AFTER DIRECTOR TI WEST'S excellent 2009 film The House of the Devil, he seemed set to invigorate the tired horror genre. With its spooky house setpiece and babysitter in distress, West nailed the homage to bygone scary movies with stylish, stripped-down aplomb. So his newest, The Innkeepers, has cachet right out of the gate. Plus, it's a gorgeously shot ghost story, a slow burner that has a couple decent scares thrown in. But it never gets off the ground: The Innkeepers feels slow and overly calculated, like there's a trimmer, more effective movie lurking beneath its baby fat.
The creepy old Yankee Pedlar Inn is going out of business, and in its final days, sole remaining employees Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) take turns staffing the front desk and sleeping in one of the many empty rooms. Claire is fascinated by the 100-year-old inn's haunted past (a jilted bride who killed herself), and the two spend their work hours as amateur ghost hunters, taking readings with their equipment in the rooms and corridors, never finding much until these last few days at the deserted hotel. But then, strange guests trickle in, including a past-her-prime actress who dabbles in the occult (Kelly McGillis, who has taken on all the years that Tom Cruise has deflected since Top Gun). And then the ghosties start to make their presence known.
The Innkeepers is by no means a bad flick—it's just so slow to accelerate that it ends up losing any steam it generated. It almost has more punch as a character-driven screwball comedy than a horror film, with Paxton and Healy bumbling about in their ghostly endeavors, goofy and gawky. West might be capable of making a pitch-perfect American gothic masterpiece, but this isn't it.