I’m starting to notice that the films I’m listing are predominantly writer/directors. Maybe that’s not an accident. In this case, Ti West also edited the film as well. West is starting to emerge as our generation’s Robert Wise, a composed, gifted filmmaker and storyteller.
The Innkeepers disarms you by being a highly charming comedy, while relentlessly setting up subtle points. At other times this is a deeply scary film that understands managing tension in a way that most other creators just don’t understand. I just wish the bit at the end was longer. I can tell from the Imdb, that a lot of the plot went over people’s heads, so this is a spoiler heavy review.
Bubbly Claire (Sara Paxton) and man-child Luke (Pat Healy) are the last two employees at the Yankee Pedlar Inn which is closing after the weekend. Luke is excited, however, because he runs a website on the hotel. You see, the Yankee Pedlar is supposed to be haunted by Madeline O’ Malley, a jilted bride who centuries ago hung herself in one of the rooms, and who was unceremoniously stored in the basement. There has been little evidence of her so far, but with the hotel finally empty, Luke is optimistic that he will finally see something.
The Innkeepers invests a lot in these two.
The aimless Claire is much younger and has an admiration for Luke, and sort of wonders why he didn’t do more with his life, while Luke has fallen for her, but is too gunshy to make a move, and too oblivious to field an offer. They catalog the entire hotel with ghost-hunting equipment but find nothing. At first.
There are only a couple of guests, but when actress Leanne Rease-Jones (Kelly McGillis) checks in, she acts as a catalyst for the film. On the downside of her career, she has become a spiritualist. She explains that everything in the world is somehow connected, whether we know it or not, and that nothing is real, we are just in a state of being that has no beginnings or endings. We are part of a celestial plan. We just don’t know it.
After some social fumbling, Claire gets a reading of sorts from Leanne, who is using a crystal. Leanne explains that her visions have no context, that it is not always clear where she’s receiving the messages from and that measurements like time don’t always translate.
And that’s the stinger. Leanne senses THREE spirits in the hotel. But as an audience, what we don’t know is that two of them haven’t died yet, and upon rewatching this, it is entirely possible that some of the phenomena that we see is actually related to the other two spirits.
Later that day an older man comes to stay in the room he honeymooned in with his now deceased wife. He is quickly forgotten as they continue to explore the building, now going to the infamous basement.
In one of the best scenes I can remember, their equipment gradually picks up the presence of Madeline until she finally appears behind Luke…but she is never seen by us. As far as implied horrors go, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Luke panics and leaves Claire in the hotel. As it turns out, he faked the phenomenon that he had been posting on the website. He doesn’t even believe in ghosts and the idea that there is one is too much for him. Claire dashes upstairs to get Leanne, who realizes that something horrible is happening and tells her to leave now.
Unwilling to leave her elderly guest, Claire goes to check out the old man only to find him dead in the bathtub of self-inflicted wounds. After a partial appearance of Madeline she runs downstairs to the returning and apologetic Luke. The movie has established that Claire has crippling asthma, and she is getting herself worked up. Luke goes to find Leanne, momentarily abandoning Claire…who runs into the reanimated old man, who is the second spirit.
Panicking, she flees into the basement. But she has misinterpreted what is happening. The old man isn’t after her at all, instead as a lonely soul he is drawn to Madeline O’Malley, who is in the basement. Frightened, and unable to escape, Claire dies of an asthma attack…becoming the aforementioned third spirit.
Overlooking the crime scene the next morning, there is a small disturbance near a window. Claire now inhabits the Yankee Pedlar. She has finally found a place that she belongs to.