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Check In to This Haunted Hotel

9 Mar, 2012 By: Ashley Ratcliff

Writer-director Ti West scares up a good, old-fashioned ghost story

Quaint and charming from the outside, Connecticut’s real-life Yankee Pedlar Inn is far from it on the inside. Its hallways and rooms are the resting place of many a ghost story, some of which writer-director Ti West’s crew experienced during an extended stay while making 2009’s The House of the Devil.

“We would go out into the middle of the woods and make this sort of satanic horror movie, but weirder stuff would happen to us back at the hotel,” said West, an admittedly skeptical guy who doesn’t believe in ghosts. “… I was busy making [the film], so I was too stressed out to care. But it just became all these stories on our days off.”

Doors opening and closing by themselves, TVs turning on and off for no apparent reason, and crew members having vivid dreams nightly and feeling the presence of someone else in an empty room were just a few of the creepy situations that arose.

In starting his follow-up project, West thought, “What if we made [a horror film] that we lived? And what if we went back to that place?”

Thus, The Innkeepers was born. While the landmark Yankee Pedlar Inn has its own storied history of hauntings, West crafted the eerie story of Madeline O’Malley, a hotel guest who hangs herself when her fiancé stands her up. In the film, Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy), the remaining two employees of the inn, which is on the brink of closing, resolve to contact the ghost of “the widow of the Pedlar” before it’s too late.

MPI Media Group’s subsidiary, Dark Sky Films, April 24 releases The Innkeepers on DVD ($27.98) and Blu-ray Disc ($34.98). Bonus material includes a behind-the-scenes featurette, a commentary with West and the stars, and a commentary with West, the producers and the second unit director/sound designer.

It was by coincidence that West chose to film The Innkeepers’ most unnerving scenes at the inn’s third floor room situated at the end of the hallway.

“The only reason I picked that room is because it was … big enough to do the dolly shot,” he said. “It was just technical to use that room, but when we wrapped shooting, I found out that is the most haunted room in real life.”

The beginning of the film focuses on the dynamics between the two protagonists. Claire is a curious, likeable girl who doesn’t have big aspirations for her future outside of working at the inn. Luke is a sarcastic guy who has made a website about the purported ghost stories of the Yankee Pedlar. The two share a mutual disdain for their work life and interest in ghost hunting.

“You don’t watch [The Innkeepers] a second time to see a ghost; you watch it to spend time with the characters,” West said. “It’s kind of a workplace comedy for the first half. Everyone can put themselves it in that position, and when the ghost stuff starts happening, you have some sort of visceral reaction beyond just shock. … I hope it’s a fresh take on the traditional ghost story that people can relate to.”

Although it has a markedly more light-hearted tone compared with West’s previous films, The Innkeepers has a good contrast between scary and normal, a vital component of a good horror film, he said.

“[Most of today’s horror movies are] just trying to get as many scary or gory moments in your face as possible,” West said. “That’s what people want. That’s what their expectations are. That’s what’s ‘scary.’ To me, the only way to have a scene be scary is for you to relate to what’s happening. The only way to do that is to spend time with the story and characters. There needs to be an equal amount of non-horror for every bit of horror to make it work.”

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