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
Not that you’d notice, but here’s what’s been eating up my free time of late: As founder of The Movie Clubbed, I’ll be part of Saturday’s live skewering of Skatetown, U.S.A., an abomination of pop celluloid that was 1979’s both best and worst “rock and roller disco movie of the year!”
"Turns out there’s a reason 1979’s Skatetown, U.S.A. has never hit VHS or DVD: It really sucks. The alleged comedy starring Scott Baio and Patrick Swayze will get a live, Mystery Science Theater 3000-style beating from The Movie Clubbed, whose members include a few Oklahoma Gazetteers, at 8 p.m. Saturday at Oklahoma City Museum of Art, 415 Couch. Also to be skewered: a 1972 short by the OKC Urban Renewal Authority. Tickets are $5-$8. Call 236-3100 or visit okcmoa.com."
This marks The Movie Clubbed’s second time at bat. The first was back in March, when we (me, Richard York, Brian Winkeler, Greg Elwell and Spencer Hicks) zapped Zardoz, the 1974 science-fiction slice of nonsense starring Sean Connery. We didn’t think we find a more painful follow-up, but we were wrong.
What’s “special” about this Skatetown screening is that the Oklahoma City Museum of Art has procured a 35mm print. That’s right: They weren’t all burned in anger. With any luck, this one will spontaneously combust as soon as we’re done with it, so buy your tickets now before they skate away. There's even an unofficial after-party at The Paramount on Film Row, for which Brian bought the Skatetown soundtrack LP off eBay. You've been warned, but see you there anyway? —Rod Lott
Horror Rod Lott
My problem with most found-footage films is that there's not much to
them. Most can be described legitimately as an hour of buildup for one
scene of payoff. When you shorten the stories, however, as is done in
the horror anthology V/H/S, you have a handful of payoffs without all that pesky incidental padding.
I get why last year's found-footage anthology, V/H/S, proved so divisive to horror audiences. I don't agree with it, but hey, it makes my job reviewing the sequel so much easier: If you liked V/H/S, just press play on V/H/S/2; if you didn't, don't even start.
Anyone who recalls the days of loading up on VHS rentals at mom-and-pop video stores back in "The Day" will feel that joy return in a rush from Rewind This!, on DVD from, appropriately, the FilmBuff label.