Tuesday, May 12, 2020

People Check In, but They Don't Check Out

Film: The Innkeepers
Format: Streaming video from IMDb TV on basement television.

When we all went into self-isolation and sheltering at home, I went to three of the local libraries I use and got a giant stack of movies. I also made a gigantic stack of movies I have bought but never gotten around to watching. Well, I’m close to the end of those two stacks, and, desperate to watch something today, I scrolled through IMDb TV, a service apparently attached to Amazon Prime. The movies come with ads, but there appear to be a bunch that I can’t get anywhere else, so it seemed like a chance to watch one of those. Out of a field of several possibilities, I went with The Innkeepers.

Why did I pick this movie? I’m not really sure. It seemed like a decent place to start, and I’ll likely start hitting this service over the next few days, because there are some movies I’m really interested in seeing. The Innkeepers is one I’ve wanted to see in the past, so more than anything, I guess I was just ready to see something I thought would be interesting to see.

Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) work at the Yankee Pedlar Inn, an old hotel that is at the end of its life. In fact, the weekend over which the film takes place is the last one that the hotel will be open. Because of this, there are just a few guests in the hotel. Claire and Luke are there to take care of those few customers and to more or less prepare what they can for the shutdown.

It’s worth noting that in the film (and actually allegedly in the real world), the Yankee Pedlar is reportedly a haunted hotel (and the film was actually created in the real “haunted” hotel of the same name). Claire is a fan of the paranormal and ghost hunting, and she has gotten Luke involved in this as well. In fact, we can infer from conversations later in the film that Luke has a bit of a crush on Claire, and has gotten involved in the ghost hunting and recording electronic voice phenomena because it gives him something to talk about. He even maintains a website about the hotel’s haunting, most of which deals with Madeline O’Malley, a jilted bride who allegedly hanged herself in the hotel.

A mother and son are in the hotel since she is feuding with her husband. The real star guest arrives as Leanne Reese-Jones (Kelly McGillis), a former sitcom actress turned psychic and psychic healer. Claire confesses her love of the paranormal to her and tells her about the hotel’s main ghost. Lee, using a crystal pendant, more or less taps into the spirit world and tells Claire that she shouldn’t go into the basement. If you think this means that we’re going to eventually wind up in the basement, you’ve seen a scary movie or two.

I’m going to leave the plot there for now. There’s no real reason to take it much past this part of the second act, because anything I say after this point would be either a spoiler or would turn into a spoiler when I tried to fully explain it.

I have a great deal of respect for what the Innkeepers is trying to accomplish. There are one or two jump scares, a couple of which are pretty effective, but the movie doesn’t want to rely on jump scares to be scary. What it’s aiming for more than anything is atmosphere. It wants people to have the “creeps.” It wants people to sleep with a light on and to be disturbed much more than it wants them to freak out. It doesn’t always achieve that goal, but the fact that this is the clear desire of the film is admirable. It could easily go for the cheap and dirty scare, but it wants to be a great deal more.

And that’s the thing here. The Innkeepers has high ambition and it reaches a couple of its goals in spades, it doesn’t get to all of them. It’s decent, perhaps even good, without ever really getting to great, and there could be something great here.

The Innkeepers is a film I can just barely recommend, and that not without a strong caveat. It’s fine as a movie, but it doesn’t live up to any of the posters I’ve seen for it. Sure, a lot of movies don’t live up to their own poster (or trailer), but we can dream, can’t we?

The Innkeepers needs more outright scary things happening. We need more of the haunting and more explanations from Luke trying to explain things away.

Why to watch The Innkeepers: It aims for atmosphere more than anything.
Why not to watch: It’s not as scary as it wants to be.


  1. I hate, hate, hate, HATE this movie. Sorry for the link, but uh...


    1. As much as I found the movie to be middling-okay, I can't disagree with most of your review.

  2. Caption for your screen shot: "Whadaya mean, this room is $200 a night?!"

    1. I'm mildly struck by the fact that Sara Paxton looks a bit like Reese Witherspoon.