SXSW Film: Ti West’s “The Innkeepers”

In 2009, Ti West demanded my attention with House of the Devil. When SXSW announced his new film The Innkeepers as a premiere, there was no way I was going to miss it. I began hearing rumors that The Innkeepers was more comedy than horror, and my worries started to rise. Had the man that earned my respect all those years ago lost his touch? Was House of the Devil a fluke? Could he recreate the magic? I’m relieved to say, Fuck Yes!

The Innkeepers follows Clair (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy), two bored hotel workers that are searching for some form of entertainment on long double shifts. Their form of entertainment comes in the way of ghost hunting. Anyone who has worked their share of overnight shifts knows that to stave off boredom, you will do all most anything to keep yourself awake. Lucky for them, the hotel they work in provides enough back-story and scares to keep them up at night.

I can tell you right now that while The Innkeepers has it’s moments of hilarity, it doesn’t mean it’s lacking in the scare department. While the film is funny, the humor is used in a way that just adds to the horror. The Innkeepers (like House of the Devil) builds it’s horror to the very end and then explodes. It’s this constant build up that makes your fears begin to grow, letting your mind wander as you fall deeper and deeper into the depths of the film. The scare tactics of Ti West is what keeps me punching that theater ticket. He knows what most others have forgotten: that the best kinds of scares come from your own imagination. In this way, you can feel Ti’s respect for his audience; he can trust in their patience for a great reveal. In this respect, I applaud Ti West for taking even more steps in the right direction.

Ti asks you to enter the world of EVP rather than the more commonly used visual video scares. I almost stood up to applaud when Luke proclaimed that his camera was broken and in the shop. The thought of having to sit through another ‘night vision shaky-cam’ ghost hunting film is just nauseating. That’s what makes The Innkeepers so great: almost all the scares come through the audio of Luke and Claire’s tape recorder. Since the beginning of film there have never been any forms of CGI or visual effects that are more frighting than your own mind, and The Innkeepers let’s your mind run wild. In a world of noise-canceling headphones, you can create your own terror. That’s not to say that The Innkeepers is lacking in the visual department and using the audio as a cheep way to make a horror movie, but rather a more inventive way to make a haunting film.

While the sound design of The Innkeepers adds most of the scares, this in no way should discredit the performances of it’s actors. Sara Paxton and Pat Healy do a fantastic job creating the film’s much needed tension. The duo can make you laugh and scream in the same scene, and leave a crowd applauding in gratitude when it’s all over.

Ti West won my respect with House of the Devil, and now that I’ve seen The Innkeepers, this respect has turned into so much more: now I’m a full-on fan. Ti has what it takes to give horror a much needed kick in the ass. The days of the torture-porn are over, and it’s time to reassess the genre. With directors like Ti West, I know this reassessment will be in good hands.

I give The Innkeepers 5 “Yankee Pedophile Inns” out of 5

by Ryan Davis

About Ryan Davis

Ryan is the Founder of Lost in Reviews, a member of The Kansas City Film Critic's Circle, and a key component in the movement to digitally restore the 1986 classic film The Gate. Ryan is also the co-host of Blu Monday a DVD and Blu Ray review show which Lost in Reviews co-founder Angela Davis also appears. While he may be a film and music snob, that doesn't mean you can't be friends. Well it could if you don't like the same bands or films he does, overall it might be best to avoid the subject all together.

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