West, Ti (The House of the Devil, Cabin Fever 2)
Barely 29 years old, editor/writer/director Ti West has accomplished what many older directors can only dream about - having four feature films under his belt. And more to come. His most recent credit is the period piece 1980s horror flick The House of the Devil, and he has been receiving the sort of accolades that those more seasoned directors can also only salivate over.
I first spoke with Ti back in 2005 when his first feature, the terrifying The Roost, was coming out. I remember a young man who was passionate about filmmaking and excited about the reception his first film was receiving. Now it's five years later, and Ti is speaking with me again for Dread Central about the making of The House of the Devil (review here), the many occasions of “weirdness” that occurred, and the almost unanimous praise the film is receiving - and not just within the horror genre. He also spoke about his sequel to Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever, Cabin Fever 2: Spring Break, and why it is taking so long to be released.
DC: Hey, Ti, and thanks for taking time to talk with Dread Central. Wow … The House of the Devil … quite an experience. Where did the idea for the film come from?
TW: Growing up in the 1980s when all the Satanic Panic was going on: the McMartin case (which everyone believed at first but turned out to be made up), Satanic rituals, a kid’s fear of being alone in a park and this van would pick you up and you would never been seen again. I started work on a script, which eventually became The House of the Devil, with all of that in mind.
DC: I have to ask, Ti. You didn’t kill Larry (Fessenden) in this movie!! I thought that was a tradition?
TW: (laughs) It was heart-breaking not to be able to kill Larry. I wanted to use him, but there was just no place in the script. But I have managed to kill Larry in three films so far (laughs).
DC: Couldn’t you have him crossing the road and the girls run him down? No? How did you come to be one of the Glass Eye Pix gang?
TW: I met Larry back in 2000 through a mutual friend. Larry is very genuine, very passionate about film and very hands-off as a producer. His motto is "B movies with A ideas". Originally, Glass Eye was in Larry’s apartment and it was just great how everyone got along. You’ll hear that in the commentary I did with Larry, producer Peter Phok, and sound designer Graham Reznick.
DC: I have to ask about the house in the movie – was that a private residence, a bed & breakfast, or what? It’s enormous and completely creepy.
TW: It was a private residence. One woman lived there and worked from the house. I think she was an artist.
DC: Much has been made about how this film is NOT an homage to horror films of the 1980s but is actually a 1980s horror film, a period piece. What is the allure of that decade, and is the film actually set in a certain year?
TW: Serious "Satanic Panic" was happening back then, and I wanted to make a film that reflected what everyone thought they knew was REALLY happening behind people’s closed doors. I didn’t make it obvious, but in my mind the film takes place in 1983.
DC: How did you assemble your cast? I know you have worked with Tom Noonan before, in The Roost, but the others?
TW: Actually, Tom e-mailed me and said he wanted to do it. Mary Woronov was someone I was a huge fan of – her painting and writing. I got her number and called her, then went and visited her. Amazing lady!
Jocelin (Donahue) I auditioned over and over – I wanted to be sure she knew exactly what was in store for her if she was cast as Samantha. Her character is in nearly every frame of the film, and I wanted her to REALLY understand that.
DC: You mentioned on your commentary with Jocelin just how important it was for you to REALLY capture the look of the '80s. Everything from the high-waisted jeans to rotary phones to the Coke cups at the pizzeria. How hard was it to procure everything you wanted?
TW: Almost everything in the film came from eBay (laughs). I HAD to have those Coke cups so when my Production Designer, Jade Healey, called to say she had found a bunch of the Coke cups on eBay, I said to buy them all! I just had to have them for that scene.
The costumes, for the most part, came from warehouses full of old movie clothes in LA. My Costume Designer, Robin Fitzgerald, and I just plowed through the clothes looking for period-correct stuff for everyone.
DC: I have read that you all experienced some … weird? … events during the shoot. Care to elaborate?
TW: We did! The wonderful Dee Wallace, who has a small role in the film, is a healer, a New Ager back in LA, and she announced to us that spirits were trying to contact me. That the hotel where we all stayed, The Yankee Pedlar in Torrington, Connecticut, was haunted.
During the shoot, the generator would turn itself off, cameras would go down for no reason, lights would explode, and a tree next to the house was hit by lightning. Even the TV in my room at the hotel would turn itself on. And we had to refer to the film as The House so the locals wouldn’t be freaked out.
DC: Has there already been talk of a sequel?
TW: Not really. Don’t put a lot of faith in seeing one. I liked how everything was left open-ended.
DC: What is going on with Cabin Fever 2: Spring Break? Any idea when it will be released?
TW: I think it’s coming out in February, but I’m really so disconnected from the film now that I don’t even know. I wanted to pull an "Alan Smithee", but the producers wouldn’t let me do it and I’m not in the DGA so…
I had really high hopes for the film and the producers thought they were helping, but they weren’t. Still, I’m sure there will be an audience for it.
DC: So, what is next for you, Ti? I’ve heard everything from a web series about vampire callgirls to The Haunting in Georgia to The Last Rites of Sarah Swan.
TW: Wow. I can’t believe you know about the Sarah Swan project. That’s one I really want to make, but I don’t think it will happen anytime soon.
The Haunting in Georgia is still in pre-production. It’s not a sequel to The Haunting in Connecticut but part of a franchise the producers would like to see happen.
DC: I have taken up WAAY too much of your time, Ti. Thank you so much for talking with me.
TW: Thank you.
The House of the Devil comes home to VHS(!), DVD, and Blu-ray on February 2nd, 2010. Order yourself a copy below NOW!
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