After over one hundred years of service, The Yankee Pedlar Inn is shutting its doors for good. The last remaining employees - Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy)- are determined to uncover proof of what many believe to be one of New England's most haunted hotels. As the Inn s final days draw near, odd guests check in as the pair of minimum wage ghost hunters begin to experience strange and alarming events that may ultimately cause them to be mere footnotes in the hotel s long unexplained history.
At a time when the horror genre seems to consist solely of cheap jump scares and MacGyverish torture contraptions, writer-director-editor Ti West's The House of the Devil proved a pleasant anomaly: a slow-building '70s throwback which understood that the process of getting spooked is at least half the fun. The Innkeepers, West's follow-up, winningly continues the retro streak, doling out the murk and gloom by steadily escalating degrees, anchored by Sara Paxton's wonderfully appealing mope of a lead performance. Kicking off with a knowingly chintzy Internet gag, the story follows a pair of bored clerks (Paxton and Pat Healy) working at a rickety Victorian inn during its last few days of business. Taking advantage of the lack of guests, the not-so-dynamic duo begin investigating the building's reputation for housing things that go bump in the night. After a boozy psychic (Kelly McGillis) checks in, however, the once-quaint creaks and moans become terrifyingly tangible. West makes smashing use of his confined location, patiently holding shots for several beats past comfortable and slowly venturing into cobwebby hallways until the goose bumps come marching in. Unfortunately, when it finally comes time to go for broke, The Innkeepers falters a bit, delivering a resolution that, while eerie, has a hard time measuring up to the anticipation generated by the fantastic first hour. Still, even if West can't quite stick the landing this time around, his film stands as a must-see for anyone feeling the blahs from the latest scary movie trends. If this tale was told around a campfire, many a s'more would be dropped. --Andrew Wright