How X Pulled Ti West Back Into The World Of Horror After 10 Years

Horror movies have been one of the most reliable bets in Hollywood as of late as we attempt to emerge from the pandemic. If it isn't superheroes, it's horror films keeping movie theaters afloat. Recently, filmmaker Ti West, who crafted such genre gems as "The Innkeepers" and "The House of the Devil," made his long-awaited return to horror with his latest effort "X." The movie has been praised by critics and is already at the center of a budding franchise for indie studio A24, with a prequel (and maybe even a sequel) on the way.

But West had taken quite the break from horror and, for a time, it seemed like he might never return. Yet, "X" was able to get him back in the saddle and the reaction from both audiences and critics alike would suggest this is a very welcome return. So what is it about this movie that managed to pull West back to the horror genre after nearly a decade away?

Ti West never made a slasher movie

"X" marked West's first effort in the horror space since 2013's "The Sacrament" and his first feature since 2016's "In the Valley of Violence." Since then, West has done his fair share of episodic TV, including shows like "The Exorcist" and "Outcast." But how is it that this movie about a group of people trying to make a get-rich-quick porn film in the '70s before things devolve into a murder fest managed to get him back in the horror movie saddle? Speaking with The A.V. Club, West explained that it all had to do with the fact that he had never made a slasher film.

"I had made seven horror movies in a row and I wanted to take a break. So I did almost a 10-year break. But I never made a slasher movie. That felt like uncharted territory for me. I had been thinking a lot about if I was to make another horror movie again, why would I do it? And I was thinking that I really liked just like the craft of cinema in general, and I wanted to make a movie about filmmaking because I feel like there's a lack of cultural reverence for cinema, maybe because we're just so bombarded with moving images all of the time. But I didn't want to make a movie about people making a horror movie because that's too meta and uninteresting to me. And horror and porn have always had this symbiotic relationship of being outsider genres, so I thought in a slasher movie—as the lowbrow combination of sex and violence—a story about the adult film industry made sense."

And thus, this notion of marrying two outsider art forms within the slasher genre, something West had not yet tackled in his career, seeded the idea that brought him back to horror.

'You've just gotta go for it'

It wasn't just about making a slasher movie with porn as the way into it. For Ti West, it had to do with sharing the craft of cinema along the way. Showing the audience what goes into actually making a movie, within the movie he was making himself. Beyond that, he also wanted to visit the gnarly side of the slasher genre while avoiding so-called "soft" horror that is often dominating the mainstream.

"That was a way for me to bring an audience in, to watch people make a movie and see how making movie is different than the movie that ends up on screen. And then I just felt like horror movies were kind of soft. And so in that I was like, 'Well, if you're going to make a slasher movie, you gotta just go right for it.' So that just started nagging at my brain, and then here we are."

The irony here is that slasher franchises such as "Halloween Kills" and "Scream" have been some of the biggest hits of the pandemic era. Meanwhile, West, in doing something original, has mapped out an entire franchise in the horror space, giving A24, perhaps the most respected indie studio in Hollywood, its first bonafide franchise in the genre space. It's an interesting result for a guy who wasn't even sure if he was going to make another horror movie in the first place.

"X" is in theaters now.