The Innkeepers, 2011
For many locals, this movie will serve as an important historical archive of the Yankee Pedlar Inn. Located in Torrington, the grand old hotel is an iconic piece of architecture from an age that has long passed us by. The Inn has been shuttered since 2015 with scant promise of reopening.
Since it was “closed for renovations,” many years ago, there were weak promises of refurbishing, new ownership, and multiple reopening dates, but it hasn’t happened. (If it ever does, I’ll likely forget to update this paragraph so if you want to let me know, feel free to do so.)
The Innkeepers was shot at the Yankee Pedlar Inn four years before it closed. In the plot of the not-quite low budget film (shot on 35 mm, by the way, which is a nice touch), the Inn is closing for good the day after the action takes place. Director Ti West was prescient on that score.
This is one of West’s early feature films and he’s since made a decent career as a horror director.
I’ve watched a lot of rather terrible movies for this little corner of CTMQ, and while The Innkeepers isn’t exactly good, it’s still better than the average “Connecticut horror movie.” Even if my two biggest takeaways were “LOL, there’s Lena Dunham in a bit part a year before her breakout “Girls” debuted on HBO,” and “Oh my, that’s Kelly McGillis as in ‘Top Gun’ and ‘Witness’ Kelly McGillis?”
(That’s not a comment on how she looks as a normal woman of a certain age, but rather a comment on it being a little weird that Kelly McGillis has a prominent role in a small-time Connecticut horror movie.)
The movie is really about the hotel and its evil hauntings. (Of course, this also mirrors reality to some degree as there were always legends and whispers that certain rooms of the Yankee Pedlar were indeed haunted.)
The movie follows two young employees who are working the last 24 hours that the joint is open. Both Luke and Claire are natural enough for this level of film. Luke has been trying to capture paranormal evidence at the Inn and he even runs a website about the hotel’s haunted past. I’d say my favorite part of the whole movie was Luke and his website. 2011 is Internet ages ago (even though the site you’re reading predates that by five years) and his little GeoCities mess was cute.
Claire’s interest about the hotel’s haunting piques and this being its last night of operation, she prods Luke into trying to experience some ghostly goblins.
There are a few guests: the world’s worst mother and her son, some weird old guy who insists on a particular room because he stayed there for his honeymoon, and Kelly McGillis who is a successful chain smoking actress named Leeann Reese Jones who’s in town for a paranormal convention or something. Claire fangirls over her.
The first 2/3 of the movie is a slow burn. Or, rather, it’s just pretty slow. The old hotel looks nice though. The mood is more jovial than what you’d want from a horror movie and even the portents of evil are almost funny or cute.
Example: an early jump scare is a pigeon hitting the window. The two employees play a series of pranks on each other and there’s an underlying sexual tension that isn’t necessary. They get drunk and stupid. Lots of that stuff.
So, yeah, the not-really-tense tension builds and builds for over an hour before the scary stuff starts happening.
There was that quick trip to the café for coffee where Lena Dunham’s barista character somehow annoyed the crap out of me in her few lines of dialogue.
Sorry, I’m all over the place. The amateur ghost-hunters Claire and Luke attempt to summon the ghost of Madeline O’Malley, a bride that committed suicide when her fiancé left her on their wedding day. She supposedly haunts the hotel and they summon her spirit. A piano plays on its own. Chilling.
Kelly McGillis warns Claire to not go down to the basement. Claire hears noises in the basement but resists exploring it. Claire dozes off. Claire awakens to Madeline’s apparition in her room.
Claire awakes and she and Luke go down into the basement. They see some scary stuff and Luke runs away. Claire runs upstairs to find Kelly McGillis. She also finds the random old man guest dead in his tub with Madeline’s apparition floating nearby. (Like, what’s the point of that? Or the mean mom and her son?)
Claire is again told to not go into the basement.
Claire immediately returns to the basement and nearly knocks herself out and is locked in the darkened room (she had locked it herself earlier) and she dies of an asthma attack. Oh yeah, it had been established that Claire has pretty severe asthma.
The film ends with a view of Claire’s room where a barely-visible apparition looks out the window. As she turns towards the viewer, the door slams shut. Inadequate. Very, very inadequate. And confused, and kinda hollow.
And yet… I kind of like the idea that Claire died from asthma. It gives me, the viewer, an “out” in that perhaps all the ghosty stuff was her vivid imagination (well, for me personally, of course I’d go with that concept) and her own anxiety and fears are what killed her. No?
Okay, The Innkeepers is a second-rate horror film that showcases one of the Connecticut’s great old hotels.
A great old hotel that deserves better.
CTMQ Rating: 2 out of 5 thumbs up
Connecticutness: 167 out of 169 Nutmegs
Filmed in Connecticut? Yes
Wealthy Caucasian with a Big House? No