*** (out of four)
In a genre of scarily abundant incompetence, few horror movies deliver a triple threat of strong characters, chilly mood and clean storytelling. “The Innkeepers” is one of those few.
The question at hand in writer-director Ti West’s follow-up to the promising but flawed “House of the Devil”: Is the Yankee Pedlar Inn, set to close after more than 100 years in business, really haunted by a woman who supposedly hung herself after being left at the altar? Bored hotel employee Clare (Sara Paxton) has nothing to occupy her but this mystery, and her smitten co-worker Luke (Pat Healy) looks like he'll pursue anything if it means partnering up with Clare.
West has neither the budget nor the imagination to deliver new, unforgettable images to make you jump out of your socks; he'd rather tighten the tension and let you wonder if anything's even happening at all. As a former TV star who now sees herself as a healer, Kelly McGillis (yes, of “Top Gun”) establishes a crucial, disarming rapport with Paxton, who brings nuance to a woman disappearing into her own terrified curiosity.
“The Innkeepers” is a streamlined genre exercise that’s spruced up by better-than-average dialogue, though the movie's likely to frustrate people wanting major freak-out moments. It will, however, satisfy anyone who understands that people often believe what they want to believe, with or without evidence. With all the rumors and unexplainable behavior in the world, West suggests, you could drive yourself crazy.
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