Following a slew of horror movie remakes and sequels in 2011, a demand for original horror films had been on the rise. And writers and directors like Ti West are using the opportunity to establish themselves as story-tellers who can generate genuine scares without big budgets and pre-existing fan bases.
In 2008, director Ti West and his production crew spent two months at The Yankee Pedlar Inn in a town in Connecticut while they shot “The House of The Devil.” The cast and crew soon began hearing stories from staff and visitors that the hotel was haunted. As West recalled, he and the rest of the staff soon began experiencing the supernatural presence for themselves.
“It was really an overall vibe- like someone was in the room with me. There were nights when I was in my room and it would just feel like somebody was in there with me, near me,” West admitted. “It may sound bogus and I’m a skeptic as it is, but I don’t ever feel that way in my life. Ever.”
After the release and success of “The House of The Devil,” the young writer-director began working on a pitch for a new movie based on the folklore about the inn. West thought it would be interesting to tell the story from the perspective of two bored, simple-minded young characters who had little to no knowledge of ghosts or hauntings.
The final draft of the story was structured around three chapters and an epilogue which told the story of the last remaining employees of The Yankee Pedlar Inn- Claire (played by Sara Paxton) and Luke (played by Pat Healy) who are determined to uncover proof that the hotel is haunted before it shuts down for good. As the inn’s final days draw near, odd guests check in as the pair of minimum wage ghost hunters begin to experience strange and alarming events that may ultimately cause them to be mere footnotes in the hotel’s long unexplained history.
The film premiered at the SXSW festival in March 2011.
The inn plays a character all on its own. Featuring rustic decor, restored period furniture and old pictures that line the hallways and tell the history of the hotel, The Yankee Pedlar Inn is an eerie yet believable location– ideal for a ghost story.
The Innkeepers incorporates a few archetypes of the genre- the curious and adventurous female lead, the apathetic male skeptic and the sagely old lady who has the ability to make contact with the spirits.
Sara Paxton does a great job of portraying a bored boyish female lead who is facinated by the idea of ghosts. She seems to have no aspirations in life, yet she seems content that way as long as nobody points it out. When the supernatural entities of the inn begin to appear in the film, her character’s sense of curiosity lightens the atmosphere and gives the film a youthful vibe.
It could be argued that the supernatural dwellings of the film also recieves too little face-time. Over-use of haunted badies can distract from the story, but “The Innkeepers” could have benefitted from a few more “Shining”-like encounters. While ultimately the climax may disappoint those looking for big scares and intense suspense, those looking for a traditional-style horror tale told well should be satisfied by the film’s unstructured pace and authentic characters.
The Innkeepers can be purchased cheaply right here.