Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Innkeepers

The Innkeepers (2011)

I like a good ghost story as much as the next person; that is to say I like a ghost story that isn't entirely comprised of jump-scares and incessant screaming. I also like a ghost story with an eerie title. The Innkeepers is an eerie title. Think about it: Innkeeper is an archaic term used back when inns were thatched hovels with creaky floors and dark, creepy histories dating back centuries where spirits and gloom ruled the times. The Innkeepers in a damn creepy title.

Unfortunately, both of the things I really like about ghost stories are both present, and lacking in The Innkeepers. Which isn't to say it's a bad movie... it just feels 'done before'. Oh, but boy does it try to be a wolf in sheep's clothing. It tries really hard. In fact, from the onset until about the half-way point, it really was refreshingly different. But after that, it definitely became an amalgam of so many things done all at the same time, and it suddenly became unsure of what kind of movie it wanted to be.

It starts off innocently enough: It's the closing week of The Yankee Pedlar Inn. Business sucks, and the last two employees (not including the manager who we later find out is on vacation) decide that rather than go home each night, they'd just stick around and tend to the remaining guests who may or may not even show up. The innkeepers themselves are Claire (Sarah Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healey), and they both not only exude brash hipsterness (if that's even a word) but also such disdain for the old hotel that it's almost a chore for either of them to be there. It's not that I was expecting Tim Curry-esque hotel manager performances out of these two, but an iota of a happy memory might have made me care just a little bit more for them. As it is, Luke is such a stereotypical slacker that it's almost gross. At least Claire has chops and we do get a bit more of a flower-girl vibe from her that imbues her with a modicum of likeability. Anyway, these two 20-somethings are in charge for the final week and each decides to take 7 to 7 shifts watching the desk. And we're off and running.

So Luke has been working on a web site about the many haunting experiences he's had at the The Yankee Pedlar Inn, and has a few pics and videos uploaded that Claire rifles through as she mans the desk on their first evening. She knows that the old building has a history (here's where the Innkeeper definition from above fits in... it really kind of does feel a bit like something out of a King novel and I dig that), but she has yet to have an experience of her own. Luke has some recording equipment and Claire thinks it might be fun to give it a go... but she has no idea how to use it, so when she does hear something odd, she has no way of recording it. Oh well, there's always a next time...

At first there are only two guests: a mom and her son on the lam from a lousy husband. Claire accidentally runs her mouth to the kid about the spooks in the joint, and the already tense mother, Gayle (Alison Bartlett) snarks off to the clerks and spends the rest of her time in the film maintaining her bitchiness. Meanwhile, we get the arrival of the third guest who just so happens to be the biggest name in the flick: Actress Leanne Rease-Jones played by Kelly McGillis, who hasn't aged particularly well. Look, the last time I really cared about McGillis was Top Gun... and I suppose that was going on thirty years ago, but really, she looks kind of like Shirley Jones from The Partridge Family... only, yuckier. Anyway, she checks in and Claire immediately recognizes her as an actress from some old shows she used to watch and the two strike up a tenuous relationship.

Meanwhile, things start really tensing up at The Yankee Pedlar Inn. And by tensing up I mean jump-scares and incessant screaming. Yup. There it is: the other reason I cited earlier for this movie blowing a tire mid-way through. Nothing is particularly scary, even when they discover the ghost of Madeline O'Malley hanging around looking like an extra from The Ring. There are noises, pianos playing by themselves, and a few genuinely creepy moments that might catch the casual non-horror viewer off guard. But all in all, it becomes sadly cookie-cutter. However, even as I write this, there is one guest... the last, I might add... who jabs a little absurd spookiness into the plot. His name is... well, he just goes by Old Man, and he's played by George Riddle. He's got an air of chill from the moment he walks in, and he just keeps getting more horrific as the film progresses.

Well I'm not going to spoil the ending, even if it is trite and about a subtle as a toe stubbing. The movie as a whole is a ghost story through and through, even if it does stray off the path and wander into other territories. It definitely feels like an episode of Ghost Hunters for quite a while, and I really was okay with that because even that show can be frightening in its reality. The acting was mediocre, but was definitely carried by Claire. Even McGillis, the thespian of the cast, was dry and tasteless. It was pretty fun, it had some nice moments, and definitely harmless. But as a good ghost story... you're better off reading Peter Straub.

I'll give it 6.5 out of 10.

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