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Los Angeles Film Festival: Ti West's 'Innkeepers' aims to mix horror with humor

June 19, 2011 |  7:00 am


It wasn't his first film, but 2009's low-budget horror feature "The House of the Devil" won writer-director Ti West an ardent genre following with its satanic panic storyline and 1980s aesthetic. For his followup, "The Innkeepers," which premiered earlier this year at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin and plays Sunday and Wednesday at the Los Angeles Film Festival, West goes in a very different direction, trading "Devil's" slow-build dread for comedic banter between two desperately bored employees (Sara Paxton and Pat Healy) at a reportedly haunted hotel.

The Yankee Pedlar Inn is, in fact, a real place; West and the rest of the "Devil" cast and crew stayed there when that film was shooting in Connecticut and that experience sparked the idea for this screenplay. The movie explores just what happens when some spooky guests -- including an aging actress played by Kelly McGillis -- check in for a stay just days before the hotel is set to permanently close. Though there is certainly some paranormal activity, West said the emphasis this time around was on creating a pair of relatable characters and capturing the mundanity of a not-quite-retail-level job.

"I wasn't trying to make something more mainstream," West told 24 Frames earlier this year, "but just from the story and the characters it's not about a bummed-out girl in a house alone. I know these two characters at the front desk; people should like them. I wasn't trying to do something I knew people would like as much as I was making a movie that I would like to watch. I was definitely trying to make a more fun movie."

West, along with Dallas Hallam and Patrick Horvath -- the filmmaking team behind the Silver Lake-set horror mood piece "Entrance" -- will be part of a panel discussion, "Genre Movies and What Lies Beyond," Friday at 12:30 p.m. The panel will mark the final installment in the series of free lunchtime talks at the downtown festival's Filmmaker Lounge. Please visit this section of the LAFF website for more details.

The L.A. Times is a presenting sponsor of the festival.


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-- Gina McIntyre

Photo: Sara Paxton and Pat Healy in "The Innkeepers." Credit: Dark Sky Films