a SIFF 2012 interview
Ti West talks horror anthologies, found footage and all things V/H/S
I saw V/H/S when it had its midnight screening during this past summer’s Seattle International Film Festival, the found-footage horror anthology getting under my skin. Revolving around the search for a missing videotape by a group of hooligans promised untold riches if they can steal it, the film is a series of unnerving stories told in shaky-cam first person by a bevy of talented filmmakers including Joe Swanberg (Hannah Takes the Stairs), Adam Wingard (A Horrible Way to Die), David Bruckner (The Signal) and Glenn McQuaid (I Sell the Dead).
One of the better shorts is director Ti West’s unsettling road trip “Second Honeymoon.” Filled with moments reminiscent of both of the filmmaker’s most recent efforts The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers yet still managing to tell a disquieting story uniquely its own, the short paints a picture of romantic unease the likes of which held me spellbound wondering where it was going to go next.
West and I were able to engage in a short email Q&A chatting about V/H/S, his career, what interests him as a filmmaker and his thoughts on the found footage subgenre of horror. Here are some edited excerpts from our conversation:
Sara Michelle Fetters: After the critical and cult success of The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers, what made you decide working on an anthology project was what you wanted to do next?
Ti West: It was something different. I don’t like to repeat myself, and this was an option to experiment with another type of genre film. I also had creative freedom, which is important to me.
Sara Michelle Fetters: Where did the idea for this anthology come from? What was the genesis for it?
Ti West: Not sure, I was just approached and asked to be a part of it. I was friends with some of the other filmmakers so I went for it.
Sara Michelle Fetters: How closely did you work with the other directors? What was the collaboration like?
Ti West: There was no collaboration. We all made our respective films separately.
Sara Michelle Fetters: For your short, “Second Honeymoon,” what was the inspiration behind it?
Ti West: I had just been on a road trip and was fascinated with all the hitchhikers and meth abusers in the southwest. I was able to make this film only a month after that trip, so I was still ripe with creepy inspiration. I liked the idea of people in a scary movie discussing being scared.
Sara Michelle Fetters: At this point, do you consider ‘found footage’ to be a genre unto itself, or just another means to tell a story?
Ti West: A little of both. If it’s motivated, I think it’s a great way to tell a story. Unfortunately, most of the time they are just derivative copies of other movies. We all worked hard to make V/H/S original.
Sara Michelle Fetters: What do you think of horror anthologies in general? What makes the good ones good?
Ti West: It’s tough, because the tone shifts during each story, so it’s very hard to have everyone like everything all the way through. But it’s fun. You don’t get to see them often, so it’s exciting when you do. I did two back-to-back last summer, V/H/S and ABCs of Death. I think I’ll take a break for a while now.
Sara Michelle Fetters: I love how you’re not afraid to use silence in your films. When do you know to step back, let a sequence speak for itself? And when do you make the choice to allow for sound, allow for that jolt of music to give a scene that certain extra punch?
Ti West: It’s hard to say. It just comes naturally. I am just trying to recreate what I see and hear in my head.
Sara Michelle Fetters: What scares you? What are you afraid of?
Ti West: Losing Control. The thought of that terrifies me.
Sara Michelle Fetters: As a filmmaker, what draws you to the horror/suspense genre? Do you see yourself branching into other genres anytime in the future?
Ti West: I think my days in horror are numbered. I have a few more in me, but as I said, I don’t want to repeat myself, and I have made six horror movies in seven years. Pretty soon it’s going to start to feel repetitive. But it’s a great genre to experiment in as a filmmaker. You can pretty much do anything. That sense of freedom is inspirational.
Sara Michelle Fetters: What are the types of stories that inspire you?
Ti West: Personal stories. Nothing specific. I just want to see things that mean something to those who made them, not just surface-level stuff.
Sara Michelle Fetters: With V/H/S, how do you hope audiences respond?
Ti West: I hope they are scared and tell their friends!
Sara Michelle Fetters: Where do you go next?
Ti West: I have several movies that can go at any minute. Just waiting for the checks to clear!
– Interview reprinted courtesy of the SGN in Seattle