[Movie Review] The Innkeepers (2011) ★★★★★

Claire and Luke staring down the basement in The Innkeepers 2011

The Innkeepers is a delightful original spooky haunted house gem.

The Innkeepers is a supernatural ghost story that takes place in a haunted house, or to be exact, a haunted hotel. It’s a sweet little ghost story with the most endearing main character that results in a playful, whimsical story that doesn’t forget to scare the audience. It has interesting shots, pleasant storytelling at its best and fleshed out characters.

And even more special, this hotel the Yankee Pedlar Inn really does exist and is allegedly haunted, and is the actual place where the film was shot. It’s an original haunting tale that will spook you, but also conjures up some awkward comical laughs. 


Claire and Luke work at the Yankee Pedlar Inn hotel that is going to be demolished. It is allegedly haunted and Claire and Luke have spent most of their time trying to get some ghostly activity. The story goes that Madeleine O’Malley was left by the altar and that she hung herself in this hotel.

But this weekend it’s their last chance. With a few strange guests, Leanne Rease-Jones a former actrice turned medium, a woman with her little son and an old man who wishes to reminiscence old memories, Claire and Luke hope for the best to finally spot Madeleine. But be careful what you wish for.

Why you should watch it

The film is divided into three chapters. ‘The Last Weekend,’ ‘Madeleine O’Malley,’ and ‘A Final Guest.’ Each time a new chapter begins the film shifts slightly from tone and atmosphere. And the last chapter feels somewhat separated from the rest, but if you follow the clues, it really falls into place, leading to the unavoidable ending.

The story evolves around Claire. She’s not only the main character but almost everything is shot indirectly from her perspective. While Claire herself is a playful character, she is also a bit odd, she doesn’t know what she wants in life, she’s a bit jittery and clumsy, she doesn’t rely on herself and is somewhat insecure. Her character is refreshing and very playful and causes enough comical situations that are funny but also a bit tragic. While the camera is often pointed at her, we get an intimate look at her. She’s a delight to watch and brightens up the film.

The story itself slowly progresses. It takes the time to flesh out Claire and we get to enjoy her before the night spirals into terrifying horror. Some might find this slow paced buildup a bit boring, but who appreciates Claire’s character it’s in fact a well-chosen structure. 

Luke is her friend and is the setup for the playful clumsiness Claire is all about. Lee, the medium is the wise old woman who might be a bit grumpy but gives Claire some good advice. This construct feels like a gothic fairytale setup. The other guests are a setup to either more horror or more absurdly funny situations. 

The story is a gothic haunted house tale but also a deadpan comedy and a sort of parody to the haunted house genre itself and of the tragic gothic figure that Claire portrays. With a non stereotypical main character and an unconventional structure this film is set up to surprise and does it with great charme.

Though the overall tone might be comical due to the playful and whimsical character of Claire, it’s definitely a horror too. A couple of jump scares, some creepy ghosts, an ominous atmosphere, a good ghost story that haunts the hotel and some creepy shots add to the creepy scary vibe. 

It’s a fun good horror that is very creative, but won’t be appreciated by everyone. Due to the mashup, mixing different genres it can be a little confusing what the film is trying to be, but stick with Claire and the film is cleverly executed evolving only around Claire. It’s all about her, the function of the guests, the cinematography, the slow paced beginning the seemingly boring non-events, it’s all there to amplify her character. 

My favorite part

The storyline about the old man is very creepy and mysterious and cause for great alarm, which adds to both the horror and the humor. But Claire is the big event herself. She is a delight to watch and such an endearing character, like she herself is a mere naif little child. It really shows when she just had a bad dream, comes downstairs in her underwear like she’s at her own home and still eight years old. Or the way she want to seek comfort with Lee.

Or when she tells the little boy the ghost story about Madeleine, with flashlight pointed at her face to increase the tension, scaring him half to death, not taking into account he’s just a small boy. Everything in the film defines her character and that’s the strength of the film. Sara Paxton does an excellent job bringing Claire to life. 

The ending is a big twist and makes you wonder if all the happenings and spooky occurrences were malevolent or in fact benevolent. That gives a new take to the previous events and sets the whole film in another perspective. It’s smartly done and a hidden gem for horror lovers. 


Rating: ★★★★★

Scare factor: ★★★☆☆

Originality factor: ★★★★☆

Entertainment factor: ★★★★★

Cast and crew

The Innkeepers is directed and written by Ti West. It stars Sara Paxton (Claire), Pat Healy (Luke) and Kelly McGillis (Leanne Rease-Jones).

Duration: 101 minutes. Music: Jeff Grace. Cinematography: Eliot Rockett. Edited by: Ti West. Produced by:  Derek Curl, Larry Fessenden, Peter Phok, Ti West. Production company: Dark Sky Films, Glass Eye Pix. Distributed by: Magnet Releasing.

Check the trailer below

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