Ti West got a fuck of a load of hype after House of the Devil. What's more is that hype was well deserved. He crafted a film that was retro-shiek, with a nice take on the current exorcism/devil on your doorstep craze (still in full tilt boogie) and played it off like he thought up the whole god damn thing. I say that with utmost respect. I adore House of the Devil. The opening credit scene complete with vintage 80's cassette walkman had me screaming, "I wish I thought a that". And enough has been written about House of the Devil, and we all know the story, and if anyone wants to buy me an early Christmas present go talk to Diabolik DVD about getting me the DVD/VHS combo that I didn't purchase at the 24 Hour Horror-thon this year. The anticipation for a new Ti West film had become so ravenous that we hung on every still, trailer, teaser or poster. What did we get?
To start off with I was unimpressed by the trailer, but god be fuckin' damned if I didn't love the poster. Man that poster was something, right? You could show your non-horror lovin' friends that poster and they'd be strung out for days thinking about The Innkeepers and they didn't even know who Ti West was. It was nice to be the guy with the "cool thing" to share at the water cooler. That poster made it to any number of top movie poster lists. That poster made me realize that people put out top ___ movie poster lists. Mine eyes hath been opened. Beautiful poster. Stunning. Shitty trailer. That happens. As long as the movie's good the trailer can be puppies and kittens suckling on a cow teet (its own merit would stand on its own). So a trailer leaves a bit to be desired.
So the countdown begins. Ti West puts out his, "pay to see my movie/starving artist speech". Yes Sir! I will pay to see anything you put out. You impress me, sir. I am on board. I wholeheartedly support paying loads of money for independent cinema. I do. I prefer it not to suck and it can suck just as long as there's heart behind it. Now big Hollywood? Eh, I'm okay if you wanna skip out on Scream 4 to catch it on the newsgroups or the torrents or whatever the Hell Napster program you've just discovered, but you damn well support the independents you dogs! You do it! Or I'm pretty sure those guys over at ToeTag Productions are going to put you in their next picture. So buy independent like it's your wartime obligation (it is a war in the film distro market). December 30th couldn't come soon enough. I was spreadin' the Gospel. Telling my friends at the water cooler that the end was nigh! Let's get our Ti West helmet on and conquer the giant sloth of major studio boredom.
And so my New Years Day present to myself... was simple. The Innkeepers. Comcast On-Demand VOD. $9.99. ... ... Doesn't that seem like quite a bit? I mean for a movie on demand. Maybe it's not be I pretty much max out at around $6.99. Whatever right? It's Ti West. THAT POSTER FUCKIN' ROCKED! I purchased the movie and then thought to myself, "none of my friends are going to purchase a movie for $9.99 that I would recommend". Man, if all the people I told to check out this picture went out and paid $9.99 to watch this thing and hated it I'd be the last bit of water at the bottom of the Poland Spring water cooler that never actually leaves the cooler but instead stays there... waiting to leave. Purgatory. Isolation. None of them bothered to watch it for $9.99. That was above their price point (it just seems high).
My opinion on Ti West's The Innkeepers, the tale of the supposedly haunted Yankee Pedlar Inn, was simple. Ti West, your film was a little on the "not so much is happening" side and a whole lot on the "I love the characters and the mood you've set" side. I wouldn't call it split down the middle. I didn't not like it (fuck you double negative).
From Magnet Releasing (Synopsis so I don't ruin anything for you):
After over one hundred years of service, The Yankee Pedlar Inn is shutting its doors for good. The last remaining employees -Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) - are determined to uncover proof of what many believe to be one of New England's most haunted hotels. As the Inn’s final days draw near, odd guests check in as the pair of minimum wage “ghost hunters” begin to experience strange and alarming events that may ultimately cause them to be mere footnotes in the hotel’s long unexplained history.
Sara Paxton and Pat Healy are totally dork over heels loveable. I love these motherfuckers. I want them to get off their ghost hunting arses, go put on a Jenny Lewis record, shot gun a few of those beers and get wiggly. I haven't identified with a porn loving, horror/ghost dork in some time. Healy reminds me of the American Simon Pegg (read Shaun of the Dead). Sara Paxton is the geeky girl who's ultra super crazy sexy and shy and we love her. Good chemistry here. Great chemistry. You throw in a little drunken Kelly McGillis and its off to the races. If you watch this movie and get nothing from it, just try to appreciate the honesty in the relationship between Paxton and Healy. While I have said that this movie may not make my best of 2011/12 list this/last year I'm pretty darn certain that Ti West shows what kind of a director he is. It takes a special person to bring out that kind of performance in two actors. Magical (in the Disney sense of the word).
For all of you gore hounds, not impressed. Nothing caught my eye on the effects market. A couple of fancy computer gens (I think they were at least, sometimes my eyes deceive me). I feel like a movie that props itself up as a ghost story better show me why I'm supposed to call the Ghostbusters. While I can be fairly certain that the intent is that the ghosts aren't supposed to be the primary scare effect (that would be the suspense surrounding waiting for them to appear) when you finally catch a glimpse of what it is your need to be afraid of you might as well be watching Casper... the PG-13 version that they couldn't show in theaters! Again, they're not the only thing that you're supposed to find frigtening, but if you're gonna show the monster, show us a fuckin' MONSTER/ghost.
I love the audio in this movie. It shines. Music, sound production. This film was able to get any of the creepy it lost in the effects department straight back in auditory hallucinatory mimickery. Between that and the actual setting for the whole shebang, the Yankee Pedlar Inn, you had some damn fine atmosphere. I kept thinking I was in Cape May, NJ. I go there every year. Good taffy. Nice, semi-empty beach. Quiet. Salt Water. I kept looking for landmarks throughout the film, but alas, it belongs to Connecticut (bastards!). If you live on the East Coast or more specifically New England, the Yankee Pedlar Inn is probably an hour away from your favorite shore location or rather a reasonable facsimile there of. Go get your ghost hunter kit! Something about the whole thing had me feeling a little more than Scooby Doo and had me thinking I needed to revisit my previous days as a Weird NJ follower. I'll never forget that all night hunt for Colby Mansion, but the Henryville House in PA was probably more similar to the Yankee Pedlar.
My problem with the whole thing is that I never feel like the film punched me in the teeth. The end didn't scare me and the suspense sequences that were effective didn't have the proper follow through; they left me feeling unsatisfied. Almost like you were jerked off to the point of near climax and then... blue balls (they exist and yes, I am filthy). The movie spins the awkward lovers, realizing they might be affectionate for one another, into a tight web that that will yield a vicious spider and then... BOING... the rubber tarantula falls from the ceiling. It's a slow delicate build. I liked that until the block came a tumblin' down.
So the final call... you should support Ti West for all the reasons he says you should and all other independent cinema. It's a good effort. I believe I've seen interviews that says he disavowed himself of any credits on Cabin Fever 2 (I enjoyed that immensely)so this will be a nice follow up. If nothing else, this guy makes people buy movies. He can get a cult following going the way our industry needs it to be to break through the box office shit show. You should also see The Innkeepers because despite my lack of enthusiasm for the film its really a subjective feeling and the overwhelming creep out just might give you the willies for which you've been looking. I think you'll enjoy the awkward almost lovers trying to figure out that internet porn is not the answer to loneliness. Maybe it's less of a ghost story and more of a "lonely people as a metaphor for ghosts" story.
Final note: I wonder how this movie would have done had it been released in October. It's got very good Halloween sensibilities.