The Innkeepers (2011): New England Hotel Necromancy

Written, directed and edited by Ti West (Does this make anyone else think of Robert Rodriguez?) and starring Sara Paxton, Pat Healy and Kelly McGillis, The Innkeepers is a brilliantly entertaining ghost film.

There were some complaints from a few critics when the film was released about the slow pace. To those nay-sayers, I say, “Sit down in the back and shut up! If you were really paying attention and watching the film instead of trying to show how clever you are, it would have made sense.”

The film is about the Yankee Pedlar Inn (a real establishment in Connecticut where the film was actually filmed) and it’s last ever weekend. The place is closing down and two ‘skeletal’ staff have been left to work in reception for the odd guest who just might show up.

This is where the beauty of this film first appears. West has taken a lot of time and effort to allow us, the audience, to bond with the two erstwhile and likeable staff members who are running this last shift.

Sara Paxton plays Claire, an arrested in development ‘super-geek’ who desperately wants to experience a paranormal event. Big points have to go to Paxton. She is probably the only actress that I can think of who will let herself appear practically make-up free and is not afraid of letting herself ‘look’ like a ten year old boy in the arena of mannerisms and attitude. She sold this film and it’s story by giving a more than 100% performance and making her character so damned likeable that you really cared about what happened to her.

Pat Healy plays Claire’s partner-in-crime Luke. Luke is that sort of chap we’ve all worked with. He’s probably a bit too smart and obviously over qualified for his job. But his disinterest in finding any higher means of employment speaks volumes about his overall get up and go factor. Luke is another immensely likeable character.

Luke and Claire, minimum wage ghost hunters.

By the time the film gets seriously into the ghostly happenings at the hotel, we have bonded with both Luke and Claire and we like them both. Both actors gave a real sense of partner-ship with their characters. You could tell that the two characters had worked together before and often and that they both liked each other’s company.

At the beginning of the film the only guest is a woman who has left her husband and has checked into the hotel with their son. Ex-actress Leanne Rease-Jones (Kelly McGillis) soon checks in and Claire is more than a little star-struck by the presence of her childhood hero being in the hotel.

Along the way, they lose the woman and her son (not through any sort of ghostly foul play, but mainly because of Claire’s ghost hunting techniques) and an old man checks in. The old man (George Riddle) is sad, full of melancholy and creepy as hell. He wants to stay on the third floor which has been stripped of its furnishings and only a few beds remain. Claire takes pity on the old boy and gets him some sheets so he can stay in the honeymoon suite that holds so many memories for him.

To say that I loved this film would be the understatement of the century. The characters, the plot, the hotel and the underlying comedic edge to the film elevated this to an ‘I must own this film’ category. I was already a fan of Paxton’s after seeing her in The Last House on the Left remake. Now I’m a lifetime fan-boy. She is an amazing actress and it will be fun to see just how far her star rises.

I enjoyed Pat Healy in 2001’s Ghost World, but I loved his performance in this film. He is another actor who has just shot to the forefront of my list of favourite actors.

Directer Ti West has shown that his vastly entertaining The House of the Devil was no fluke. He is another of those Hollywood protégées who will become the next Spielberg or even Rodriguez in the very near future.

Run, do not walk, to your closest film rental outlet and watch this film. It was so good that it defies the usual bag of popcorn rating system.

If you can only watch one ghost film in 2012, make it this one.

I thought she said don’t go into the basement…

About Michael Knox-Smith

World traveler, writer, actor, vlogger, blogger, journalist. Cinephile who reviews films, television, YouTube shows, Books and interviews professionals in the industry. Member Nevada Film Critics Society

22 thoughts on “The Innkeepers (2011): New England Hotel Necromancy

  1. I hope this one makes it to us and actually gets shown in local the theatres. Because of you and Tyson, I’m beginning to realize how many films are never released in the US, or have such limited releases that they never make it to any theatre near us nor to cable. This sounds like a good one and I haven’t seen a good ghost movie in a long while. Thanks again for the heads up!

  2. I’m literally stunned to see you like this Mike. I reviewed it a while back, and whilst ‘hate’ is unfair, I really didn’t like it. I thought it was slow and dull, apart from paxton (who looks like a boy, but in Shark Night looks incredible!) who was fine, the other cast were a chore to watch. But hey, thats why these sites are good, we all like different things. You are the first person Ive seen like this (out of the bloggers I follow that is!) so fair play to you (that heart attack has messed with your eyes lol) :)

    And as Teepee mentioned above, its rare we get any dvds before the US. Sadly we got this one…………but Mike you need to head over to my site and read Teepees husband Garry’s Desert Island list, there are some good films on there that you can watch to make you realise you were wrong and The Innkeeepers is actually poor :)

    1. Already read Garry’s list and enjoyed it immensely. On the subject of Innkeepers I stand firm. If you want scary jumpy scares watch the first 3/4’s of Insidious. If you want to get introduced to characters that amuse and generate feeling of well being, watch The Innkeepers. I have a low threshold of expectations for new films. I think that is why I can enjoy a lot of films that other folks don’t. But hey, just because I thought it was brilliant is enough for me. Oh and P.S. I rarely change my mind about a film I’ve reviewed, I’m funny that way. LOL

      1. I dont know Mike, I hated the inhaler, I didnt think it was scary, it had unlikeable people….but as you say it resonated with you for whatever reason and thats cool, theres a whole host of films I love that im sure the majority of people hate! Great write up as always anyway dude :)

  3. This film isn’t anything perfect or out-standing by any means, but Ti West knows how to entertain by giving there enough space and time to build-up tension as well as characters that we care about. Good review Mike.

      1. Wow, I so did.
        Who cares if Paxton looks like a boy? It’s part of what makes her so very relatable. I’m bored of posers in horrors, it’s just not creepy if you don’t give a damn. I think she’s amazing, thanks for introducing her into my world Mike.
        Also agree with what you said about comedic elements. When Claire has her back against her room door and is properly freaked for the first time, that brief scream she emits almost looked like Macaulay Culkin in the first Home Alone after he watches Angels With Dirty Faces.
        I wished more than once there was someone else home at my house during this movie. Creeped me and i loved it!

  4. Thank you for reviewing these films, Mike! I went online and rented this movie before leaving my office at DISH. It had downloaded to my Hopper DVR by the time I walked in the door and it was ready to watch. This movie really is a slow burner, but it’s worth it in the end. The atmosphere was genuinely creepy, and I like that they didn’t rely on CGI to anchor the film. This movie tells a great ghost story and it really works for this time of year.

    1. Well thank you for stopping by and commenting. I”m glad to hear you enjoyed the film. Cheers Mate! 😀

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