Ever since, critics and horror fans have kept a watchful eye on the young director, hoping that the vintage, yet refreshing style of The Roost wasn’t just a directorial fluke.
But with The Roost, West wasn’t just a one-hit wonder. In fact, West keeps getting better and better with each film, and after 2009’s fantastically creepy House of the Devil, fans have been clamoring for his next film.
With his latest film, The Innkeepers, West assertively establishes that he’s matured past the “young, fresh face in horror” status to a confident and daring auteur who’s trademark slow-burn aesthetic is renewing widespread interest in the indie horror scene.
The film stars Sara Paxton and Pat Healy as Claire and Luke, two employees at the failing Yankee Pedlar Inn working a long weekend shift on the last weekend before the hotel closes its doors for good.
As with any old, kitschy hotel, the place has a supernatural history as the spirit of Madeline O’Malley—a scorned widow who died in the hotel many years earlier—who supposedly haunts the halls of the eerie Inn some nights. Not wanting to go out without a bang, Claire and Luke make it their mission to try and capture evidence of the hotel’s infamous hauntings before it’s torn down and turned into a parking lot.
Like House of the Devil, much of the film’s slow-burn style relies heavily on the influence of 70’s and 80’s-era horror, but to be fair, it wouldn’t be right to label The Innkeepers as a straight-up horror film. West seamlessly weaves much humor and character development into the narrative to effectively lead up to the film’s explosive final act. Though it certainly delivers on scares at times, most of the film is concerned with building suspense and establishing the characters, so when the climax hits, it hits hard.
Both Paxton and Healy shine in their blunt, apt portrayals as hotel employees bored to the point of tears, and West magnificently captures the mundane mood of working a boring job. Paxton’s performance is particularly great as the dullness of her job only serves to fuel her insatiable thirst to discover paranormal evidence further. Also similarly to House of the Devil, West exhibits his keen preference for strong female leads that drives the narrative forth to interesting, albeit tragic, conclusions.
The Innkeepers is certainly not what what blood-and-gore craving horror fans clamor to, but it’s something much more profound than that. West is a director who was clearly brought up on the blood-and-gore horror aesthetic, but his talent is in exploring new frontiers in the genre.
Call it slow-burn horror or minimalist horror or what have you, but one thing is for certain, West is doing something completely different.
It’s his use of blunt, observational humor and idiosyncratic character quirks that truly brings this film to life.
Most of The Innkeepers is a build up to the film’s explosive and tragic final 15 minutes, but, like House of the Devil, the wait is well worth it.
The Innkeepers is opens today select theaters and is currently available on VOD, click here for theaters and showtimes.