Ti West, Ben Wheatley, and Adam Wingard are three young guns in the horror genre. With a new film out this year for each of them Rey seem poised to take the reins of horror and usher in a new generation of filmmakers that turn genre tropes on their head. I've seen the new films from West and Wheaton, but haven't had the pleasure of seeing You're Next from Wingard, but with Bowen in the lead again I'm sure it kicks ass. Wheatlon's film, Kill List, is a piece for another day, but it didn't register with me as strong as The Innkeepers. West has been around for a few years and most notably received a lot of critical appreciation for The House of the Devil, an extremely slow burn ode to Polanski and Roeg that while respectable didn't pay off the way it needed to. But you could not deny the potential that was there. West has returned and taking his time once again has made a wonderfully fun and scary film that never gives away too much and is an incredibly enjoyable ride throughout while keeping up his knack for atmosphere. This is in no doubt due to the characters he has infused into the story. This is the Ti West I was waiting to see.
The story concerns two minimum wage workers at a local inn that is about to be torn down. They are nerdy and amateur ghost hunters and they banter with the few but quirky guests, and before you know it the hotel in all of its spookiness begins to reveal its secrets. And that's really the best word to describe this film "spooky."
You look at those posters and they evoke a certain feeling, they give you a sense of the type of movie you're going to see. One of atmosphere and tone, but with an underlying sense of fun. This is West reinventing the haunted house story with nerds in the leads. The film would have absolutely failed without the two leads.
They have a great chemistry with just the right amount of hesitation from the guy and the perfect amount of pretension you'd expect from someone who fancies themselves a ghost hunter. The characters are funny and goofy, but ultimately relatable. Their naturalistic delivery is sure to come across as annoying to some, but is far better than some of the trendy mumblecore films. Once the shit hits the fan you begin to see the characters break down and reveal their true colors. West does the unthinkable and keeps the camera on our actors in one key scene letting us see the fear crawl across their face and denying us the money shot.
West is a perfectionist and you can see the amount of control he holds over everything as the story moves at a deliberate pace, and much like House of The Devil, is a slow burn horror story, the difference here is he gives us fully developed characters and relationships while Devil was kind of a one woman show. He drops nuggets of fear as we move along and makes sure to treat the Inn as its own character, and once the film begins to move into horror territory the scares are completely genuine putting us in the shoes of the characters with the same amount of uncertainty as we try to make it to
I'm really happy West nailed this one. It's a small intimate film that honors and reinvents the haunted house genre. If Devil was an homage to the satan heavy films of the late 70s and 80s then this is West doing Vincent Price in the 60s. Some of my peers in the blogosphere have been referring to this as a horror comedy and while I see their point I think the description is misleading. When I think of horror comedy I think of Shaun of the Dead or Scream. Those films take place in a different reality, this is absolutely in the real world and these people are dealing with otherworldly occurrences. The conflict that arises from that leads to some humor and the leads have a witty banter with each other but West backs all that up with some genuinely frightening sequences. Really fun flick and a nice evolution for West. Really hope he continues doing original horror, because I know he has a classic in him somewhere.
One last thought - West has an anthology horror film called V/H/S coming out with Adam Wingard and a handful of other young directors. It sounds like an interesting approach to found footage, which admittedly has never really blown me away.