I can’t help feeling like The Inkeepers, like The Haunting of Molly Hartley, isn’t actually a ghost story; it’s a movie about hipsters a la Clerks that uses the trappings of ghost stories to showcase its Quirky Twentysomething Characters (TM). Which would have been fine, I guess, except that the Quirky Twentysomething Characters (TM), while admittedly slightly more entertaining than the bog-standard horror-movie redshirts, were neither what I’d come to see nor interesting enough to warrant watching the movie. And that’s a pretty damn big drawback in a haunted-house story where nothing even remotely supernatural happens until 45 minutes into the film.
I almost turned it off halfway through when I found out that it was directed by Ti West, who cursed the human race with the staggeringly boring House of the Devil. Then the second scare – well, “scare” – happened, and I began to legitimately worry that there would be no scares in this movie that weren’t stolen directly from the Haunted House at Disneyland. Then I started wondering if this was really supposed to be parody, a la Saturday the 14th, and it just… wasn’t actually funny. Maybe, I said to myself, it’s supposed to be hip, self-referential humor, like the movie had aspirations toward being the ghost story equivalent of Scream.
Then I decided, no, it’s basically Clerks with ghosts, if Clerks was really boring and no one ever said anything clever.
The story, basically, is this. A historic inn is closing down. It’s down to two skeleton staff, Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healey), and a couple of random guests. Claire and Luke are vaguely obsessed with proving that the hotel is haunted, so they do things like carrying a recorder around in the hopes of finding EVP. I’d give you more plot, but that’s basically all it is. Aside from the aforementioned two scares, the movie doesn’t actually become a ghost story until the last half hour, and doesn’t become remotely scary until the last ten or fifteen minutes. Until then, the movie contains only two types of scenes: scenes where Claire mugs and flails like a hyperactive eight-year-old trying to play Lady Macbeth, and scenes where Luke shows off the acting ability of his hair and hipster glasses frames.
While Luke is nothing but a stock hipster stereotype, I feel like Claire might have actually made a good main character if she hadn’t been directed with such a heavy and unsubtle hand. Also, I really wish Carrie Fisher or Jamie Lee Curtis had been tapped for the role of the former TV star turned cranky medium, because that would have been fucking glorious. And while I’m wishing for horses, they could have been given a better script. In a better-paced movie. With an ending that didn’t fall quite so flat. That was directed by someone who doesn’t seem to believe that true horror is when great spans of time go by and nothing the slightest bit diverting happens.
So what’s the verdict? One star. There was only one really disturbing thing about this movie, and that was the discovery that, while Tom Cruise apparently has a portrait of himself hidden in the attic, Kelly McGillis at some point became a bona fide senior citizen. Now that was scary.