The Yankee Pedlar Inn is a real hotel in Torrington, Conn., that is rumored to be haunted. The Innkeepers, a desultory indie-prod poorly written and lamely directed by Ti West, and filmed on the cheap at the actual location, is a poor-man’s rip-off of Stanley Kubrick’s hotel spookfest, The Shining, promising paranormal horrors to all who dare to enter. Where is Jack Nicholson when we need him?
The conceit of this time-wasting probe of a spiritual world that exists beyond occult gossip is that this is the last weekend before hard times and economic pressures force the Yankee Pedlar to close its doors forever. The only two staff members left, a nerdy desk clerk with red hair and spectacles named Luke (Pat Healy) and a pretty blond teenager named Claire (Sara Paxton), decide to spend the weekend on the premises and offer final amenities to the inn’s only two guests—a bitter wife and mother who has left her husband at home to teach him a lesson, and a faded has-been movie star (Kelly McGillis) with an odd interest in ghosts. Surfing the net, Claire looks up the ghost stories that have circled the inn’s reputation for decades and finds a creepy tale of one suicidal dame who hanged herself from the beams in Room 353 and whose body was hidden in the cellar. For nearly two hours the film drags its own carcass around aimlessly while Claire roams the halls playing ghost hunter with the aid of a ticking wand apparatus that makes noises like a Geiger counter and looks like a weed whacker. The piano plays by itself. An alarm clock goes off. She thinks it’s the spirit of the dead woman, who may have been a murder victim, not a suicide, trying to make contact. Luke tries to be logical, spouting the script’s goofiest lines: “You gotta pull it together! You’re way out in the weeds right now!” and “How many times have you seen someone on late-night TV hawking their psychic wares to an audience of rubes?” Answer: It seems they’re making low-budget movies now.
Eventually, a real weirdo checks in, demanding Room 353, and ends up in a bathtub filled with blood. But for nearly two hours, The Innkeepers hobbles on one foot with no tempo and only a minimum of tension. For the record, the real Yankee Pedlar Inn has no intention of closing. It’s a charming retreat that dates back to 1891, with elegant period furniture, burnished walnut floors and a tavern that serves delicious country cooking in front of a crackling fire. Room 353 is a popular request on the reservations list. The movie is a harmless entertainment that might satisfy people who like haunted houses as long as their demands for genuine hair-raising thrills are minimal. Above all, it offers a lovely tour of an authentic New England tourist attraction that never fails to please the eye. Still, I ask myself, how can any movie that calls itself a horror film also be boring at the same time? You will find the answer in The Innkeepers.
Running Time 100 minutes
Written and Directed by Ti West
Starring Sara Paxton, Pat Healy and Kelly McGillis