the two final staffers who are taking turns working at the front desk. Claire is an inquisitive woman bent on finding out if the hotel is really haunted—as legend suggests—while Luke is a carefree slacker hoping for a relaxing weekend.

The weekend starts out slow with only one room booked—a woman trying to escape her husband with her child in tow. Eventually, an aging actress played by Kelly McGillis checks in as well. And an older man arrives late in the film to serve as the hotel’s last guest.

But other than those people, the cast is filled up with extras and a few minor characters here and there.

That small cast is one of the film’s greatest assets. Instead of a large group of characters being killed off one by one, “The Innkeepers” settles for only a few folk the inn’s ghost can take turns terrifying. Even before the ghosts appear, the characters-- especially Claire and Luke-- are well-established.

Paxton makes for a compelling and likable leading lady. It’s easy to empathize with her when a trip to the local coffee shop goes awry and she is left without a drink. It’s also easy to understand where she’s coming from in terms of her investigation into the inn’s paranormal guests. The hotel is closing, and this is her last chance to find out whether or not the ghost really exists.

And the suspense built up in this story is real. I wasn’t on the edge of my seat but there was a knot in my stomach as I wondered what was going to happen next. From a creepy basement visit with the ghost to a scene where the aging actress warns Claire about the spirit world, this movie is slow but tantalizing.

“I’m just here for one last bit of nostalgia,” the hotel’s final visitor says, a nod to why the film works so well. It’s a nostalgic film that should remind viewers of what suspense really feels like.

Suspense isn’t watching a man getting hacked into pieces. It’s watching a woman realize that she’s in too deep when she starts asking too many questions about paranormal activity. And that what “The Innkeepers” delivers.


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