M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Last month, counted down my favorite horror films from my first year of reviewing. Now it’s on to Year Two which began officially on October 1, 2011 and went through September 30, 2012. I have posted compilation lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around a bit. I’ve even added a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t!

How did I compile this list? I simply looked through films released between October 1st, 2011 and September 30, 2012 and worked and reworked the list until I had the magic number—31. Again, I never call myself any kind of expert in horror. I simply watch a lot of horror films and love writing about them. Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!

Released on February 3, 2012 and available on Video On Demand, digital download, and DVD/BluRay!


Directed by Ti West
Written by Ti West
Starring Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis

After experiencing HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, Ti West immediately became someone for me to watch out for. Having seen a ton of horror films, it takes a lot to give me the willies, but West did with his tormented babysitter ode to the 80’s. When I got wind that West was going to go the supernatural route, I knew this film would prove if the writer/director had the versatility to not only cause chills with real world scares, but otherworldly ones as well.

Turns out he’s got it in spades.

THE INNKEEPERS is a deviously patient and shockingly effective horror film. West patiently introduces us to Claire (played by Sara Paxton, more on her later) and Luke (Pat Healy). Anyone who has worked in a place where there is a lot of down time knows this pair’s dilemma. The jobs they have as innkeepers fits in with their slacker mentalities, but that doesn’t stop them from bouncing their big ideas off one another. Luke runs a website highlighting ghostly encounters and talks grandly about the time he experienced paranormal activity at the hotel. Claire wide-eyedly believes him and with the hotel closing, the pressure for a ghostly investigation is on.

Being a fan of GHOST HUNTERS and all of the shows like it, I loved the amateur ghost-sleuthing aspects of the film. Having these two bored twentysomethings tool around in the dark would have been enough for me without them finding anything. Healy and especially Paxton are as likable as they come. Healy’s snarkiness is something one could find in any random internet forum, while Paxton offers the wide-eyed wonder reminiscent of Henry Thomas from ET, Sean Astin from GOONIES, or William Ragsdale from FRIGHT NIGHT. Though these are all male characters, Paxton serves as the lead here and is much more of the dominant role while Healy’s true colors shine through as soon as stuff gets supernatural.

The fact that I’ve gone through most of this review without talking about the scares or effects should tell you how excellent a character piece THE INNKEEPERS is even before the weird stuff starts happening. West makes this film true character-driven with two actors that fascinated me the whole time. In doing so, when the supernatural occurs, I felt more invested than ever for the safety of these two characters one can’t help but like.

Though this film obviously had a low budget and a lot of the scares are more due to reactions by the actors and some clever camerawork by the director, this is an extremely scary film. A scene in the basement where the two amateur ghosthunters are trying to summon a spirit is extremely effective and not a ghost is actually seen. It’s all close camerawork, moody music, and deft performances by the actors. Even when the ghostly image of the spirit that used to live in the haunted hotel finally appears, it’s only momentary with the moments leading up to it shredding nerves all the way.

Kelly McGillis adds a bit of class and panache as a washed up actress now backing spirit crystals for infomercials who happens to be in the hotel when all the shit goes down. Hers is another performance that makes you care about the living more than one usually does in this type of movie.

Though THE INNKEEPERS is not as spine-tingler-ific as HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, it is a great ghost story which remains effective despite budgetary limitations and takes advantage of the unseen rather than pissing in the punch with cruddy effects or even worse, CGI. West, though, has proven himself capable of handling these two genres of horror–the real and unreal–with ease. Reminiscent of GHOSTBUSTERS by way of POLTERGEIST and maybe a bit of GOONIES thrown in, THE INNKEEPERS shows that West is a movie magician to watch.

THE 2011-2012 COUNTDOWN!

#16 – THE PACT
#17 – V/H/S
#24 – [REC]3 GENESIS
#28 – INBRED

M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.

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