The Innkeepers – 2011
Written and Directed by Ti West
Starring Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis
There’s a deliberate method to The Innkeepers that reminds me of a time, in the late ’70’s and early ’80’s, when people of limited means and imaginations made movies for regular broadcast television intended to give kids a scare, but not too big of one. The elements are here for something very scary, if not altogether unique and original. What we get in the end are two below average actors (Healy and Paxton), one truly good actress (McGillis), and a long, drawn out, exposition leading to a couple slightly chilling moments, and not much else.
Paxton plays Claire, a young person who is too old for high school but not doing much in the college arena. She and Luke (Healy) have inexplicably been left to fend the desk at The Yankee Pedlar during its last opening weekend. Where is the owner? Some tropical vacation spot. Why is he not here? I assume it’s because the movie did not have the budget for another actor.
The movie starts with Claire arriving to work to see an already bored Luke working on his computer. He is working on a website for ghosts, knowing the history of the place that they work. He says that he has seen them here before. When she looks at his computer while he sleeps, she sees porn throughout his laptop’s history. This is played off for a “big” line later. These days, someone looking at a computer and not finding porn is the bigger surprise. It’s stuff like this that makes the movie feel like it’s in a time warp: just not an exciting one.
So from this boring beginning we get more boredom. And more boredom. Then we get Kelly McGillis as, suprise, an aging actress who is here for some mystic conference taking place down the road. She was a mother on some Family Ties type television show that Sara used to really like. Her character’s name, Leanne Rease-Jones, feels a bit like Meredith Baxter-Birney. The similarity is intentional, of course. They talk about it, grow bored, and part. Oh well, it’s nice to see Kelly McGillis again.
There is a really nice sequence in the middle of the film involving a piano and those listening devices that we first saw way back when Poltergeist came out. All these years later and we still use the long microphone, but I digress. This one scene begs for companion scenes, which it does not receive. The end of the film is like something out of Scooby Doo. I won’t tell you why.
Sara Paxton as an actress is a bit like my nine-year old. She is full of expression, but limited on connecting to her character or that of others. The drunk scenes between her and Healy are some of the most awkwardly performed in recent memory. I kept picturing her saying to herself “this is how you look silly,” “this is how you look scared,” “this is how you look reverent,” etc. Healy’s main skill seems to be acting like he can’t act. Why is Kelly McGillis relegated to stuff like this? What a drag it is, getting old.
(*1/2 out of *****)