The search for proof of the paranormal has been the subject of many horror movies -- but few have taken as low-key an approach as writer-director Ti West in The Innkeepers.  This horror movie has a small cast, a minimum amount of special effects and costuming -- and unfortunately, not that many scares.

The Yankee Pedlar Inn is nearing its end.  Not enough customers stay there, and after the current weekend it will close its doors for good.  Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) are the only two employees left, dutifully checking the few remaining guests in and out and bringing them clean towels.  They have a different priority, though: Find and document proof of the paranormal at the Inn, so Luke can post it to his website (that so far only has a video of a door "mysteriously" closing).  They want to do a room-by-room sweep of the Inn before it closes, especially since there are legends that Madeline O'Malley was murdered there in the early days of the Inn.  But with Luke's pessimism, Claire being easily startled (and then going for her inhaler), and their camera broken (so they can only try for audio proof), they're not the most dynamic of investigators.

But as Claire and Luke chat, idly investigate, and swap shifts, strange things happen.  Claire keeps hearing noises and almost seeing things.  Their latest guest is Leanne Rease-Jones (Kelly McGillis), a former actress and current spiritualist who senses restless spirits in the Inn.  Will Claire and Luke find the proof they seek before the Inn is gone?  And what if the proof they seek turns out to be malevolent?

Much as I like horror that relies more on atmosphere and plotting than gore and special effects, The Innkeepers goes too far in the opposite direction.  The scares are few and far between, relying on some very rudimentary movie monsters and the frequent combination of a swell of music and a camera zoom-in.  The characters of Claire and Luke are paper-thin : We know nothing about them outside their hotel job and ghost-hunting hobby.  There are a few tense moments as the characters wander the dark, deserted halls of their Inn, but overall The Innkeepers doesn't do enough with its minimal approach to horror.  (DVD extras are the basics: a behind-the-scenes feature and two commentaries.)

Overall grade: C-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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