BIFF12 - The Innkeepers - Cinema Review

'a contemporary and inventive haunted house brain fryer, with character, a sharp wit and two understated leads of not inconsiderable talent'

If the Oscars for Best Sound Editing and Mixing baffle you then The Innkeepers is the film which will explain it all, not that it ever had a chance to win, or even be nominated, such is Hollywood's aversion to rewarding brilliant genre film-making featuring brilliantly done elements, such as the nauseatingly tense moments any time anyone puts on a pair of headphones.

The Innkeepers is brilliant genre film-making. A slow-paced horror film with a final third that teases your nerves out into thin noodle-like strands, this is a contemporary and inventive haunted house brain fryer, with character, a sharp wit and two understated leads of not inconsiderable talent. Ti West has made a mini marvel.

It begins, for the first third, in inauspicious acts of character building. Sara Paxton and Pat Healy are two bored hotel desk clerks, wiling away the hours of their last shifts in a soon-to-be-closed hovel with a mixture of ghost hunting, beer drinking and Internet porn. Critics may point to this first third as an error of pacing, but really it is vital. There is something quite close to real tragedy hidden within The Innkeepers and a grounding in the lives of those involved is needed. Paxton is skittish and quietly involving, Healy has wonderfully dry comic delivery and a knack for fashionable awkwardness. Both are excellently cast.

Once the real bumps in the night start - signalled by an excellent bedroom scare for Paxton - West sets to work on your nerves like a mouse continually gnawing at cheese. It takes restraint to not break up the tension with jump scares and West has it in spades. In fact, save a few well placed moments, the entire final, devastating, third is an exercise in dramatic genre restraint. There are no releases and the rules are abandoned as often as possible. It's as chilling a conclusion to a horror film as you're likely to find, marred only by the epilogue, which feels tacked on and somewhat out-of-tone.

During the introduction, festival programmer Robert Nevitt claimed that The Woman In Black 'had nothing on this'. In reality, they're very different films but in a way he was right. The Woman In Black is an excellent nuts and bolts haunted house film. This is the brand new structure those nuts and bolts have gone on to create. It is very difficult to imagine a better contemporary take on the sub-genre.

The Innkeepers is currently scheduled for general release in the UK on 8th June 2012.

The 18th Bradford International Film Festival runs from 19th - 29th April at The National Media Museum and several satellite venues in and around Bradford. It includes a European Features competition, the Shine Short Film Award and several major UK premieres and retrospectives.


  1. I had the chance to see this horror movie and the grade you gave it 4 out of 5 is the same i'll give it, by the way highly recommended for horror genre lovers.

    1. Yeah, definitely. Think its got a lot to say for and about, the genre.