It's the final weekend of business for the century-old Yankee Pedlar Inn. Working stiffs Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) make up the entire staff and have decided that, between delivering their guests' requisite clean towels and sheets, they will be spending these last days trying to capture real evidence of one of the many ghosts that are said to haunt the place. Like his work or not, Ti West's follow up to The House of the Devil is another fine piece of craftsmanship. The young man simply knows how to make a movie, and especially one on his own terms. Though some would complain that this is yet another West film where nothing happens, or rather more accurately where "nothing" happens until the last 20 minutes, it's hard not to admire how well it is orchestrated. This is filmmaking controlled by concept and vision. It's not some hand-held mess glued together in the cutting room with music and sound FX. Every element of cinema is judiciously employed, and the classical ghost story, with its slow and methodical build of tension, is particularly well suited to the director's talents. West even breaks his story down into a series of old-fashioned chapters, which helps to establish the "tale-told-round the-fire" mood.
You do have to wait until the film's final 20 minutes for the supernatural shoe to drop, but boy does it drop, and before then you are entertained by a pair of very charming characters well played by Paxton and Healy. Both of these actors create goofy but believably real eccentrics trapped in workaday jobs. It is their affectionate but platonic relationship that makes what seemed like "nothing" in earlier West films feel considerably more like "something." Unlike House of the Devil, which often felt as though all you were doing was waiting for a narrative sword of Damocles to fall down onto the lead character, The Innkeepers works fine on its own as a character comedy. Then the shoe drops and we get all the scares we had been expecting, only more intense since they are happening to someone we care about. First, it is important to note in these do-it-all-digital days that Ti West shot The Innkeepers on film. Yes, I am talking about that slightly grainy, chemically generated product that once dominated the industry, that had Paul Simon singing its praises, and that is now just a whistle in the technological graveyard. This is an important distinction to make since its release to Blu Ray could've left that rich, filmic look in that aforementioned graveyard. But no, this is a fine-looking disc with real flesh tones and not too much of that awful smoothing that seems to go hand in hand with the format.
Basically, this disc comes with all the wonderful and much-appreciated bells and whistles that the excellent House of the Devil disc did. First up is a fine "Behind the Scenes" featurette that feels less like a standard electronic press kit and more like someone's video diary of what seems to have been a very pleasant and happy shoot. We learn that the only reason The Innkeepers even exists is that the Yankee Pedlar, an actual century-old Inn, was the lodging used by cast and crew during the filming of House of the Devil, and the ambience and stories of the place inspired West to make a film set there.
You also get two separate feature-length commentaries. The first is with Ti West, producers Peter Phok and Larry Fessenden, and second unit director and sound designer Graham Reznick. This one focuses on the technical production. The second commentary is with West again, but this time joined by stars Sara Paxton and Pat Healy, and obviously focuses on their work as actors and the overall experience of making the film. Both are very much worth the listen.
The film's theatrical trailer rounds out the extras and is another piece of finely tuned craft. The Innkeepers is an unusual film with a unique tone, and the trailer captures it very well. The only downside of the entire disc is the cover art. While not bad on its own, it looks quite sad in comparison to the Drew Struzan-inspired original artwork of Tom Hodge aka "The Dude Designs," which can be found <="" href="http://thedudedesigns.blogspot.com/2011/03/ti-west-innkeepers.html">. That's what the movie feels like in one succinct image.
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