The Innkeepers was my most anticipated film of Fantastic Fest 2011 hands down. Ti West’s House of the Devil is one of my favorite movies (and also my favorite film of Fantastic Fest ’09) and I couldn’t wait to see what he had coming next. I liked the concept, and everything I had heard about the film sounded great, but with no trailers to judge anything by, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. So I’m happy to say that although The Innkeepers is almost nothing like its predecessor, it was just as entertaining and incredible in a whole different sort of way and it fit perfectly as the final film of Fantastic Fest 2011.
One thing that I really wasn’t expecting at all, that The Innkeepers is full of, is comedy. The interactions of the two leads (Sara Paxton and Pat Healy) with just about everyone around them are constantly hilarious, adding a fitting touch of reality into a ghostly story. It makes sense, because working at an Inn that’s about to be closed down with almost no guests to speak of has to be really boring, and cracking jokes (along with a side of ghost hunting) is about the only thing you could do to help pass the time. And this is exactly how the central plot of the film (is this place haunted or not?) comes about.
However, while The Inkeepers is comedy heavy especially towards its start, it isn’t afraid to dive into full horror mode and show us (and make us listen to) some incredibly creepy things. For a good part of the film, Claire (Paxton) is armed with a tape recorder trying to gather evidence of ghosts in the building, and it’s in these moments where the sound design really steals the show. Ti West joked at the Q & A that he should have just had them video the whole thing and used found footage if he wanted to make boatloads of cash, but while that’s probably true, just using audio alone for these moments makes for a much creepier and satisfying experience. This isn’t a horror-comedy, it’s a horror film that also happens to be funny, and both aspects work equally well.
All the performances here, from the leads to the minor cameos are cast and acted brilliantly, and every actor gets their chance to steal the show for at least a little bit at some point. Some of the characters that seem predictable at first, end up in a totally different place than you’d think, but at the same time I always believed what was happening on screen. In many ways, the events that unfold throughout the film can be seen in a few different ways, which is why I really can’t wait to watch this film again.
I love going into a movie with a certain set of expectations and walking out with those expectations shattered, but in a good way and that’s exactly what happened for me with The Innkeepers. It has the perfect blend of horror, comedy, and great performances that make me want to come back for more.