Indie horror director Ti West tends to be divisive. I think that’s in part because he has a flair for self-promotion and also because his most well-known film, The House of the Devil, was a very slow burn of a horror/thriller that featured an ’80s aesthetic, which led to accusations of pretension and a certain preciousness.

But The House of the Devil worked really well for me, so West has become one of the young directors I follow with greater than average interest. His new film The Innkeepers is available via VOD and digital platforms now, and will hit theaters in a limited run on February 3.

Ti West is also planning to make a science fiction film, which he’s said is about “pharmaceutical testing in space and paranoia,” and at one point had the title The Side Effects. That title could change, given that Steven Soderbergh is about to make another film with the same title. But West is moving full-speed ahead with the project, and says that financing and casting are coming together now. Read More »

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Rent It

LAW ABIDING CITIZEN
Logic and subtlety are the last things viewers should expect from Law Abiding Citizen, an absurdly enjoyable B-movie thriller that critics made the mistake of trying to take seriously. The film is disposable low-brow entertainment, no question. The unfolding of the plot doesn’t yield a single unanticipated turn, nor does it fail to act on a convenient cliché when one is available—and there are many available. Rarely, though, does a thriller embrace its R-rating as fully as this one. It’s amusing how quickly Gerard Butler’s introduction as the sympathetic anti-hero is tossed aside in favor of full-on deranged villainy—even more so when you realize how much more fun it makes the movie. The gleeful maliciousness that the film displays as it continually cranks up the violence is a little disturbing, but it’s in that gratuitous carnage that Law Abiding Citizen earns its place amongst the rest of the compulsively watchable trash that cinema has to offer.
Available on Blu-ray? Yes.
Notable Extras: DVD – An audio commentary, and behind the scenes featurettes. Blu-ray – Includes everything on the DVD, as well as an exclusive unrated director’s cut.

BEST DVD PRICE
Target Best Buy Fry’s
$14.99 $9.99 $14.77
Amazon – $9.99

BEST BLU-RAY PRICE
Target Best Buy Fry’s
$17.99 $19.99 $19.77
Amazon – $19.99

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When 2009 is reflected on later, it won’t be the clunky, predictable Oscar-bait pics that standout but rather a new crop of outspoken auteurs that came into their own in ’09 with stealthy, highly confident fare. A charged determination and can’t-fail idealism is instilled in these directors that makes the filmmaking process once again exciting and truly daring: A young man’s game. Writer/director, Ti West, is one such auteur. Not yet 30 years of age, West has crafted a horror film with an attention to detail, sex appeal, color and sound so as to evoke the paranoid trips of early Roman Polanski and the vintage, pop-darkly appreciation of early Richard Linklater and Paul Thomas Anderson.

Bearing a title that is epic and playfully dry, The House of the Devil reconnects the horror genre with roots-y, genuine, teetering suspense. By doing so, West also manages to grasp viewers in the claws of doom by way of a foreboding graveyard or a pitch black basement, as opposed to, say, a phallic torture chamber aired simultaneously on forty live surveillance cameras. Stylistically, West forwent mining homage from the Grindhouse well—so exhausted this decade—and instead made a film set in the ’80s that not only looks period, but feels of it. The era’s mundane pace of life and lack of social interconnection can be sensed from the movie’s start and is incensed by the decade’s “Satanic Panic”: a media-exploited phenomenon that did for Satanism what coverage of the Zodiac Killer and Son of Sam did for serial killers in the ’60s and ’70s. At Devil‘s heart is the lead performance by newcomer, Jocelin Donahue, 27, who gets my vote for movie crush of 2009. Donahue plays Samantha, a smart, unsure college sophomore in dire need of a payday who eventually responds—in that ’80s way—to a nondescript babysitter flyer. No one ever said that $atan doesn’t have great taste.

From the way in which Donahue walks in high-waisted jeans to the way Samantha and her BFF eat and critique pizza, it’s a luscious thrill to witness such a dope actress and director get it and get it some more. Moreover, West appears supported by one of the cooler, simpatico filmmaking crews working in indie films today. Unlike the stereotypical proto-auteur of past and present, West’s horror movie shines as both the work of a driven perfectionist and a clear vision by a superlative collective; this enables the viewer to fall into, and fall in love with, all the creepy, masterful foreplay before West’s plot rocks wildly alongside a devilish eclipse. Afterward, I desired to open a pack of THoTD trading cards showcasing the film’s collaborators and characters alike rather than scan IMDB. Ti West discussed his creative process with /Film, as well as the film’s titular House, its mystic pizza, and why his experience helming the yet-to-be-released Cabin Fever 2 was an effing nightmare straight outta Hell Hollywood.

Hunter Stephenson: Hi Ti. I found this to be a very uncompromising horror film. I think what many are finding to their surprise is that The House of the Devil is not an homage to the ’80s a la Thanksgiving but a real period piece.

Ti West: Thanks, I’m glad you see it like that because that’s how I see it: as a period piece. I appreciate that. I mean, the film is basically about a cultural phenomenon in the 1980s, the Satanic Panic. So, I wanted to create a very accurate depiction of that and not do it tongue-in-cheek, or as a parody, because then people wouldn’t care about the characters in the movie. That’s why there’s a really nice primer to the beginning of the film [explaining the Satanic Panic, complete with statistics], because so much of the film is a contrast between a lot of realism and then these very fantastic horror elements. And that’s why, with the beginning, I wanted it to feel like this is something that could have really happened.

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Repeat the following name after me three times: Ti West. Ti West. Ti West. Pray that Hollywood doesn’t tuck him into its throbbing succubus and then wring his brilliance out into its rancid, gold spittoon gifted by Dubai. With The House of the Devil, one of the most gorgeous, sexy, and vital horror films in recent memory, the 29-year-old writer/director has bowled me over. I haven’t been this excited by an independent film from a new, uncompromising voice in modern cinema since Jody Hill‘s The Foot Fist Way. If you follow my work at /Film, oh shit, you know what that means: I might proceed to drive my unwieldy love-cart off a cliff that is this oncoming jump…so if you choose not to follow, I’ll leave you with an echo. “Take those greedy scumbags at Platinum Dunes hostage, tie them up at the bottom of a Lake and force them to watch THOTD a million times…Happy Halloween.” The pool will be good for Mr. Devin. This is the best horror film of 2009.

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