Right as The Innkeepers begins, you’re given a pretty good life tip: if you enter a spooky place and all of the colors in that spooky place are muted, GET OUT OF THAT SPOOKY PLACE! Nothing good has ever come with colors being less saturated than they should be. Oh, if only our precious innkeepers Claire and Luke knew the thing about muted colors. It could have saved them (and by “them” I mean Claire) (fucking Luke, man!) (don’t even get me started on Luke) a lot of trouble. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The Innkeepers, from director Ti West, is about two employees at the Yankee Pedlar Inn on its last open weekend after over a century of what I have to image was, for the most part, very unsettling service. (It’s a very spooky hotel.) I had not seen The Innkeepers before this viewing, but I had seen Ti West’s The House of the Devil, which I liked very much and recommend. (The characters in The House of the Devil would have also been better off knowing the muted colors rule.) It looked great in the same way that this looked great and seemed classic in the way this seemed classic and featured a pretty girl + a female indie sensation in the same way that this one featured a pretty girl + a female indie sensation. (FULL DISCLOSURE: I did not know that Lena Dunham was in this movie until she, as Hannah Horvath, popped up in this movie.) (Hahah.) (Hi, Lena!) Anyway, let’s TALK ABOUT THIS SPOOKFEST! I liked it a lot!
The thing about this movie is that it doesn’t REALLY get scary until the very end. Until then it’s spooky (like how ghost hunting shows are usually spooky even when it’s like, you KNOW they aren’t finding any ghosts in there) but not really scary. Midway through I even got a little bit mad that I wasn’t scared enough yet. True, I was alone in the dark in my apartment, my heart racing with every house noise, afraid to go into the kitchen because it was even darker in there, but I wasn’t scared ENOUGH.
Most of the early scary parts are fake-outs. Luke fakes-out Claire with one of those early-Internet “stare at this image for 30 seconds” or whatever startling ghost scream videos. Luke creeps up behind Claire while Claire is investigating a noise, and she screams. Another noise gets investigated and turns out to be a bird. An old lady comes in to stay at the hotel — making her only the second guest at the hotel, if we count the unsettling mother and son team as one guest, which we will — and I think, “Oh my god are they trying to make that seem like Dame Judi Dench?” and then Claire says “Do you know who that is?!” and I think that they really ARE going to act like it’s Dame Judi Dench, which would make me such a genius, but then it’s just a fake actress named Leanne Rease-Jones. Lots of fake-outs.
But while we’re wandering through the fake-outs, we get to know our innkeepers. Claire is an adorable Rory Gilmore type, and Luke is a guy who looks kind of like Scott from Stereogum and who is in love with Claire, because who wouldn’t be. She’s adorable. Luke is working on a website (classic Scott from Stereogum) about the hauntings he’s documented at the Yankee Pedlar Inn, and it looks terrible (not classic Scott from Stereogum).
Hahaha. Claire tells him it “looks great,” which is A LIE, CLAIRE, and then Luke says, “it’s not the most professional, but it’s not bad,” which is also a lie. It is that bad. Just buy some webspace and have it redirect to your tumblr, Luke. Claire leaves to get a coffee from Lena Dunham, but Lena Dunham is so annoying that Claire comes back without her coffee. CAH-LASSIC. “Is that annoying girl still there?” Luke asks. “Yes.” “What a failblog.” “Epic.” Hahah. This movie is great.
Another thing we learn about our innkeepers is that they are very bad at their jobs. Luke forgets to provide anyone with towels when they literally have two guests, and Claire tells the CHILD who is staying there with his mom the legend of Madeline O’Malley, the ghost that apparently haunts the hotel after killing herself there, whom Claire and Luke are attempting to contact. Claire! Come on, Claire. Get it together, you’re at work.
The real spooky stuff starts when Claire goes off on her own the record some ghosts. She first goes to some spooky room and is like, “Ah, there are no ghosts here,” which I find incredible. If I went to ANY spooky room alone, LET ALONE A SPOOKY ROOM IN A HAUNTED HOTEL, there is no way I wouldn’t be 100% sure that there were ghosts there. “There are definitely ghosts here, I need to get out right now,” is what I’d say. But, undeterred, Claire heads to the banquet hall where she DOES hear something — a ghostly piano, playing by its ghostly self. She follows the noise to the piano room but when she gets there, no one is there. AH! Except when she gets really close to the keys (DON’T GET REALLY CLOSE TO THE KEYS, CLAIRE!), some of the keys press down and make a loud noise! AHHHH! CLAAAAIRE!
She, bad at her job, runs screaming into the hallway of one of her (two) guests. Hahah. CLAIRE, COME ON. It’s the room of Leanne Rease-Jones, who invites her in, gives her vodka, and tells her that she’s a psychic medium and to DEFINITELY NOT GO INTO THE BASEMENT. Claire asks her if the ghost she just saw was Madeline’s, and all the spirits say in return is, “You can’t save her, they tried to warn her, they tried to help her.” Eeeeep! Claire! JUST GO HOME, CLAIRE! WHO CARES ABOUT THIS JOB, AT THE VERY LEAST THE HOTEL IS FULL OF INSANE PEOPLE, IF NOT EVEN GHOSTS, JUST GO HOME!
When Claire tries to tell Luke about her findings, he all of the sudden doesn’t care about ghosts anymore. What? Luke. You made a whole geocities website about finding ghosts in the hotel, what’s your god damn deal? One in a seemingly neverending series of incidents that make me not like Luke. Next: A person with 100% the most terrifying voice you have ever heard attempts to check into the hotel — “Yes, I’d like a room for the night please. I’d like room 353 please.” They hold off on revealing what he looks like for a very long time so it’s like, what, is he going to be a ghost?! IS HE GOING TO BE A GHOST?! But he isn’t a ghost. He’s just an old man. They tell him he can’t have the third floor because all of those rooms have been stripped, as the Inn is closing in two days, but Claire offers him the room as long as he’s willing to dress the bed himself. He is very grateful. Luke tells him he needs a credit card, and the old man hands him a wad of money and says “Take this…please,” and he’s suddenly the most endearing character of all time and all you want to do is help him.
There’s a very funny fake-out with him, too (you think he disappears but then, oh, he didn’t), and he says some spooky shit about how being back in the room he spent his honeymoon in “feels like you never left — almost like you’re right at home — don’t you think?” but let’s come back to him later.
So, Luke loves Claire and tells her after they drink a few beers. He says she’s one of the “prettiest girls [he] know[s],” and she says “WHO ARE THE OTHERS!!” and it’s adorable. She is just a peach. He tells her that he thinks they really mesh well and I’m like, uh, yeah I’m pretty sure she would mesh well with anyone? She’s great. A+ for Claire. But, even though he is in love with her, and even though he runs a fucking GHOST WEBSITE, Luke is still hesitant about gathering ghost evidence with her. He does it anyway, though, kind of.
Until she tells him that she can see a spirit behind him and he freaks out, runs away, and LEAVES HER AT THE HOTEL ALONE. WHAT?!?!?!? LUKE, YOU PIECE OF SHIT! You just told her that you liked her and now you’re abandoning her because she saw a ghost? You jerk! Oh, but I thought you had a whole website about ghosts? OH, THE WHOLE WEBSITE IS FAKE, YOU TELL CLAIRE? NONE OF IT IS REAL? AND ACTUALLY YOU ARE VERY AFRAID OF GHOSTS, ENOUGH TO STRAND THE GIRL OF YOUR DREAMS AT A HOTEL WITH THEM? Oh, I hate you, Luke. It makes sense that you have a Grateful Dead sticker on your car.
So, Claire goes back to Leanne Rease-Jones’s room and they both go into the basement together. Then Leanne Rease-Jones’s crystal drops and shatters and SHE runs away, telling Claire that they both have to leave the hotel immediately. Claire is gathering her things, when she remembers about the old man. Oh, god damnit, old man! So she goes to his room…and finds a suicide note. Then she opens his bathroom door…and finds him dead in LITERALLY THE BLOODIEST SUICIDE TUB I HAVE EVER SEEN PORTRAYED IN ANY MEDIUM. I WILL NOT PUT AN IMAGE OF IT HERE, I REFUSE, BUT YOU WILL HAVE TO TRUST ME. AND THEN SHE SEES THE SUICIDE BRIDE (LESS REALISTIC) IN THE NEXT ROOM!!! AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
She runs downstairs where fucking Luke is waiting for her, and she tells him that they both need to get out of there immediately. Instead of letting her leave, AFTER HE SO EASILY LET HIMSELF LEAVE NOT TOO LONG AGO, he makes her stand there while he stutters and says nothing, and then tells her to wait in the lobby while he goes and gets Lee. WHAT?! TAKE HER TO THE CAR AND HAVE HER WAIT IN YOUR CAR, YOU ASSHOLE! While he is gone, Claire hears a noise and gets up to investigate, which is admittedly her fault. Girl. You sit right in that lobby and you wait for those people to come back and ALLOW you to leave, since apparently you need to be ALLOWED.
“Lee?” she keeps asking as she walks towards the basement. “Leeee?” Oh, you think it’s Lee? The woman who just ran out of the basement screaming that you both needed to leave the hotel right away? That’s who you think is in the basement? She opens a fucking creaky-ass door to the basement. “LEE?” GIRL. IT’S NOT LEE.
NOOOO IT’S SUICIDE MAN STANDING RIGHT BEHIND HER!!!! Claire sees him, falls down the steps, and then runs FURTHER INTO THE BASEMENT?! CLAIRE! USE YOUR BRAIN, GIRL! She has pretty much stopped using her brain entirely, though, as she then runs into the tiniest, scariest room there is, and locks herself in there. What? Claire. If it’s a ghost, you KNOW that ghost is going to walk right through the door and into your terrifying hiding place. She tries to get through the door to the outside, but it is locked from the outside. Then, oh god, the bride appears behind her. With a bloody face, she screams and screams, and then THAT IS THE END.
EXCEPT IT ISN’T.
The real end comes next. You see a body being wheeled out of the hotel and you think, “oh no, is it her? or is it suicide old man? oh no,” and then you see that it’s a girl with blonde hair and it is her and oooohh noooo! OUR GIRL! SHE’S DEAD AND IT’S ALL THAT MOTHERFUCKER LUKE’S FAULT! TAKE HIM TO JAIL, COPS! Luke explains to the cops that he found her inhaler (Claire uses her inhaler in the first scene, so you just know that Claire is going to die when either her inhaler runs out or she loses her inhaler. I wish brains didn’t put those things together as much as writers planning surprises wish that brains didn’t put those things together, BUT THEY DO.) and heard her screaming, but was too weak to break down the door. Ugh. Luke. Do NOT give me another reason to dislike you.
He does give you another reason to dislike him, though, when he says to Lee, “You knew this was going to happen, did you? You could’ve done something.” UH, YEAH SHE DID TRY TO DO SOMETHING, WHEN SHE LITERALLY SAID TO CLAIRE THAT THEY HAD TO LEAVE THE HOTEL IMMEDIATELY! REMEMBER WHEN CLAIRE TOLD YOU THAT SHE NEEDED TO LEAVE THE HOTEL IMMEDIATELY, LUKE? REMEMBER WHAT YOU SAID TO HER?! YOU KILLED OUR BABY! LUKE! YOU KILLED OUR PERFECT CLAIRE!
It ends on Claire’s room. The camera rests there for a moment, and then — SLAM! (The door slams.) Claire is locked forever in her dead-end hotel job, and it is all that coward Luke’s fault. Fucking Luke.