For two movies about essentially the same thing (in this case, a haunting), Ti West’s “The Innkeepers” and James Wan’s “Insidious” have received vastly different reactions from SXSW attendees, with many liking one but not the other, and vice versa. Those who read my review of “Insidious” already know where my allegiance lies, because while “The Innkeepers” may fancy itself a horror film, there’s nothing particularly scary about it. Sara Paxton and Pat Healy star as the last remaining workers at the Yankee Pedlar Inn, a fledgling hotel that has relied on stories of being one of New England’s most haunted locations to fill its rooms. But as the Inn’s final days draw near, the pair goes searching for proof that it’s actually haunted in one last effort to save the hotel from closing its doors for good.
Unfortunately, you have to sit through a fairly uneventful 100 minutes to find out the answer, and it’s not really worth the wait. Though West teases the audience with brief moments of suspense that continue to build as the story unfolds, there’s very little payoff, to the point that when the horror elements finally do kick in, they’re not as terrifying as you would hope. Instead, the movie spends a lot of time camped out at the front desk where the two leads shoot the shit and play tricks on one another. It’s witty and amusing at times, but never quite enough to hold your interest, despite the fact that Paxton and Healy actually have pretty good chemistry. If there’s one redeeming quality, it’s the fantastic score by Jeff Grace, which at the very least makes it watchable. That doesn’t change the fact that the film is still a mediocre film, and the only one that Ti West has to blame is himself, because while “The Innkeepers” certainly had the potential to reinvigorate the horror genre in the same way as “Insidious,” it falls short.
Melrose Place (Tues., Sept. 8 @ 9:00 PM, The CW)
The competition: “Dancing with the Stars” (ABC), “NCIS: Los Angeles” (CBS), “The Biggest Loser” (NBC), “So You Think You Can Dance” (Fox)
Starring: Laura Leighton, Shaun Sipos, Thomas Calabro, Katie Cassidy, Colin Egglesfield, Stephanie Jacobsen, Michael Rady, Jessica Lucas, Ashlee Simpson-Wentz
Producers: Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer (“Smallville”)
Network’s Description: In an elegant Spanish-style apartment building in the trendy Melrose neighborhood of Los Angeles, a diverse group of 20-somethings have formed a close-knit surrogate family. Sydney Andrews is the landlady, still beautiful at 40, and a central figure in the lives of all her tenants, especially handsome and rebellious David Breck. Sydney started an affair with David despite her turbulent history with his estranged father, Dr. Michael Mancini. Both father and son learned through experience that Sydney was not above using blackmail to control people. Another tenant, high-powered publicist Ella Simms, once considered Sydney her mentor, but their friendship was destroyed by betrayal, and Sydney threatened to evict Ella and ruin her career. Sydney also played a pivotal role in the career of Auggie Kirkpatrick. After they met at an AA meeting, she became Auggie’s sponsor and encouraged his dream to become a chef. Now a successful sous chef at the trendy restaurant Coal, Auggie has been avoiding Sydney since she began drinking again. The other tenants include Lauren Yung, a medical student in desperate need of money to pay her student loans, and Jonah Miller, an aspiring filmmaker who has just proposed to his live-in girlfriend Riley Richmond, a first-grade teacher. The newest tenant, 18-year-old Violet Foster, has just arrived in LA with her own secret connection to Sydney. When a bloody body is found floating in the courtyard pool, David is the leading suspect. However, as the police are soon to discover, almost everyone living at Melrose Place had a reason to want the deceased out of the way.
The Buzz: There hasn’t been nearly as much excitement about this reboot as there was for “90210.” After watching the pilot, there appears to be good reason for that.
Pilot Highlight: The temptation is to say either the discovery of the body or the discovery of who David’s father is, but by the time the show premieres, it’s a fair bet that both pieces of information won’t be nearly as much of a surprise for you as they were for me. As such, let’s go with the closing moment, when we’re handed a shot which implies that we’re looking at the murderer.
Bottom Line: The characters and scenarios feel clichéd, and as it stands right now, the connections to the original series seem tenuous at best. You can appreciate The CW’s desire to have lightning strike twice, but this just couldn’t feel more rushed…or unnecessary.
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