Unlike many moviegoers, 17-year-old farm girl Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell,The Day) has no memory of the events of The Last Exorcism, a found-footage smash of three years prior. The Last Exorcism Part II
finds her taking steps to build life anew, beginning in a boarding
house for troubled girls, where the deeply devout Nell is exposed to
such heretofore corrupting influences as lipstick and rock music and
YouTube and cotton candy.
Suspense novelist Jeffery Deaver once praised the short-story format,
writing that the minimal time investment on the part of the reader
allows the writer to get away with endings he or she cannot in the long
form. In other words, the writer can be meaner, more devious. He's
absolutely right, and the theory applies wholesale to The ABCs of Death, more or less a horror anthology depicting "26 ways to die."
Don't ask why Ninja III: The Domination
begins with a ninja assault on a municipal golf course. Just be
grateful it does. You also may wonder why its sex scene employs a can of
V8: Don't question it. Just lie back and enjoy it.
Tobe Hooper got a raw deal. The director of horror hits The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Poltergeist didn't deserve to be sent to movie jail for 1985's Lifeforce.
It's a well-crafted, well-intentioned work that was mismarketed and
misunderstood, losing a bundle of money and soon sending Hooper into the
lands of episodic television and direct-to-video features.
West: It's probably because they're a transient place. Their history is made up of a history of a bunch of strangers who stay there. For me, this movie wasn't about hotels as much as it was this hotel, because I lived there for almost three months while making House of the Devil, and this movie — I wouldn't say it was based on that experience, but it formed from that experience. So it was weirdly personal.
R&R: Because The Innkeepers is set in a hotel, I’m sure you hear comparisons to The Shining. Do you think those are valid?
West: I certainly hear it mentioned a lot, which is unavoidable, but we tried hard not to evoke The Shining. Once you put a Steadicam in a hallway in a hotel, you're kind of screwed, but I think we pulled off our own thing there. I don't know how you get around it, because The Shining is probably one of the best horror movies ever made, if not the best.
R&R: I love your “slow burn” style, but at the same time, I can understand why some people would not. I’ve heard some people say they didn’t like your films — not because they were or were not scary, but because they had a problem with the pacing. With the instant gratification the Internet provides, do you think today's audiences may not know how to respond to an approach like that?
West: To some degree, yeah. Movies in general, but specifically horror movies, have been aimed at the lowest common denominator for the last 10 years — like, extremely more so than they ever have been.
You're meant to be a passive audience member for today's movies. You're supposed to just go there and stare blankly at the screen and go home. That's not really the kind of movies I make or the kind of movies I grew up on, but that is the state of modern movies. I don't think that's going to change too much.
I hear it all the time, but I don't fully understand the “slow burn” thing. I realize it's generally a compliment so I'm fine with it, but I never heard the term until people started telling me that's what I was. I don't set out to make a movie where my reason for making the movie is just people getting killed, so I'm not really in a hurry to get to that part. That's what mainstream horror movies right now are: About every 10 minutes, you have to thrill them with something. I don't think that way.
R&R: What horror films have influenced your own? What are some of your favorites?
West: I'm not as much of a horror guy as people think that I might be. Of course, I really do like the genre, but of the thousand or so DVDs that I have, it's probably the minority on the shelf there. For me, my favorite kind of movies are by filmmakers who have a voice where you can tell it's a movie by that person. When you see a Coen brothers movie, you can tell it's a Coen brothers movie; Terry Gilliam, Sam Raimi and so on and so forth — filmmakers like that who have made horror movies, who bring their style to that genre, as well as bring more than just surface-level stuff.
You know, The Exorcist is about a woman with a sick daughter, and then it's a horror movie. Or The Shining is about an alcoholic man who hates his family, and then it's a horror movie. I think that any time those themes are more prevalent than the genre, the movies tend to be much better.
Some of my favorites are The Shining, The Exorcist, Rosemary's Baby, The Changeling, Don't Look Now, The Thing, Night of the Living Dead — you know, it's not really shocking that it's all the obvious top 10 that everybody has.
R&R: Do you fear getting typecast? Directors like George Romero and John Carpenter have said they didn’t set out to be horror directors, that they’d like to do other things, but they can’t get anything else financed.
West: It's already happened, so it's a little too late for that.
I don't think I'll do horror that much longer. I may come back to it, but I've made six horror movies in seven years, which is quite a lot and I have a sort of werewolf movie out there hoping to get made soon, and a science-fiction horror movie that's out there waiting to get made soon, and kinda after that, there's really not a lot to do without repeating myself.
It will be tough, because people will want to say, "Well, we'll give you money for horror movies," but the answer I have for that is they don't give me very much money for horror movies. I can go make anything for not very much money.
R&R: With something like House of the Devil that doesn’t get a wide theatrical release, how is its success measured? Is it just by number of DVDs sold?
West: It's measured in different ways. For me, it's financially not particularly successful, in the sense that I don't get rich off of it.
That doesn't mean it's not successful. I know when Magnolia put it out theatrical and on VOD, they made plenty of money. It was very successful for them. And when MPI and Dark Sky Films put it out on DVD, it made plenty of money and was very successful for them. For me, it made my life a little bit easier for getting another movie made.
I did get some salary making the movie; it wouldn't blow anyone's hair back, but it was enough to just make a movie for a year. And I got to make the movies I want with limited interference, so that is successful, and The Innkeepers is remarkably close to that. They work out for everybody.
The thing is now, I don't want to make a movie at that budget anymore. I don't need a lot more money, but instead of doing a movie for $800,000, I'd like to do one for $4 million so I can do a little bit more stuff I keep not being able to do, and that just takes a lot longer. It's a much slower process, and that really drives me crazy for someone who's made six movies in seven years.
R&R: Of all of those six, do you have a favorite?
West: I can't watch them. It's like hearing your voice on tape. There's one I'm unhappy with, but other than that, yeah, I'm good with all of them. The Innkeepers is my favorite thus far, probably because it's the most recent. I think that whatever I make next will, therefore, be my favorite and so on. I think that's just sort of the way it's going to go for me.
R&R: What was the budget for Pat Healy's hair and all the product that went in it to make it stick up like that?
West: Quite high. It was most of the budget. —Rod Lott