Early moments of The Innkeepers have the leads browsing the internet, and Claire (Sara Paxton) is asked to check out a video. It’s one of those jump scare clips that were all the rage 10 years ago, where you’re told to focus on something and out of nowhere, a ghoulish… thing jumps onto the screen. In essence, that’s Innkeepers.
So much of the film is the build, with tracking shots following Claire down hallways with ominous sound effects droning in the background. The reveal? It’s much like that video.
It’s a shame too, as Claire partners up co-worker Luke (Pat Healy) in an enjoyable on screen camaraderie. Both are a little off, geeky in their own way, and obsessed with the paranormal. They’re perky, with enough energy for the project to carry it on their shoulders. That energy is drained entering the second act.
They’re hotel workers, stuck in the final days of the failing business with few tenants. Well, few if you don’t count the supposed ghosts which perform mundane tasks that never spook as they should. Claire and Luke banter like an old couple, disrespect those staying in the hotel, and the camera sells the location.
There’s little to discuss or point out here because there’s little material there to actually warrant words. Innkeepers feels aimless and repetitious, the wandering scenes of the small cast flicking their flashlights at the walls only carrying the film so far. No one involved sensed the dwindling tension, although with 10-minutes shaved, the material could have proven perky enough to work.
Here’s what needs to come of this film: Healy and Paxton reprising these characters for a web series. They don’t need the same setting or the job. Their awkward adventures into geekdom and passion would be enough to drive comedic shorts. For Innkeepers, these two are not enough.
For a lower budget affair, it’s refreshing to see a film stock fuel the source for this Blu-ray. This glazes the screen with a beautiful grain that textures the piece inoffensively. With the exception of two oddball spikes, it maintains integrity and the encode shows no signs of losing its grip.
The texture extends to the material as a whole, creating pleasing close-ups with plentiful texture. Images have a natural presence, bulked up with a pale color scheme that feels untouched. The digital intermediate phase doesn’t alter the standard palette, reserved for darker scenes in basements or moments when the ghosts make their presence known.
Innkeepers falls right in line with black levels as well, holding firm with an excellent, rich density that will, on occasion, soak up shadow detail. Blacks are not perfect, although certainly consistent in their dominance. Sequences at night are more terrifying because of the blacks than any other element, which doesn’t say much for the feature.
There is little contrast until the epilogue, the exterior day pushing some heavy lighting into the material for the first time. Dim interiors and overhead lighting can only do so much, putting the burden on the blacks to hammer home the depth.
A disclaimer pops up before the film stating the creators wish for everyone to play the movie loud. Why? To make those jump scares fiercely terrifying. Does it work? Meh. Innkeepers doesn’t sound terrible, just predictable. No matter how loud it gets, the film itself previews the scares in such overlong fashion, the effect is lost. In other words, playing it loud doesn’t net the listener much short of angered neighbors, nor does the design salvage the film.
Innkeepers adores utilizing the LFE for build-up. You can’t miss the droning rumble as Claire scopes out hallways with search equipment. It’s deep, heavy, and satisfying for the bass lover. Noises will creep into the surrounds on a whim, sometimes traveling back-and-forth purely because it sounds spooky. The effect is there, and will gain your attention when the film itself isn’t. Dialogue is refreshingly precise for a film this small, most succumbing to watered down, open fidelity that feels lost. This is certainly working with higher caliber equipment.
A peppy making of is only seven minutes long and worth the time for a peek inside the production. Those with more time on their hands can choose between two commentaries. Director/editor/writer Ti West is on both, the first with his two stars, the other being the more technical with staff members.