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Movie Review

The Innkeepers

‘The Innkeepers’ has too many vacancies

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By Wesley Morris
Globe Staff / February 3, 2012
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One problem with a movie devoted to the boredom of two hotel employees is that it risks contagion. “The Innkeepers’’ introduces Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) with a shrug then conducts every scene in the same manner. They take turns napping in their nearly vacant, soon-to-be-shuttered haunted inn, which is taunting for an audience wishing it could be napping, too. For too long, this movie asks us to be interested in something that rarely in the history of the service industry has been sustainably entertaining: how dull certain jobs can be.

It’s unclear whether the writer and director Ti West has made a film about those doldrums so that the ghost story that tiptoes around Claire and Luke can stimulate them and get the movie going. West may not be European enough to turn this sort of doing-nothing into something. Claire has lines like, “Why do you have to be such a bummer?’’ And: “Nobody loves an albatross.’’ No, I don’t believe a girl who seems like Reese Witherspoon, but in a petulant, spunky Alexis Bledel sort of way would say anything about an albatross either.

West produces a kind of laughless television show, one in which the score plays in every scene. The scenes that don’t feature it use ambient rock songs instead. It’s as if he can’t trust himself to build spooky atmosphere. When he can’t, here comes the CW music. Only nominally is “The Innkeepers’’ a ghost story. There’s a spirit who wants to be communed with, and a washed-up TV star is there for the communing. She’s played by Kelly McGillis, who’s older and grayer than she was the last time we saw her. She’s no less elegant, though. Skipping right past how she wound up here: How could West use her for only a fifth of the movie? Paxton’s awkward chipperness is misplaced. She’s a go-getter with nothing to go and get. The makeup department does all the heavy lifting.

Horror movies’ current meta-self-conscious state is what audiences know: Is the amateurish footage we’re watching, in the “Paranormal Activity’’ movies and “The Devil Inside,’’ real or just amateurish? That’s the tension. It should be refreshing that West has taken a break both from that trend and from his far grislier messes (“Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever,’’ “The House of the Devil’’) to make something that feels much more old-fashioned. But “The Innkeepers’’ errs too far on the wrong the side of quaint. Its affinity to boredom isn’t self-conscious enough.

Wesley Morris can be reached at wmorris@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @wesley_morris.

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The Innkeepers

Written and directed by:

Ti West

Starring: Sara Paxton,

Pat Healy, and Kelly McGillis

At: Kendall Square

Running time: 106 minutes

Rated: R (some bloody images and language)

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