"The Innkeepers" does nothing to dispel the notion that writer/director Ti West of "The House of the Devil" fame is the master of the so-called "slow burn" brand of horror movie making.
You know, the kind where characters, tone, sound and dialogue matter, and the film lets viewers get to know the folks about to find themselves in grave peril.
West's latest doesn't deliver iconic scares, and the film's final act leaves some questions as clear as mud. But it's the journey that's worth the while, a fastidiously crafted story stripping away the non-essential elements without impacting the scare factor.
And "The Innkeepers" is pretty darn creepy.
For the main characters in West's story, there's nothing quite as frightening as a nine-to-five job with virtually nothing to do.
Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) are stuck in the Yankee Pedlar inn on its final days of operation. The inn's guest list has whittled down to only a few lost souls, including an aging actress turned healer (Kelly McGillis).
So Claire and Luke spend their time wondering about the ghost stories affixed to the old building, each teasing the other with its supernatural possibilities. Heck, it's one way to get to quitting time, although it's clear Luke would love to continue his relationship with Claire after hours. His fumbling attempts at telling her she's more than just a co-worker to him gives "The Innkeepers" a nerdy but lovable under current.
It's hardly a shock that some ominous things start to take place in the inn just before its final guest leaves, assuming its not all in the characters' heads. But can Claire and Luke tease out the truth behind the ghost stories before they end up a part of the building's haunted past?
"The Innkeepers" opens with a plea to crank up the sound, and West's knack for incorporating audible cues and Jeff Grace's bracing score keep us on edge.
West deliberately chose a humdrum setting for "The Innkeepers," but his masterful shot selection and patience make every scare tactic pay off. It's a mashup of the ultra-ordinary and the supernatural.
The Blu-ray extras include a "Behind the Scenes" featurette plus a wealth of commentary from West, Healy and Paxton, plus producers Peter Phok and Larry Fessenden and sound designer Graham Reznick.
The cast and crew actually stayed in the real Yankee Pedlar during the shoot, and West insists the inn was his first, and last, choice for the project.
"There would be no movie if it weren't shot here," says West, who wrote the screenplay specifically around its specifications.