Ti West Gives Horror a Good Name

Ti West Gives Horror a Good Name  (photo)

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With mainstream horror now defined by cruddy PG-13 originals and even cruddier remakes, Ti West’s “The House of the Devil” couldn’t have arrived at a better time. An unpredictable saga of teenage boredom and Satanic cults in which a college student makes the mistake of taking a babysitting gig at Tom Noonan’s titular residence, West’s third film (after “The Roost” and “Trigger Man”) assumes the guise of an ’80s genre flick — from its title credits to its hair styles — without ever treating those trappings as jokes. More faux-relic than cheeky homage, the film confirms West’s status as a distinctive indie auteur, with his preference for long, languorous takes and his sincere interest in human behavior lending his horror show a uniquely ominous chill. While in Manhattan, he sat down with me to discuss the sorry state of contemporary horror, his unpleasant experiences making the still-unreleased “Cabin Fever 2” and the insanity of test screenings.

Given how many lousy horror remakes have come out lately, did you have any concerns about making such a deliberate ’80s throwback?

No. Now that you say it, I can understand maybe being more concerned than I was at the time. I came up with the idea back in 2005. Right now, would I be doing it? Probably not. But as much as I get credit for it being an homage, that wasn’t really my plan as much as it was a period piece. Not to say there aren’t freeze frames, or the copyright image under the title, or zooms and things like that. But when I put everyone in the period setting, that’s just what happened. As I started fooling with it, it just became clear that this style looked best for the movie. I tried to be authentic to the period. It just happens that this ’70s-’80s retro thing is in vogue. It’s a happy, or unhappy, accident, depending on how you look at it.

Your use of drawn-out character-building scenes and general avoidance of jolt scares, gore and T&A seemed to me like a rebuke to modern horror. Was that what you were going for?

No, there was nothing reactionary. It’s partially my style, it’s old fashioned, and this movie has a classic three-act horror structure. It wasn’t because there are movies like “Saw,” and I wanted to throw it in their face and go the other way. I just don’t particularly like those kind of movies, and I don’t make them. And maybe right now, there are so many bad movies out there that it helps highlight something different.

Did you feel any pressure from outside voices to conform to modern genre conventions?

No, thankfully not. There was a situation right before the premiere at Tribeca where outside forces got involved and said that it’d be more successful if it were a little shorter in the middle. I think there were just some cold feet: “We like this movie, but whew, we hope we’re not the only people who like it.” And I felt like, no, no, it’s going to be fine. But other than that one spat, everyone was very supportive and understood the movie we made. Probably partially due to my complaints, Magnolia swooped in and everyone agreed to revert the film back to the way it was. Other than that, it was easy.

The sequence in question is the one where Donahue’s protagonist dances around the mansion, right?

Before that. There’s a three-and-a-half-minute minute chunk where she explores the house. For me, it was important because she plays the straight character throughout much of the movie, and that’s kind of a bummer for an actor, because she doesn’t get to be as behavioral as some of the other people. So there’s this section where she could wander the house, snoop through their drawers, all these things that gave away tiny foreshadowing plot elements. And you see her play “Heart and Soul” on the piano, these lighthearted moments where the character didn’t have any responsibility except to be herself.

10272009_hotd6.jpgThat’s part of the reason I made the movie — the weird things you start doing when you’re alone in someone’s house, like snooping through drawers. And part of its style is to fool people with all the conventions. So, she walks into a room and you think, “Oh my god, something’s going to jump out!”, and then she talks to a fish and leaves. It takes you out of your comfort zone. I wanted to make everyone who knows horror movies go, “I don’t know where the next thing’s coming from.” Jump scares are cheesy, but I think the few of them in the movie are very successful because they’re spaced out appropriately and they come out of nowhere. You get kind of entranced by the lulling style, so that when something extreme happens, it’s more effective. That contrast is really important to me.

That contrast seems particularly important to “HoTD,” considering that modern horror films telegraph everything.

[With today’s horror films], there’s never a moment where nothing’s happening, so it gets to be almost like porn, just one money shot after another. And you begin to feel like, if there was just some story present, I’d be more inclined to give a shit. That contrast is what makes any art accessible.

I’ve seen a lot of dead people. I’m not a good person to hang out with, because people have died on the subway with me. I’ve been on a train that hit someone. One time I was at a horse gambling establishment and the guy a couple seats down just died. And what always amazed me was, everyone’s there betting on horses, having a great time, and no one knew. Once we realized what had happened, the whole tone shifted. If you were the girl in “HoTD” who got involved in a Satanic plot, before it happened you were just hanging out, doing your homework. Whenever you see real death or real horror, it’s not cinematic in any way. It’s clumsy and awkward, and that’s what you wind up feeling jarred by, because it’s not what you were expecting.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.