With 2009’s the slow-burning, atmospheric and nightmarish HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, writer/director Ti West (previously responsible for THE ROOST), did a bang-up job of resurrecting the spirit of classic, dawn-of-the-’80s horror cinema, riffing on the era’s satanic panic and toying with the tools and techniques of the time. That film was highly prized last-second addition to Fantasia’s 2009 line-up — now watch us pull the same cool trick again with West’s latest, THE INNKEEPERS!

This time, West hits the rewind button even harder. While THE INNKEEPERS finds him less concerned with mimicking the mechanical aspects of an earlier era in horror cinema, it certainly echoes the eerie, engaging, better-than-B-grade spookhouse flicks of the 1950s. The scene is the Yankee Pedlar Inn in Torrington, Connecticut, a dingy and unimpressive hotel mere days from the final locking of its front doors. What’s left of the staff is just strongheaded tomboy Claire and cranky geek Luke (Sara Paxton and Pat Healy, a pair to watch), two twentysomething misfits with a mutual interest in the paranormal. As guests are just as scarce at the Yankee Pedlar — not much besides a former actress (Kelly McGillis) now indulging in spiritualism — Claire and Luke are free to poke about the doomed, reputedly haunted hotel and perhaps scare up some clues about the building’s supernatural secrets.

Favouring a slow but steady cranking of dread over cheap, loud shocks, smart chuckles over obtuse splat-stick and carefully crafted characters over cardboard cutouts cooked up for a kill count, West — a protégé of the great Larry Fessenden, who co-produced this effort — cements his title as a champ at generating good old-fashioned chills!

—Rupert Bottenberg


THE INNKEEPERS has its Canadian Premiere on July 25th at 9:45pm in the Hall Theatre. More info on the film page HERE.

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