Those who have been reading Daily Dead since it first launched know that I'm a fan of classic anthology films. With a few exceptions, modern anthology movies tend to miss the mark and you're forced to watch a few bad segments to get to the good one.
V/H/S stands apart from the pack and I was especially interested in talking to Ti West. While I really enjoyed his segment, he takes a different approach and I learned why it feels different from the others. He also confirmed that he's working on a new horror project and and gave me a status update on the sci-fi film he's developing.
You've found success with films that are the opposite of current genre trends. Did it take some convincing to get you on board as a director of a found footage short, with that sub-genre being oversaturated?
Ti West: When they first asked me, I didn't have any ideas, so it didn't appeal to me. Then I went on a road trip and it was in the back of my head. The road trip started to inspire some ideas, and I came up with a story that they OK'ed. A month later, I took actors on the very same road trip and shot our segment. It came out of this weird personal experience, where I got the idea from living it.
The more I thought about it, the term "found footage" is more annoying than all of the movies. It's crazy to rebel too much against it, because of where we're at with everyone having a camera on their cell phone and everything being on the internet. The problem is that there are too many "found footage" movies that rely on the fact that they are supposed to be real.
The Blair Witch Project killed "is it real or is it not real?". Once the covers were pulled on that one, you can't keep telling people that these are real events. No one believes you. If you don't do that and just make a movie in that style, no one cares. People revolt against movies like The Devil Inside that try to make you believe it's real. I think that's why Paranormal Activity works. It's become an October event movie. Nobody has a problem with good movies. It's only the bad ones that bother people.
Joe and Sophia have great chemistry in your segment and it's essential in keeping the audience invested in the events that take place. What made you decide that the two of them would be perfect for these roles?
Ti West: I flew Joe, Sophia, and Kate to LA and we took the road trip I had just taken. I choose Joe and Sophia because they knew each other and had worked together before. They were both relationship movie directors in their own right, and because I was making a relationship short, I thought it would be great to have people that could have done this without me.
I would give them very specific directions, but I'd also just give them the camera and have them film stuff. It was great, because they weren't going to be framing the shots weirdly and they knew what I was going for. I couldn't imagine doing this with anyone else.
How many days did it take to shoot the segment? Did it take a while to condense all of the extra footage into a cohesive short that fit your original vision?
Ti West: It didn't take long. I think we left on a Thursday and came back on a Sunday, so it was only about four days. When I first put this together, it was definitely a little bit longer. I was the first person to direct one of these segments, except for the wraparound. The original idea was that it should be a little bit longer, but as they brought more people on, they asked me to cut it down a bit. There is some good footage that isn't in the movie, but it isn't life or death stuff.
I think that V/H/S has a little something for every type of horror fan and all of the segments keep you entertained. However, your segment really stands out for me as something that takes a different approach in terms of pacing and scares. How did this play for a big audience at Sundance? Did the audience react the way you intended?
Ti West: It plays well. I think I get one of the biggest scares in the movie. I was a bit surprised, because it was a major reaction. I directed my segment first and I did it based around the rules of found footage, and knowing what happened with the wraparound segment. Had I gone last, I'm not sure if I would have made the same segment. I made this really grounded physiological film, but everyone else had monsters and things that were outside of what is traditionally found footage. They play to an audience, but mine doesn't necessarily do that.
I think it's great that the segments represent all types of horror, but had I known that this was going to be a midnight-type of movie, I might have made something a little crazier... or probably not... I don't know... [laughs]. It plays well, but it requires a little more patience from the audience. I wasn't expecting Radio Silence to have things flying and levitating... [laughs].
Could you give me a status update on The Side Effect? Previously, you mentioned that it was taking a while to put everything together because you were building a physical ship set. Will that begin filming this year?
Ti West: No, I think I'm going to do something else this year. The reality is that a science fiction movie is very expensive and is a long slow process. That's very difficult for me, so while that process is going on, I'm going to do something else. Hopefully, we'll be ready after that. You can't cut corners when you're building a spaceship. It costs what it costs and it can't cost less. As we continue to put that together, I'm going to do a little side project.
Is this going to be a full feature?
Ti West: Yes, and I should say that "side project" is not actually a legitimate term. It's going to be a legitimate project that I'm going to be filming this year.
Will it still be horror or are you getting into another genre?
Ti West: Yes, it will be horror.
What about Bedbugs? I know you have been writing it. Are you still working on it? Any interest in directing?
Ti West: That's done and I think it turned out very well. I don't know if I'll direct it. I'm intrigued at the thought of someone else working with my material. I'd love to see what that process is like. It may be great or may be terrible, but I'd love to see what someone else does with the script I wrote.
V/H/S is now available on VOD, with a limited theatrical release kicking off next month. Learn more about V/H/S by watching the trailer below and reading the following articles:
“When a group of petty criminals is hired by a mysterious party to retrieve a rare piece of found footage from a rundown house in the middle of nowhere, they soon realize that the job isn’t going to be as easy as they thought. In the living room, a lifeless body holds court before a hub of old television sets, surrounded by stacks upon stacks of VHS tapes. As they search for the right one, they are treated to a seemingly endless number of horrifying videos, each stranger than the last."