DVD Review: The Innkeepers

STUDIO: Dark Sky/MPI | DIRECTOR: Ti West | CAST: Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 4/24/2012 | PRICE: DVD $27.98, Blu-ray $34.98
BONUSES: commentaries, featurette
SPECS: R | 100 min. | Horror thriller | 2.40:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1/DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

The Innkeepers is Ti West’s latest slow-burn horror-thriller film wherein the writer/director’s atmospheric approach and a growing sense of dread is equal to or arguably greater than the film’s actual horrors.

The Innkeepers movie scene

Pat Healy and Sara Paxton are The Innkeepers.

Born out of West’s experiences staying at the Yankee Pedlar Inn in Torrington, Connecticut while on location for the production of his 2009 film House of the Devil, The Innkeepers revolves around a pair of slacker-ish locals who work at the century-old Yankee Pedlar (playing itself), which is set to close for good at the end of the weekend. There’s  the thirty-ish Luke (Pat Healy, Dirty Girl), who’s working on a website chronicling the inn’s history of being haunted and who claims to have seen a ghost wandering its halls. And then there’s Claire (Sara Paxton, Shark Night), a plucky, asthmatic younger gal who becomes obsessed with finding proof that the inn is indeed plagued by ghosts. As the Yankee Pedlar is virtually empty on its final weekend—the only guests are a disgruntled soon-top-be-ex-wife and a former TV star-turned-psychic (Kelly McGillis, Top Gun)—minimum wagers Luke and Claire have all the time they want to set up their cameras and microphones and embark on a ghost-hunt.

With its bare-bones approach—one location, a small cast and limited dialogue—West’s film requires the viewer to sink into the set-up and unsettlingly quiet atmosphere for it to work. Those who take their thrillers on the “slow-simmer” setting will enjoy the ride, though it must be said that the the ultimate “action” and pay-off come quite late in the game. Still, West’s deliberate pacing and use of confined spaces creates a creepily effective mood, which is a refreshing change of pace from the usual in-your-face monsters and mayhem of the genre. The Innkeepers‘ scares, when they come, are well-earned, and all the more scary not because they’re all that different from other “ghost movie” frights, but because they’re created with more caring and to greater effect.

The Innkeepers‘ DVD bonus package is led by two commentary tracks. West appears on both, the better track being the first one where he is joined by producers Larry Fessenden and Peter Phok and second unit director/sound designer Graham Reznick. The four men discuss the ins and outs of low-budget genre filmmaking and its key ingredients, which involve keeping an eye on the clock, the budget and the team while maintaining the passion that inspired the production in the first place.

The second track finds West accompanied by co-stars Paxton and an enthusiastic Healy, who declares that the first-ever commentary he’s ever participated in and that as a cinephile, he’s been listening to them since the laserdisc days. Though it’s not nearly as informative as the first commentary and there are a bunch of blank spaces, the three participants all appear to be having a good time.

Finally, there’s an eight-minute making-of piece wherein everyone mentions that they resided at the Yankee Pedlar Inn during the weeks of production—living on the upper floors; shooting on the lower floors—and that, yes, there’s a vibe in the place that one can only describe as “haunted.”

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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.