The Innkeepers is, at its core, a relatively simple ghost story. Claire and Luke are in a supposedly old haunted hotel. For the most part, The Yankee Pedlar Inn is a simple hotel, with nothing going for it except for suicide of Madeline O’Malley many years ago. Claire and Luke, as ghost hunting enthusiasts, are intrigued by her supposed presence and attempt to document her haunting. Very typical of ghost movies, the signs of a haunting start very small, but soon grow more and more terrifying until it culminates in Claire’s death.
I haven’t decided yet whether I like Innkeepers, or at least enough to recommend it to people, mostly because of the first half or third of the film. The earlier part of the movie was very slow. I found it really boring that I found myself fighting to stay awake, because it was merely documenting the mediocre lives of the two main characters. I don’t know if the two characters were made that way so that audiences could relate with them, but I find that, for the most part (and especially in the case of Luke), these characters exemplified many of the things we don’t like about ourselves – our laziness, mediocrity, lack of ambition, and cowardice. I found myself feeling intense dislike for Luke when he abandons Claire, even after he says all those things to her to get into her pants. While leaving the hotel was the logical, self-preserving decision, I believe his decision to leave Claire, his friend, was despicable. Claire, at least, at least didn’t abandon people. Even when she felt utter terror, she still returned for the old man on the third floor.
Regardless, The Innkeepers also did a a bunch of interesting things as well. Undoubtable, there is power in looking, in the gaze. The power lies in the beholder because he/she can, at a distance, scrutinize the object of his/her gaze. As a viewer, you start to understand your object more and somehow you gain power and control in the process. The object of your gaze, if it were alive and sentient, however would feel self-conscious and vulnerable. I think the reason why Claire felt so disconcerted in the hotel was not just because she felt something otherworldly there, but that Madeline was unseen yet watching her. As viewers as well, we feel helpless because we know there’s something there, but we’re kept on the edge. The tension grows and grows with the signs and sounds, but we see very little, almost zero of the ghost, yet we are made to feel that Madeline is furiously chasing us. The story, while I still hold is pretty boring, is structured very typically. Everything is built towards that climax, where Claire and Luke investigate the basement, Luke flees, Claire pleads with Leanne for help, the two encounter something terrifying in the basement, they decide to escape the hotel, Claire encounters the old man’s dead body and Madeline’s ghost, Claire flees to the basement, and finally dies of an asthma attack. The last twenty minutes or so are so terrifying and exciting because of all the build up from the earlier parts of the movie. The climax is so effective because the rest of the plot never tried to detract or prepare you for what you were going to face at the end. In this regard, The Innkeepers was definitely very effective at being scary.