Friday, December 30, 2011

Ti West's THE INNKEEPERS bows today on VOD, in advance of theatrical opening Feb 3

Filmmaker Ti West is certainly one determined throwback. Of his three full-length films TrustMovies has seen so far (he didn't catch Trigger Man or Cabin Fever 2), it's safe to say that Mr. West loves old-fashioned scare movies. In his energetic but quite tiring and silly "monster movie" The Roost (2007), he had his terrorized cast attacked by bats, while 2009's The House of the Devil (his best film by a long shot) saw a babysitter and her friend become the prey of Satanists with a very disturbing ritual on their agenda. Now, with THE INNKEEPERS, he's back again with a bunch of retro scares, this time involving an old New England inn about to go out of business and full of assorted things that go bump in the night.

West, pictured at right, certainly knows old movies -- and old-time scares. Via a combination of smart, subtle acting, clever build-up, and the just-so placement of suspense and shock throughout the film, The House of the Devil proved West could create an old-fashioned scare fest for modern-day audiences. If only the same were true of The Innkeepers, but, alas, "old-fashioned" is everywhere on display but the scares have mostly disappeared. The few that remain are so over-used, and haggard that they end up DOA. After awhile one's response to things like doors that slam out of nowhere, piano keys that play when no one's there, and even bloody, disgusting ghosts that sneak up (when we're, unfortunately, most expecting them) is one, long, giant yawn and the question, Is that all? My friends: It is.

And it's too bad. Because West has corralled a nice cast to do his tiresome bidding, beginning with the delightfully energetic and youthful lead actress Sara Paxton (above, right), who invests each moment with enough pizazz to keep us alert. Her co-star is the very laid-back Pat Healy (above left), who proves a fine foil for Paxton's energy and verve.

Also on the scene is a woefully under-used Kelly McGillis (above: see her in Stake Land for a real performance and an infinitely better "scare" movie) as an old-time actress who's now doing "crystals" and ESP stuff. There are a few more characters, but none of them add up to much. They're all just vamping, even the silly ghosts -- until, suddenly, they're not. But by then, unfortunately, we don't give a shit.
 
The real trouble here is the screenplay. There very nearly isn't one. It sounds -- and seems -- dashed off overnight. Tiresome from the outset, it circles around and leads nowhere except into the usual clichés of this genre. Everything is second-hand and second-rate, including the reason for its two half-assed ghost-hunters to be doing their thing. The ghosts themselves are also of the most paltry sort (now they're here, now they're not) with a less-than-intriguing back story, to say the least.

Some of the camerawork (above) is good, in a been-there kind of way. Almost all the scares, however -- don't go into that basement! -- are minimal, as well, including the final, lengthy, build-up-the-suspense shot after which -- oh, please -- a door slams. Well, perhaps Mr. West means the joke to be on us. It is, it is.

The Innkeepers, from Magnet Releasing (and way too long at 100 minutes) is available via VOD beginning today, December 30, and will play up until the film's theatrical debut on February 3, 2012. You can click here to locate playdates, cities and theaters for that February bow. Meanwhile, check your local TV reception provider for VOD information. And click here to view other recent and upcoming Magnet/Magnolia movies you can view On-Demand. One of them, perhaps all, will be better than this dim fiasco.

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