From 1907’s creaky The Haunted Hotel to the icy emptiness of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, movie hostelries are often suffused with terrible grandeur, not to mention the spirits of those who have passed through/on.
In real life, however, the main problem is corporate soullessness – that and finding pubes in the soap. The Innkeepers, to the credit of writer/director Ti West, is a film that acknowledges both.
Set in the historic, but thoroughly ordinary, Yankee Pedlar Inn, it begins with a series of black-and-white photos of the exterior creeping, inexorably, towards the present day.
Once there, we meet bored desk staff – and amateur ghost-hunters – Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) as they prep the place for closure. Spooking themselves out around an almost-empty site while idly bantering, they make a convincing low-key partnership, which matches the spare scares.
The first sign of anything (genuinely?) untoward – a single note played on a piano by hands unknown – comes after many minutes. But less is more in West world, where further dramatic supernatural manifestations take tense eons to erupt.
Although the sombre slow-build won’t be to everyone’s taste, this is a superior ghost story for grown-ups. The feeling throughout is of a lonely place reverberating with the complaints of long-departed guests, and of a film that knows something you don’t, and perhaps don’t want to.