Claire and Luke (Paxton and Healy) aren't taking their last weekend on the job seriously. The hotel they work in is closing, so they're trying to finally get proof of a legendary ghost. They only have two guests: an angry mother (Bartlett) and her young son (Schlueter). Then a former actress (McGillis) arrives, who turns out to have some psychic abilities. And an older man (Riddle) also checks in, asking for a specific room on the closed-off floor.
Meanwhile, Claire is starting to think that the ghost might be real.
Essentially this is a mumblecore comedy with moments of horror woven in. Claire and Luke are hilarious slackers who hate the annoying next-door barista (the annoying Dunham) and delight in scaring each other. They're nicely played by Paxton (who's like a young Reese Witherspoon) and Healy as likeable idiots you'd never want to spend five minutes with. Meanwhile, McGillis gets the balance right for her character's lifelong impatience with fans as well as her interest in the afterlife.
Along the way writer-director West keeps things tightly under control, dropping hints about what's coming while leaving other threads dangling enigmatically.
The camerawork, editing and especially the music let us know when we're supposed to be scared, although this is often a trick to get us to jump at an unexpected noise. And the hotel setting is terrific, familiar but eerie, with plenty of door-lined corridors and a particularly scary basement.
So it's a shame that the script waits so long before grabbing hold of us. The only true freak-out moments come at the very end, and along the way there are long stretches that feel rather dull and superfluous, with several sequences that add nothing at all to the plot. Sure, all of this lets us get to know the characters better, but it doesn't build the required sense of dread. And it leaves the final act feeling both underdeveloped and rather trite.
Run time: 101 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 29th March 2012
Box Office USA: $77.5k
Budget: $1000 thousand
Distributed by: Magnolia Pictures
Production compaines: Dark Sky Films, Glass Eye Pix
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
Fresh: 88 Rotten: 24
IMDB: 5.5 / 10
Director: Ti West
Screenwriter: Ti West
Starring: Sara Paxton as Claire, Pat Healy as Luke, Kelly McGillis as Leanne Rease-Jones, George Riddle as Old Man, Lena Dunham as Barista, Alison Bartlett-O'Reilly as Gayle, Angry Mom, Brenda Cooney as Madeline O'Malley, John Speredakos as Officer Mitchell