'There was a terrible tragedy in this hotel," a movie star-turned-psychic healer warns the young desk clerk at her place of employment, the Yankee Pedlar.
Right from the get-go in The Innkeepers, with its trembling title credits, creepy music, and those sepia-toned snaps of the Connecticut hostelry down through the decades, you know there are going to be angry ghosts to reckon with here. And a wily filmmaker bent on bringing back the simmering, atmospheric horror of earlier days.
That would be Ti West, a Wilmington native who knows his '60s haunted-house movies, and who pays homage to them with humor and chops.
Alas, in The Innkeepers, the humor and chops are there, but the story isn't quite. By the time West is finished pulling the rabbits out of his hat (and the corpses out of the basement), the viewer comes to suspect the payoff isn't really going to pay off. And it doesn't.
The Innkeepers stars Sara Paxton as Claire, a waifish slackette who works the front desk. She and her coworker, the scraggly paranormal phenom freak Luke (Pat Healy), are the last employees standing. It is the inn's final weekend before the doors are shuttered for good, so the two colleagues are staying at the hotel (in separate rooms), along with a very few guests.
One of these is Leanne Rease-Jones (Kelly McGillis), a onetime TV and film actress who now carries an oracular pendulum and a look of agitated woe. Claire is all atwitter at the presence of this celeb; Leanne is condescending, although not altogether unkind, to the wide-eyed hotel staffer.
There's a lot to be said for horror that doesn't hit you over the head with shock and gore and special effects. But if you're going to go that route, you need to have more than The Innkeepers delivers.
Peggy Lee's "Is That All There Is?" would've played nicely over the end credits.
Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/onmovies/.