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The Innkeepers, like all of Ti West’s horror, is an exercise in slow-burning scares. He short-circuits nerves with anxiety, using sober creeps to ratchet up tension to an unbearable degree, then tacks on a few more for good measure. His is a throwback style, a minimalist horror that’s inspired by Stanley Kubrick, but not ashamed to pluck anything else that came before it either.
If nothing else, that method is good for great horror. West’s The House of the Devil was an unsettling take on the slasher flick, while 2005’s The Roost did the same for zombie fare. For Innkeepers, West turns his eye to the classic haunted house story. And while it may be a bit conventional for those familiar with his past work, it nonetheless packs just as strong of a fright.
In the waning days of the Yankee Pedlar Inn, a century-old hotel that’s about to close down, employees Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) decide to try their hands at ghost hunting. (The inn, based on and filmed at a hotel of the same name in New England, is notorious for being haunted.) Abruptly, their lightly comedic romp for the ghoulish shifts to the all-out horror of discovering a ghost – it’s the spirit of an abandoned bride who was stuffed in a storage room more than 100 years prior, and it’s pissed.
While the premise is by-the-numbers as far as horror is concerned, Innkeepers nonetheless stands out for the allegory it weaves between scares. Claire and Luke are minimum-wage nobodies, straddling the line between immaturity and adulthood – facing off against the macabre is a sly way to symbolize that transition. Coupled with West’s technical know-how, that’s enough to make Innkeepers a worthwhile, if too slightly polished, treat.