During the final days of its operation, employees of the Yankee Pedlar – a grand, old Inn whose better days are now behind it – hope to catalog some of the supernatural events for which the Inn has become partially known.  As its last weekend begins, Claire and Luke – the only remaining staff – decide to check themselves into the Inn and remain there until Monday.  Joined by actress-turned-medium, Leanne Rease-Jones, the two settle in for the long weekend generally unprepared for what awaits them.

Directed by Ti West, The Innkeepers is the 2011 supernatural horror film starring Sara Paxton as Claire, Pat Healy as Luke, Kelly McGillis as Leanne Rease-Jones, Alison Bartlett as Gayle, Jake Ryan as Gayle’s kid, and Lena Dunham as the I-need-talk-to-someone barista next door.

theInnkeepers_1It’s easy to overlook the general awesomeness of The Innkeepers due to its runtime and slow-burn construction.  At 100 minutes, the film takes its sweet time building toward an ending that can’t be missed.  It’s this little kernel that sets The Innkeepers apart from almost every single one of its peers.  Films like Paranormal Activity and Insidious are solid at building necessary tension but neither of them have the universal approval of filmgoers for having delivered the goods by film’s end.  The Innkeepers definitely delivers.

The technique is seriously old school – Ti West purposely draws out the building of plot by spending a lavish amount of time on character development.  It’s in these moments that the real story theInnkeepers_2of The Innkeepers is unfurling.  If you give yourself to it, the reward at the film’s end is all the more gut wrenching.  If you find yourself bored to tears and wanting to turn it off, simply pause the film, grab a drink (coffee works, too) and relax.  The Innkeepers is as much about what you bring to the film as what it will deliver.  In this way, The Innkeepers is sure to find a serious base in fans of ’60s and ’70s horror films where stories were typically built around good/average people and the horrible event(s) that befell them.  Without the backstory, there was no scope, perspective, or barometer for the ensuing horror.

Here’s the reality.  52 minutes.  That’s about how long it will take for you to get a sense of the film’s overall thrust.

So, yes, it’s true the film is short on gore and big scares – at least initially.  This shouldn’t deter you, though.  There are other films in the genre that you can turn to if that’s all you’re looking for.  Check out The Innkeepers if you enjoy a character-driven thrill.

theInnkeepers_3Kelly McGillis, who had just come off a role in another horror film – Stake Land – the year prior, is a delight.  As an actress turned medium, it’s easy to dismiss her character – her motives, her insights, her warnings.  Think of her as the naysayer that everyone sees as a flake but who turns out to be the only one with even the faintest idea of what’s really going on.  She’s absolutely pivotal and I love seeing McGillis working, especially in the horror genre.  I love that she owns her age, her gray hair, and I applaud her for it.  In fact, I think she looks amazing.  After all, in the words of her character, “we all have our moments.”  And now, as McGillis enters a new stage of her career, may be hers.


Sara Paxton who, as the young, wide-eyed asthmatic Claire, weaves a delicate performance between sensitive and naive, is nothing less than utterly lovable.  Her antics will have you laughing – the scene in which she takes out the garbage is among my favorites.

Told in a three-act structure The Innkeepers does a great job of poking fun at the reemergence of the spiritualist/paranormal movement and its mounting profitability thanks to renewed public interest in hauntings and supernatural events.   But really, it all boils down to the same thing.  As humans, facing our inevitable mortality, we can’t help but want there to be something else, something more, beyond what we can readily see or sense, beyond our existence.  As Claire and Luke face the close of the Yankee Pedlar, there is something inside them that can’t let go, that doesn’t want it to end.  Not until they have their proof.

We all know to be careful what you ask for.

If and when you make it to the third and final act, everything you’ve invested so far will finally pay off.   Ti West drains the final scenes of almost all light, forces his characters into the basement (again and again), and – at long last – gives you what you pressed play for.

Official site:

Trailer w/ introduction by Sara Paxton: