Quaint, enchanting, cute - these aren't words normally associated with films about a haunting, but they are more than apt for describing The Innkeepers. If you're wondering if this can even be considered a horror movie, I can assure you that it does earn its horror chops when all is said and done (although I think the trailer oversells the scare factor). What I took away from the movie, though, was a rather poignant sense of melancholy. You aren't going to find many horror films that run you through such a gamut of emotions as this one. It's an unconventional but really impressive piece of work from writer/director Ti West.
The setting is the historic Yankee Pedlar Inn, on the final weekend before it closes its doors forever. With only one floor open and three rooms booked, young Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) are all the only employees left to see the inn through its final days and hours. Their focus, however, is in trying to prove that the venerable old hotel is indeed haunted - supposedly by the ghost of Madeline O'Malley, a young bride who reportedly hanged herself when her lover abandoned her on her wedding day. Luke has created a web site about sightings of the ghost, but it is Claire who seems fixated on making contact with Madeline before the inn closes its doors forever. Claire is quite a character - young, unfocused, highly excitable, and just incredibly cute. She definitely doesn't seem to have the temperament of a ghost hunter, as several comical scenes early on make clear. Personally, I found her infatuating, and I thought Sara Paxton's portrayal of her was almost magical. Kelly McGillis also turns in a strong performance as actress turned new age healer Leanne Rease-Jones, a character who comes to play a crucial and prophetic part in the story.
The Innkeepers is devilishly hard to describe. In a way, much of the story is predictable, yet at the same time it's also rather shocking in the end. The writing is subtly brilliant. The significance of some lines early in the movie only hit you later on, even after the film is over. It sounds stupid for me to describe the story as both conventional and unconventional, but I think that is a true statement. Those who like their scares blatant and numerous probably won't like the film, as it's really not a scarefest. The Innkeepers is a ghost story in the traditional sense, full of subtle nuance and dare I say intellect, playing out in a little world where the characters are more important than the events that befall them. I loved it.