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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on DVDs. The Innkeepers

U.S.: Ti West, 2011

A neat little horror movie that keeps trying to remind us of The Shining, The Innkeepers pulls us instead into a creepy world of failing hotels and troubled economies and weird guests and mildly obsessed hotel co-workers — the wreckage and mildly rotting corpse of a New England tradition that‘s older than Stephen King (or Bronx kid Stanley Kubrick for that matter). The locale is the Yankee Pedlar Inn, reputed to be haunted, and due to be shuttered forever after this night‘s occupancy. In what little time is left them, the two somewhat hip last employees — twentysomething Claire (Sara Paxton), who changes the towels and walks the halls, and older guy Luke (Pat Healy), who mans the desk and pulls Paranormal Activity gags on his computer and obviously has an unspoken crush on Claire — are going to try to roust out the spooks, either see one for real or lay the legends to rest.

Helping them out are the guests from hell (or maybe in hell): TV actress turned psychic Leanne Reese-Jones (Kelly McGillis), Gayle the mad mom (Alison Bartlett), and an old, old man who checks in and obviously means to come to a bad end. Two little girls also wander around, in tribute to to their obvious inspirations, The Grady sisters from The Shining.

Ti West’s movie is loaded with seedy atmosphere and cracked wacko personality, and I much preferred it to the over-expensive blood-drenched massacres they usually give us. Paxton’s Claire and Healy’s Luke are engagingly scarable protagonists. The cellar is a doozy. West, this movie’s director-writer-editor — and also the auteur of The House of the Devil and Trigger Man (both nifty, effective shows), is a horror classicist with a good scrappy sense of character, and he seems refreshingly uninterested in breaking any decapitation records or in exploring the far boundaries of found footage. (Anyway, Cloverfield has already done it.)

I like West’s stuff. I also still love Kubrick and The Shining, though I’ll always be unhappy with Stanley K. for hiring Diane Johnson to write the script instead of King. As for The Innkeepers, it’s a decent, smart, midrange horror show. Now: the Money question. Will this movie scare you? How the hell would I know?

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