Interview

Interview

Exclusive: Ti West Talks 'Bedbugs', 'The Side Effect', and 'V/H/S'

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If you're a regular FEARnet reader, chances are you're very familiar with the name Ti West. The writer-director rose to fame in 2009 with his 1980's throwback The House of the Devil and earned raves once again for his latest project, the "old fashioned ghost story" The Innkeepers starring Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, and Kelly McGillis. If you have yet to catch the film in theaters or on VOD, you can grab a copy of this modern ghost classic on Blu-ray and DVD from MPI / Dark Sky on April 24. I recently had the chance to sit down with the director to discuss his latest writing gig, Bedbugs, as well as his upcoming science fiction film, The Side Effect, and the new anthology film to which he's contributed a segment, V/H/S. Check out our conversation after the jump.

Congrats on the Bedbugs gig that was announced last week. What initially drew you to that project?

Someone at the publisher was a fan and they sent me a box of their books, so I got this book in the mail and I just carried it around in my backpack. I never really got to reading it. It's not a very long book so I was like "Ah, this is a great plane read, but it's like the worst nightmare for me [Bedbugs, that is]. I'll get to this." And it just kept not happening. Then I went on a random general meeting and the people said, "Well, we got the rights to this book Bedbugs and we need to get a script." So I said, "Oh, that's in my backpack right now." (Laughter) I thought it was a weird coincidence so I went on about how I was obsessed with bed bugs and how it's funny that the people sent me the book and what a weird world that is. So they said, "Well, would you want to write the script? Read the book and see." So I went home and read the book that day and I told them "Ok," and that was it. So now I'm going to write Bedbugs the movie.

It's been praised for its subtlety and atmosphere. It seems like the perfect fit for you.

Yeah, I feel like if I wrote a movie about bed bugs, it'd be pretty similar to this book. It was an easy read. I was like, "Yeah, I know how to do this."

It feels a little bit almost like Friedkin's Bug, if you've seen that.

It is and it isn't. There are some similarities, but it's certainly different enough that I think when you see the two of them it wouldn't make you think of them but the concept of a person thinking that they're infested with something that they're not is relevant.

You were announced as the writer of the film. Any chance we'll see you direct it?

I don't know. Maybe. For now, I'm just writing it. I think that it certainly is an option that if I got really attached to it and it was something that was ready to go and I wanted to do it. I imagine it's possible that I could. But I've also been kind of fascinated with the idea of writing a script and someone else going to make it. I'd like to just write it and see how someone else interprets it. I was always fascinated when, for instance, Richard Kelly wrote Domino after Donnie Darko. I always thought that's so interesting that they were like, "He made this weird movie. Let's go to him to write our action movie." And he did, and someone else made it. And it's so different than he would have made it. I always thought that was interesting.

Yeah, you've only worked on your own projects that you've written and directed so far. Plus, you're probably busy with The Side Effect. Is there anything new you can share about that project?

Nothing majorly new. It's just creeping along. The world of when I was making these movies for $800,000 can come together pretty quickly, but when you make a movie for a few million dollars (which, you can't do it for less because you have to build spaceships) it's just much slower. Every decision where someone spends money, it takes forever. Even though it's not big Hollywood money, by any means, it's not the same as when you have $500,000 in the bank, you got the movie shot, and we'll figure out the rest later. It's now the first thing you have to spend money on is like $1,000,000 of building spaceships. It's just a slow process.

I'm sure it helps to have Liv Tyler on board though.

It does, yeah, and we're sort of casting the other roles now so I think it'll all come together. This is a movie that's been slowly moving along for years. The Liv Tyler thing is what made everyone kind of realize it existed, but it's been around for a while. It's a slow burn, if you will. (Laughter)

On V/H/S, what do you think sets this anthology apart from all the other horror anthologies out there?

It's smart in the way that it... The wraparound doesn't feel like a hosted wraparound, which I think makes it feel less anthology-ish. I think the found footage angle - as much as everybody's sick of found footage - I think everybody did a good job of finding creative ways to use it without it being too obnoxious. And I think there's a real low-budget punk rockness to the movie that people are interested in. It really doesn't position itself to be a big, mainstream kind of movie. It has a gritty, snuff film vibe all the way throughout, and I think that's what made people maybe separate it from the rest. You see these movies that are made for really cheap with a found footage style, but they're so clearly being manipulated to be a Hollywood success for very little. Whereas, V/H/S feels more genuine than those movies do. It doesn't feel like it's being derivative of a trend as much as its just embracing it.

For someone who grew up on things like Creepshow, it's nice to see anthologies make a bit of a comeback.

Yeah, they've always been tough sells for some reason. The anthology thing just confused a lot of people, but I enjoy them.

If you could pick two other directors to do an anthology film with, who would it be? Anybody you want.

I don't know. I'd aim really big and go for people that I really like. Like The Coen Brothers or Steven Soderbergh. People like that. Those are the people that I look at their careers and admire them.

I went back and re-watched all your films again. I was watching Trigger Man on Netflix Instant the other day. I haven't seen it in a few years.

Neither have I. (Laughter) It's impossible for me to ever go back and watch my films. It's weird. When I first started getting DVDs and listening to commentaries, I would listen to Richard Donner talk about how he hasn't watched The Goonies since like 1986 and I was like how is that possible? Or Joel Schumacher talking about how he forgot that The Lost Boys existed, I was like how could that be? But the thought of re-watching any of my movies is like putting a gun in my mouth. You spend so long making that, you just really have no interest in them - at least I don't - ever again. But I'm glad Trigger Man and The House of the Devil are both on Netflix Instant. It's a very easy way to tell people, "If you want to see it, it's really very little effort to do so."

The packaging - some of which have been promotional or press drops - for The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers has been amazing. For The House of the Devil, you put together a VHS and for The Innkeepers you have this awesome gatefold package. It's really cool stuff. Do you get a lot of input into those things?

The VHS I was more involved with than I was with the gatefold. Only because with the VHS, I was like we have to do this one hundred percent correctly or else it's not worth doing, so I was really anal and meticulous about that. I don't think it was an unpleasant process, by any means, but that was something that I was harsh on. As far as the gatefold, they told me that they had the idea and they sent me some images of what they were thinking. I sent them a couple notes and that was about it. The gatefold is much more MPI and Dark Sky steamrolling that, but I think it turned out really well. I just got mine in the mail and I think they look really great. I think there are some nice classy touches to the way it holds the Blu-ray and things like that. The VHS is something that they made and they actually sold it, whereas the gatefold is not for sale. So the VHS, I think they made about 1,000 of them and they all sold out in no time. That's a commodity if you have one of those. The gatefold's going to be even harder to get because this one is not for sale. I have ten of them here. I'll probably give some to some friends and then that's it. I know they sent them out to some press people that are going to do some contests and giveaways. I'm going to give one away tonight on Doug Loves Movies. And that's kind of it. If you're able to score one of these, there's only a few hundred.

It's like a Mondo poster. Once they're gone, they're gone.

Totally. I'm actually very fortunate. I've had two Mondo posters as well. It's really flattering. Inside the gatefold is the great Tom Hodge poster for The Innkeepers too, so that's cool.

The thing about these types of items is that they're perfect for someone like you because people are so rabid about your work. They end up being great collector's items.

I've been adamant about trying to, for whatever it's worth, have a brand, for lack of a better term. So having these things - and I really appreciate MPI and Dark Sky for doing it - adds to the brand of like "Oh, you're that guy who makes horror movies that are a little different from other people's and (whether you like them or not I'm starting to make a little more noise) I'm also the guy that has the VHS thing and the gatefold thing," so if I can keep that going and keep this fun stuff coming, I'll be happy. It's the kind of stuff that I would want from movies that I like so I'll try keep it going as much as I can.

Note: Read the second half of my conversation with Ti West, in which we discuss The Innkeepers, on Monday, April 23rd.

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