One of the many things my long-suffering wife has long been suffering is my fascination with ghost stories and suspense movies that don’t quite work. I take a professional interest in figuring out what went wrong with a near-miss in the genres and can, I fear, go on and on about it, sometimes greeting the poor woman the moment the alarm goes off with something like, “The quality level of a ghost story is in inverse proportion to the number of its boo-scares.”
Last weekend, I watched The Inkeepers and, I’m not sure, but I think my wife may have moved out.
I so wanted to like this — even after I watched it and didn’t like it, I still wanted to like it. An old-fashioned ghost story set in an all-but-empty inn: exactly my idea of a good time. And there is more talent on display in this little picture than in half a dozen bigger and better ones. Ti West, who wrote and directed, is clearly bubbling over with natural ability. He has a delightful sense of character and sense of humor and a strong instinct for what is now called the “slow burn,” but was once called “storytelling.” Sara Paxton — who seems to only take parts in which she gets brutally raped, killed, eaten or all of the above — is not only incredibly adorable but a charming actress. And Pat Healy is terrific.
But the film just doesn’t work. I love a slow build-up — but it’s gotta be there for a reason. There’s not enough story here to justify the time taken to tell it. And those cheap boo-scares that turn out to be nothing — they’ve gotta go, each and every single one of them. And when the real scares do come, they’re only okay. Creepy enough to watch, but we’ve seen em before. And a real scare should be scary in conception so that it lasts after the movie is over. After this was over, I forgot it entirely.