What a pleasant little surprise this film is! It has been a while since I was actually a little traumatised by a ghost film, but this movie has the honour of doing just that as I was forced to sleep with the lamp on afterwards.
The plot follows two members of staff, Claire (Paxton) and Luke (Healy), at the Yankee Pedlar Inn as they work their final few days before the Inn closes down for good. As well as being guardians of the front desks, they are also amateur ghost hunters and apparently the inn is haunted, so our intrepid duo spend their last few days attempting to track down a ghost.
West – who wrote, directed and produced the film – has created a little gem here. The first 30 minutes or so are largely scare-free as we are introduced to our leads and watch as they share playful banter and embarrass themselves in front to customers. In places, their dialogue is genuinely funny and before you know it, you find yourself really liking the pair of them. Once the ghost element begins to kick in, West cranks up the tension with excellent pacing and a great use of sound. One scene in particular, where Claire is attempting to hear the voices of the dead through an audio recording thingy is particularly atmospheric. The pairing of the humour and scares had be thinking of another film which carried that off brilliantly which was Ghostbusters and there seems to be a little of that films DNA running through this. This is certainly scarier than the 80s classic, but there is a joke about the Ghostbusters antagonist, Gozer, at one point so I think perhaps Ti West was thinking of that film while making his own.
The players in the piece are almost all excellent in their roles, Paxton and Healy have a really likable and believable chemistry, while Kelly McGilllis is solid as the washed up actress turned psychic. Yep, Kelly McGillis from Top Gun. Sara Paxton in particular stands out, she is excellent in every scene she is in, going from amusingly drunk too terrified, with ease.
The one black mark against this film really has to be the ending. I shan’t go into too much detail for fear of ruining it for you all, but it left me feeling somewhat cheated and unsatisfied. I felt as though it didn’t resolve everything that had gone before, but it didn’t leave it wide open in a really ambiguous way that gets you thinking ala Donnie Darko. After doing so much good work in the first 95 minutes it is a crying shame that the final 5 didn’t live up to what had preceded it.
Despite that, this was an excellent, funny and downright scary film with a great story, top dialogue and splendid lead actors.