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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Tacked to the end of an unrelated story in the trades is first word that David Gordon Green‘s remake of Suspiria will begin shooting next year. This consciousness-altering bit of movie news was discovered by The Playlist. Curtsy. Green, who has managed to maintain his indie cred (Snow Angels) and establish box office pull and mainstream cachet (Pineapple Express), is currently in Ireland helming the Danny McBride stoner fantasia Your Highness for Universal. Last summer, I covered a rumor that Natalie Portman was cast as the lead in his Suspiria flick; as with today there was never a solid follow-up. However, Portman was later cast as the warrior princess/McBride’s unlikely love interest in Your Highness and previously expressed interest in the role.
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In July, director David Gordon Green begins shooting Your Highness in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Inspired by herb-friendly ’80s fantasies like Krull, Yor, and The Dark Crystal, the R-rated adventure-com centers on Danny McBride as a regal fuck-up who’s forced to save his kingdom and his brother’s fiancé. James Franco recently signed on—Pineapple Express reunion, natch—to play the feted, charming brother. And today, Natalie Portman is officially a lock to for McBride’s would-be love interest, described as a “warrior princess.” Some may recall that Portman was attached last year to headline Green’s remake of Dario Argento’s macabre, color-obsessed Supiria; that project remains on the back-burner. She’s currently producing and working on Hesher, a cool-sounding teen angst film co-starring Rainn Wilson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
McBride, who co-wrote Highness with Ben Best, has said that the supporting cast will consist of “serious” British actors to align with the film’s play-it-straight tone; in jest, he’s even compared the tone to Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon. The movie’s SFX by Spectral Motion will go light on CGI (a welcome trend) and—a la the actor’s upcoming Land of the Lost—willl shoot on built-sets that are “huge and crazy.” This project easily makes my top-5 most anticipated. For more info on Your Highness, click here.
Update: Bloody Disgusting is standing by their “100%” confirmation that Portman is starring, however Portman’s publicist says her involvement is nil.
One of the hipper projects in Hollywood is shaping up to be the remake of Dario Argento’s psychedelic horror flick, Susipira, from director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, George Washington). Bloody Disgusting just confirmed minutes ago that Natalie Portman will headline the film, which means she’ll hop into ballet slippers and battle a coven of beautiful, gossipy (foreign?) witches.
The actress’s shingle, Handsome Charlie Films, is producing. If you’ve seen the original, you’re probably wondering what the plans are for the soundtrack, but those details haven’t been announced. Here’s what Green told MTV about the project a few months ago…
“Supiria is a classic to me. I want to be scared. I want to be afraid,” he said to MTV. …”It’s an opportunity to take all artistic excellence and be inspired by what was a low budget Italian 70’s gore movie. Where the art world meets the violent and supernatural. I would love to get every geek that loves torture porn and every old lady in line to see ‘Phantom of the Opera’ to come and have this insane experience.”
With its enchanting candy colors and surreal lighting, Dario Argento’s 1977 flick, widely cited as his best work, rivals Jean-Luc Godard’s Pierrot Le Fou for its stained-glass color palette. The story dips into nightmare-logic as we follow an American student at an elite European dance academy who discovers it’s a front for evaaal. Argento’s inventive, deranged use of gore is outmatched by a harrowing, instrumental soundtrack by the band Goblin. While it’s not exactly a perfect film, with time Suspiria has arguably transcended the cult genre.
Discuss: Cool casting, no? How do you feel about Gordon directing this? Who should score the soundtrack?
Okay, now I’ll admit it: Juno should have never been made! Fresh from getting mainstreamed in Diablo Cody’s lil’ indie that did, news arrives today that indie director David Gordon Green (George Washington, Pineapple Express) is set on remaking Dario Argento’s Italo-horror classic Suspiria. Greene has been loosely attached for a few months but he recently chatted up a couple outlets about his (re-en)vision, referring to his new take as “classy shiiat“…
“Supriria is a classic to me. I want to be scared. I want to be afraid,” he said to MTV. …”It’s an opportunity to take all artistic excellence and be inspired by what was a low budget Italian 70’s gore movie. Where the art world meets the violent and supernatural. I would love to get every geek that loves torture porn and every old lady in line to see ‘Phantom of the Opera’ to come and have this insane experience.”
With its enchanting candy colors and surreal lighting, Argento’s 1977 original, widely cited as his best work, rivals Jean-Luc Godard’s Pierrot Le Fou for sheer trippy cinematic bliss. The plot dips into nightmare-logic as it follows an American gal who enrolled in an elite European dance school only to find that it’s a cover for a twisted witch coven. Inventive visual horror is nearly outmatched by the ethereally harrowing soundtrack by the band Goblin. While it’s not exactly a perfect film, it’s beyond a cult film, and to crib from Dennis Hopper’s description of Thailand, Suspiria “just is, man. It just is.” Green doesn’t specify why his version would be more “ambitious” or “amazing”…
“These Italian producers came to me about it, wanting to do a pretty amazing, ambitious, artistic (version),” Greene told STYD. “It could be pretty wild.”
Earlier this week we reported that Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes is remaking Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby. There’s no shame over there, and there’s not much any moviegoer can do about it, but when our young phenom directors are getting in on the remake trend instead of crafting their own original horror films…for Platinum Dunes to remake in 10 years…it should ring an alarm. Green’s a cool dude. Let’s hope he reconsiders remaking this one and chooses to continue his own trail blazing.
Discuss: Can you think of a good reason why Suspiria should be remade?