The graphics in the opening credits for Ti West's “The Innkeepers” say it all: This is old-school horror, a throwback to the pre-“Halloween” era when the absence of action could be just as creepy as the shocking payoff.
Director Ti West proved with 2009's “The House of the Devil” that there is power in simplicity, and while “The Innkeepers” could use some judicious final cuts, this nostalgic chiller earns its scares.
Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) are the working stiffs running the Yankee Pedlar on its last weekend, and the shabby, 19th century New England inn has only a few paying
Luke, a slacker who operates a rudimentary, Geocities-style website about the supposedly haunted inn, spends the quiet hours at the Yankee Pedlar trying to record Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP) in the halls and basement.
He is attempting to zero in on the ghost of Madeline O'Malley, a woman who killed herself at the inn 120 years
Claire is less convinced but bored enough to join in, and with the arrival of Leanne Rease-Jones (Kelly McGillis), a former actress turned psychic medium, the Yankee Ped
Like “The House of the Devil,” “The Innkeepers” is primarily a genre exercise, an attempt to recapture the horror techniques of an earlier time. Audiences accustomed to the slice-and-dice editing of the post-“Saw” era will want more action, but patient viewers will appreciate West's slow-burn sensibility. The Blu-ray edition is particularly effective for viewers with good surround sound systems; much of the suspense hinges on what is heard rather than seen, and one of the two commentary tracks features sound designer Graham Reznick discussing his methodology. This is horror like they used to make; if it weren't for the appearance of laptops, websites and high-tech sound equipment, “The Innkeepers” could pass for mid-1970s drive-in material. This piece of neo-grindhouse horror is far from perfect and the ending sags a little, but the rough edges are part of its charm.
— George Lang