Last night I queued up Ti West’s THE INNKEEPERS on Netflix (it’s far more satisfying to say “popped in a DVD” but I find I haven’t used those in months). I’m pretty picky when it comes to my beloved horror genre. There’s so much out there, and most of it I find disappointing.

Not so with THE INNKEEPERS. I went in with high hopes after enjoying 2009’s HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, and I was not disappointed. A quick summary of THE INNKEEPERS: Luke (Pat Healy) and Claire (Sara Paxton) are working the final weekend of a closing hotel, the Yankee Pedlar Inn. The 3rd floor’s already been shut down, furniture stripped, and they only have three guests all weekend. Luke is a budding paranormal investigator, and Claire is sort of adrift, enthusiastic about making contact with the spirit of local legend Madeline O’Malley, who hung herself in the hotel, then was deposited in the basement for three days to cover up the death. Needless to say, wackiness ensues.

 

This movie is scary. I usually find the first third of a horror movie kind of scary, when characters don’t know what they’re up against. The unknown is what gets to me. THEM (the 2006 French movie, not to be confused with 1954 THEM! which I also enjoyed, but for different reasons) also scared the crap out of me, as we didn’t know what the characters were up against. When the movie establishes the rules—there’s a serial killer, he’s going to pick you off one by one; it’s a vampire, carry a stake, eat garlic; it’s a disease, don’t touch the blood—things get less scary. Often I still find them enjoyable, but not scary. THE INNKEEPERS is a whole lot of Claire alone in the hotel at night. It’s beautiful in its simplicity. There are almost no fancy effects; it’s all closing doors, pianos that play themselves, and atmosphere. Oh god, the atmosphere. Movies get to me more than books, though I find book payoffs less disappointing. A young woman essentially alone in a hotel with creepy stuff going down really hit me, and I spent the whole movie feeling anxious for her. And the best part? Virtually nothing happens in this movie. The characters and setting are so rich that it doesn’t matter.

It’s not perfect. It’s hard to empathize with characters who go in the dark scary basement, even after the light doesn’t work. But I did. No new ground is covered here, but the execution is delicious.

Here’s a link to i09’s review of THE INNKEEPERS. Check the movie out. It’s a good one.