The Innkeepers: A Crappy Horror Movie That Could’ve Been One of the Best Ever


The Innkeepers (2011)
Written & Directed by Ti West
101 min.

Spoilers ahead. But not in the two paragraphs directly below this sentence.

What happened with this one? It really makes no sense how it could be so bad. The House of the Devil, Ti West’s film right before this, is pitch-perfect. A modern classic dripping with maturity. Easily one of my favorite horror movies of all time. The Innkeepers, however, is blatantly botched. So much so that it’s hard to believe he didn’t make it prior to The House of the Devil. How does one go from being the most intelligent horror writer-director around to being a hack in two short years? Did he get hit on the head or something?

I suspect the studio insinuated itself during the writing process, with awful script notes and the like. The thing just plain feels tinkered with and compromised, because the story starts off solid, and where he seemed to be going with it was genius and groundbreaking. And then unfortunately, for whatever reason, knowingly or unknowingly, he veered off onto a well-worn, safe, hackneyed path that robbed it entirely of depth.

I’l spell it out clearly: basically, the dude had the opportunity to make a movie about a girl scared to death by the guy who loves her, and instead made a movie about a girl scared to death by actual ghosts. If you’ve see the movie, you’re high-fiving me through the screen right now, because you know I’m fucking right. But I’ll explain, for those of you who haven’t seen it.

The movie is about two innkeepers at an old rundown inn. A beautiful nerdy girl and an average nerdy guy. They’re the sole employees, and they’re friends. The guy is in love with the girl, but she’s oblivious. She’s one of those twenty-something girls who’s basically still 12 years old when it comes to that sort of thing. Also, she has asthma, and carries an inhaler.

They’re ghost hunting enthusiasts, and what drew them to working at the inn in the first place is that it’s allegedly haunted by the ghost of a woman who hanged herself and then was buried in the basement by the owners. But the inn is closing for good in a week or two, and they still haven’t had a sighting or any contact with the ghost.

That night, while the girl is putting out the garbage, she hears weird noises coming from the entrance to the basement. She goes back inside and goes around the house with headphones on, holding a microphone, to try and pick up EVP’s. She hears faint voices and some music, and then sees a grand piano start to play itself.

At this point in the film, it’s unclear whether or not she’s hearing actual ghosts, or if her friend is playing tricks on her. To the audience, I mean. To her, the shits real. But then in the next scene, all mystery/suspense goes out the window because she wakes up in the morning and sees a fucking box-standard CGI ghost in her room (I dunno much about companies that do CGI for movies, but they must just have a folder full of these fuckers that they just tweak slightly and stick into movies) and the ghosts are now proven to be very real, and the movie becomes very boring as a result.

For the rest of the movie, she, and sometimes the guy, are running away from CGI ghosts or whatever. But all these scare beats could have easily been filled by simple, subtle eeriness and stuff moving. Ti West is exceptional at that sort of thing. They should have done that, and thus kept the mystery going as long as possible of whether the guy is just doing this to the girl so she can have the contact with ghosts she’s always dreamed of. It would’ve made the movie way suspenseful.

I really do think there was a draft of this movie where this was the case. Because there are a bunch of great scares here that have nothing to do with CGI ghosts at all. For instance, the first scare is the two of them watching one of those screamer videos on a laptop. Which is fucking brilliant. Ti West, you sometimes-genius fuck, that was lovely. Literally just filming a damn laptop with a screamer video on it. That half the damn audience knows is a screamer video. And scaring the shit out of the half of the audience that doesn’t. So beautiful.

And the climax of the film even seems like it was a part of an old, good draft where all the shit I’m suggesting was actually there. What happens is, the girl hides in the basement, and she hears ghosts banging against the doors, and she’s in the dark, and the other door towards escape padlocked (by her, earlier in the movie) and she’s having an asthma attack, and she’s all alone, and she doesn’t have her inhaler, and she dies. It’s a sad, awful death. And in the next scene, the next morning, the guy who loves her seems genuinely remorseful over the fact that she’s dead. Almost like he had something to do with it, and was responsible in some way. But he fucking wasn’t. But in a good version of this movie, he was. In a good version of this movie, he went too far trying to give her a memorable experience at the inn before it was gone forever. Because, although he doesn’t believe in ghosts, he know that ghosts are the only way he can bond with her. So he does it so they’ll have a shared, scary experience. Because he loves her. That’s a good movie, right there. You feel bad for him somewhat. Shits deep.

How great would that have been? A fucking ghost movie, full of truly scary subtle ghost scares, but no actual ghosts—plus an actually interesting, human story? Shit woulda been wonderful. And the cast was totally capable. The girl who played the girl is great, and same goes for the guy. They were up to the challenge of something deep. Instead, Ti West made a pointless B movie. I’m serious, there’s no actual point to this movie. In my version, there’s a point. This one, not so much. The point in this one is literally ‘ghosts are scary and real—if you have asthma, always make sure you have your inhaler’. Fuck that shit.

His next film, The Sacrament, has Joe Swanberg in it. Which worries me. I’m worried that the telltale sign of a bad Ti West film is a bad actor-filmmaker having a cameo in it, because Lena Dunham is in The Innkeepers for a scene or two, and The Innkeepers sucked. So maybe this one will be bad because Swanberg is in it. Who knows. I’ll still see it, because I love The House of the Devil so much, and I really hope he has another one of those in him. But I definitely will not see it in theaters. Ya done broke my trust, Ti. We should talk some day. I really wanna know what the fuck happened with The Innkeepers—if it was the studios, or your own insecurity, or your own dumbness, or what. Shoot me an email, bruh.

2 1/2 out of 5 Codys.

11 thoughts on “The Innkeepers: A Crappy Horror Movie That Could’ve Been One of the Best Ever”

  1. I just finished watching this film on demand and was kinda surprised when the it went the CGI ghost route. For the first part of this movie I was hooked into what seemed to me a brilliant character driven storyline. The scares subtle and the relationship between the characters really building up into what I was hoping would be a good psychological thriller. And then the Fucking Dead woman. At this point I smacked my head into the armrest. From that moment the film kinda downturned into ooooo dead people ooooooo and it kinda overpowered her death. What should have been a tragic accident, poignant and creepy, was lost in a rather hackneyed haunting. Honestly I thought it was going to go exactly where you thought it would, there were scenes in the movie that seemed to hinge on this premise, that he’d have done anything to give her a real haunting and then it was like they copped out at the last moment. But then again I think I expect to much these days. Most horror films start out with an interesting and creepy storyline, take Grave encounters, then they muff it with cheap scares and bad CGI. Think I’m gonna go re-watch The House of the Devil.

  2. Sorry but I just wanted to mention a few things. Firstly that wasn’t a cgi ghost, that was a real actress with makeup on, the actress is the nurse from house of the devil and secondly you said guy is chubby, really, the guy is skinny as anything. Sorry just wanted to say that, I really enjoyed the Innkeepers though, and i consider house of the devil my favourite horror film.

    1. Haha, wow, you’re actually right about the guy—for some reason, in my head, I remembered him as a fat guy. But Google image searching stills from the film, it’s clear he’s not. I’ll tweak that word in the review. Usually the films I review on here, I review right after I see them, but this was one I wrote a while after, so I guess he grew corpulent in mind over time or something.

      There is CGI in the movie, though. I can’t remember the exact instances (you might be right about one of the actresses not being CGI) but I do remember its pervasiveness. Are you sure she wasn’t composite? It’s kind of a trendy thing to digitally manipulate faces in post.

      1. I’m not sure, but the actress is Brenda Cooney, I thought she looked quite effective and different to your usual ghost in movies, but hey each to their own.

  3. That would’ve been a completely better movie. But yeah, this movie made no sense. Like, the way they set up the ghost plot line, it made no sense for the ghosts to go after the girl. And what was with the actress/psychic and how she “couldn’t help her” and it was “too late.” They made it seem like she knew something more or was responsible? I don’t fucking know. Apparently you can see the girls ghost in the window at the end, so maybe she became what she was passionate about: a ghost?

  4. I actually saw the movie as exactly what you wished it were – a ghost story with no real ghosts, at least in the way we see them. Here is how I interpreted it:

    Claire – the main character – is obsessed with making contact with Madeline, the main ghost. Because of that, she dreams about Madeline, allowing her subconscious to paint a picture of what ghost Madeline would look like (earlier in the movie, she was looking at a website about Madeline and there was a picture of her, so Claire knew what Madeline looked like when she was alive).

    I believe there were spirits in the house and Claire and Luke – the guy who is in love with her – hear these spirits on the recording device they carry around. This causes Luke to freak out and run out of the hotel.

    Fast forward and we have Claire and Lee in a panic, wanting desperately to get out of the hotel. Before they can, though, Claire remembers the old man who checked into room 353, the honeymoon suite. She goes up there to check on him and finds that he’s killed himself in the bathtub.

    Okay, this has a lot to do with how I interpreted the film. Notice that Claire never actually saw any ghosts until after she found the old man’s body. I believe that she was suffering from PTSD – post traumatic stress disorder. A symptom of PTSD is hallucinations. She hallucinates that she sees Madeline’s hanging body in the room, which causes her to run downstairs. I believe she was able to do this because her subconscious had already painted a picture of dead Madeline in her dream. She actually does hear a spirit calling her name in the basement and – stupidly – goes to check on it. She was able to hallucinate the ghost of the old man because she had actually seen his dead body, which caused her to trip and fall down the stairs. I think Luke heard this and her screaming and that is what made him go down there after her.

    In her fear and confusion – most likely from the head injury she sustained – she hallucinated another ghost – probably because Lee told her that she saw 3 spirits in the hotel – which caused her to lock herself in the back room. When Luke begins banging on the door, she thinks it is a spirit and – again – has a hallucination that the door is being broken open. She then tries to get out through the other exit, but it is padlocked, which causes her to break into hysterics and she suffers an asthma attack, killing her. But she thinks it is Madeline’s ghost.

    The reason why I think this is because Lee said there were 3 spirits in the hotel. These 3 spirits were most likely Madeline, her fiancee, and Claire. She also told Claire to stay away from the basement, but she never elaborated. She had a glimpse of Claire dying in the basement, which is why she warned her to stay away from it.
    So the movie was essentially what you wanted: Claire dying as a result of the man who loved her (although is was partly her fault as well).

    But that’s just my take on it.

    1. I like that take a lot, that’s a very clever read. And it sort of fits, but I wish it fit more. I don’t like that the film had one foot in the water and one foot on shore. I wanted it to be fully in the water, trying something really different and new. As it stands, it feels like a cop out, a compromise. The idea deserved better.

  5. Did anyone notice Like had no shadow on the walls when he and Claire were heading to the basement? Then when Lee entered, she had a perfect shadow of her.

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