[Interview] Ti West On ‘V/H/S’ And Bringing The Unexpected Into Genre Film

Ti_West_VHS_8_31_12

V/H/S is now available on various On Demand platforms (a month before its October 5 theatrical release!)! While iTunes (AppleTV) has it, it’s also hitting Amazon, Charter, Comcast, Google Play, DirecTV, Playstation 3, SuddenLink, Time Warner, VUDU and Xbox Zune via Magnet Releasing.

Ti West (The Innkeepers, The House Of The Devil) directed the segment called “Second Honeymoon”, which stars Joe Swanberg (You’re Next, A Horrible Way To Die) and Sophia Takal (24 Exposures) as a young married couple trying to get some excitement back into their lives via a road trip through the southwest. Do things go according to plan? No. Sh*t gets scray (I heard some skate kids using that word and I’ve co-opted it).

I recently spoke with West about crafting his segment, his character-centric approach to filmmaking and how thrives on what you’re not expecting to see in a genre film. Head inside to check it out!
I know we talked about 8 months ago regarding this movie, but I wanted to followup a little bit. I know your segment came out of this desire to recreate road trip that you’d been on. When did the theme of betrayal work its way in? And where did some of the key visual elements, like the switchblade, come from?

Yeah, I had just gone on this road trip. We had gone out to the Grand Canyon. And the day before that I had been asked to be a part of V/H/S and I was like, “I’m not sure if I have any ideas for it.” But it was in the back of my head while I was on this trip. And about halfway through, after dealing with these weird Arizona meth heads and all kinds of weird stuff – the weirdness of the southwest – the grand canyon and the hotels I was staying in I thought, ‘there might be something here.” That’s sort of where it came from.

I don’t know why I wanted to do something relationship oriented. It’s just the first thing that popped into my head. I knew the actors I wanted to work with. And I had the idea that someone watching you while you sleep is really scary. So I wrote a paragraph about my idea, sent it in, and they liked it. And a month later I was right back where I was on that trip, making the short.

I know you’d worked with Joe Swanberg before, and he’s great in it. But a lot of the balance relies on you trusting Sophia Takal’s character.

That was another thing, because I was making a horror relationship segment I went looking for people whose natural instincts were relationship stuff. So I kind of went out and got people who were great at it. There was a pretty detailed outline, and I gave them pretty detailed instructions, but then I just kind of let them do their own thing.

Also, since Sophia and Joe are both directors I could just send them out on the streets with a camera and they’d come back with something cool.

In your work you seem very interested in people, is that the focus of your next project?

Yeah, the next one has a social element. For a lot of people the draw of genre films are the genre elements. For me, it’s a little bit of the opposite. I mean I know there’s going to be horror in it, so I don’t go for that because I know that’s going to be there. I go for what I don’t know is going to be there. And I think I make movies the same way.

With something like The Innkeepers you know ghosts are going to show up eventually. Maybe it takes too long for some people, but they’re there. What you don’t know is that it might be kind of funny. What you don’t know is that you might relate to the characters. And it might have certain things that surprise you.

When you make a movie called The House Of The Devil, suffice it to say, eventually she’s going to end up in the house and it’s going to get bad. To me the interesting stuff is everything leading up to that, because the audience is clueless about it [going in].

So do you agree with Nicolas Winding Refn’s assertion that genre is the only way to sneak real stories into film anymore?

Um, I don’t know. That’s worded really nicely and it sounds really great but I’d have to think about it some more. I know that’s what I try to do. I’m trying to sneak other stuff into genre movies. I can get you in because I can do stuff with the genre that’s exciting, but hopefully when you leave the other stuff resonates just as much.

Source: Bloody Disgusting
  • Seal_Clubber

    Why no Canadian release ??

    • EvanDickson

      For what? VHS? It should be out. Have you tried iTunes?

      • Seal_Clubber

        I tried ITunes, Amazon and PS3 … It is not on any of those in Canada. Searched using V/H/S and VHS …. just with a V … nothing.

  • EvanDickson

    Look on iTunes charts and scan down. Search works in US though

  • EvanDickson

    @Seal_Clubber hang tight. Let me do some digging. IN the meantime, can you log back into iTunes and search V/H/S and see what comes up? Maybe scroll down past albums?

  • Seal_Clubber

    K – I just searched V/H/S in ITunes again. No Movies came up (though a bunch of songs and Apps did). Narrowed the search to just movies and nothing.

    I went to movies / horror and no V/H/S on there either. I see “Lovely Molly” on there, but even if I just search for all horror movies starting with a “V” I don’t get it. Same on Amazon and the PS3.

    Maybe no distribution in Canada (god I hope not !!)

    • EvanDickson

      @Seal_Clubber I checked. It DOES have distro in Canada and I’m not sure why it’s not avail yet. It may take another day but it will be there.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=56009225 T.J. Barber

    So a week ago I hop on this very site and say “Resident Evil and Robocop remakes suck, Talk to me about VHS and do an interview with Ti West because he is THE name in horror right now.” and get back from New York on hop on here… and I’m not sure if it’s coincidence or for once someone reads comments but… fucking spot on sir.

    • EvanDickson

      I had done the interview ahead of time but was saving it for today :) I’ve interviewed Ti like 4 times in the past 12 months for INNKEEPERS etc…

  • PatrickxJonathan

    @Seal_Clubber you’re not missing much my friends. One of the biggest disappointing in horror I’ve come across in a long time. No genres were redefined this time.

    • EvanDickson

      @PatrickxJonathan to each their own! I legitimately really liked many of the segments and really disliked only one of them.

  • rgold

    Which segment did you dislike? I found one of them to be not as strong as the others but even that wasn’t completely horrible.. I really thought I would not care at all for this film. I typically don’t like found footage and all the hype for this is probably doing more harm then good. To my surprise I really found myself enjoying the shit out of it. Good job to all involved..

  • KeepDoubting

    Ti West is the man. He’s one of the very few directors that I know I’ll like anything he puts out and his segment was one of my favorites.

    The whole movie was incredible. Favorite of 2012 so far without a doubt.

    I think one of the coolest things you guys could do with this is when it comes out on DVD, also do a very limited release of it on an actual VHS tape. Give some away in some contests or something. I would kill for something like that.

  • NecRomancer

    ‘THE name in horror’? Are you people out of your minds?! I thought most of you were a more discerning bunch when it came to horror movies. I’ll admit that ‘House of the Devil’ was a great throwback horror but to hail that half-assed idea from V/H/S is just going to far. The Innkeepers was pathetic as well. Giving Ti West credit for movies like that is like admitting that horror fans don’t care about an actual story. Convincing characters and a sense of mood does not a good movie make. You can’t just throw some creepy imagery on a screen without putting it in a satisfying context (you know- beginning, middle, END). Lately, Ti West is THE name in lazy storytelling.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=56009225 T.J. Barber

      I couldn’t disagree more. (obviously since you are responding to what I said) I wouldn’t change a thing in Innkeepers, it’s personally one of my absolute favorite films now. The emphasis is on subtle scenes, a down to earth approach that is definitely set on slow boil and I think every minute of it is expertly shot and has atmosphere amped up to 11.

      i think there is a pull towards a lack of story in horror but this isn’t it. Modern slashers and killer movies have become so terribly boring and continue to feel more and more like they are being pitched to a young audience. When I think of a powerful horror movie with story and heart and it feels mature I think of Hellraiser, and Suspiria, and when think of what is wrong with horror these days I think of Cabin in the Woods. I understand Cabin in the Woods is a favorite among people lately, but a movie about how cliche cliches are isn’t amusing to me, Evil Dead 2 did it nearly 30 years ago while Cabin in the Woods just feels like Scary Movie (whatever number they’re on now) most of the time.

      But anyway, horror is like most genres, there are a lot of sub genres in it. I think it’s wrong to believe that one can come in and enjoy all types of horror equally in the same way. I don’t expect everyone who likes Metallica to like Cannibal Corpse even though they are both metal.

    • KeepDoubting

      It all comes down to opinion. Just because you don’t think Ti West doesn’t mean other people shouldn’t like him either.

      • KeepDoubting

        @T.J.Barber Completely agree with everything you said. Well… except that I loved Cabin In The Woods, haha.

  • Nothing333

    After having the movie settle for a few days I’m still disappointed. Knowingt the talents of Ti, joe, and Adam how did they come up with something so juvenile and meandering. This is actually my biggest disappointment of the year so far.

  • mairsil

    I’m just tired of movies that don’t have an ending. The movie was fine, but I wish I had waited (not worth the [pre]theatrical price tag in my opinion).

  • Evil_Flip

    I didn’t like VHS. I don’t like ‘found footage’ but this one actually looked kinda interesting, but it only proved to be just like the others. I kinda liked the first and (to some extent) last segment as they had a decent reason for the camera to be on all the time. It’s like these movies just don’t have common sense and are mostly just boring filler. E.g. there is no reason you’d walk into a room with your eyes closed only to show somebody (on skype) there is a freaking ghost in there. I found West segment the worst (besides the wraparound) as nothing happened and took way to long to get to an ending that was just way to random. I just wanted them to die so this segment could end. How can there be so much filler in an anthology? Usually the short story time means you can get to the f-ing point.

  • niuq

    Just two quick things:

    1. It was available for a two week pre-release on iTunes in Canada. I’m sure it will be available again shortly if it isn’t already. That where I watched it and I live in Toronto. … and I thought it was only ‘ok’ at best.

    2. Ti West has made two of the better horror movies in recent years. I get that people aren’t into it but thats just it, it’s not your gig. For some, including myself his pics remind me of some of the greats (Rosemary’s Baby). Atmospheric and stylistic. Wait, I’m not comparing HotD or Inkeepers to Rosemary’s Baby in terms of longevity or greatness. Just tone and style. Anyway I look forward to future releases.

    talked to much