Ti West Wanted X To Be A Lesson In Moviemaking

If you've seen "X" already — thank you for being an opening weekend patron — then you know that Ti West's return to horror is as indebted to the craft of filmmaking as it is to the horror genre itself. The movie is overflowing with heart and a hedonistic openness to give everything to its subject — the art of moviemaking — but as with most horror movies, something sinister gets in the way.

West opened up about his focus on making this picture a love letter to filmmaking in an interview with Collider:

"I have a great deal of reverence for cinema as an art form and a crazy thing that people go do, and I feel like less and less people grasp that than they used to because we're so bombarded with content all the time. So I wanted to make a movie where the characters in the movie were making a movie to invite you in to kind of be charmed by what it takes to make a movie. And if I could do that, then I could also give the audience sort of a crash course in what I'm doing in the movie. And so if I could make something that really kind of put the craft of filmmaking into the story in a way that was charming and that would hopefully make people think, 'Movies are cool,' that seemed worthwhile to do to me because I sometimes feel I'm missing that."

When you talk about a love of filmmaking and a reverence for that craft, it's hard not to center 1970s American cinema as a shining example of work that represents that passion. It makes a lot of sense as to why West chose it as the backdrop for this story, especially considering the moviemaking triumphs of the era. Plus, there's nothing more homegrown and full of passion (no pun intended) than an indie porn shoot in the '70s. In short, it's an excellent container for all of West's contained slasher goodness, while still balancing focus with more high-brow (or low-brow, depending on how you look at it) tastes.

"Because the movie was going to be craft driven and filmmaking driven, I would say that the 1970s is probably as lauded of a time in American cinema as there is," West told the outlet in the interview. "And it's a time where successful movies were also a little experimental and were oftentimes filmmaker-driven and cinema driven. It just is the decade of that, so it made sense to me."

Affection for the craft

One could argue that there's a lot of affection for the craft in today's film landscape and that you could tell a similar tale in a modern-day setting. It would definitely work, depending on how the themes were framed and supported by a tight script and good acting. But would it be the best way to handle the concepts West wanted to explore? He didn't think so. He explained to Collider:

"If you were to logically take it to a place of, what if it was made today, you wouldn't necessarily go to that place, you wouldn't necessarily shoot it the way you did, it wouldn't be as difficult for those characters. We would take a lot of the love of cinema out of it and it would become very much, 'Get on this webcam and show something and we're gonna make some money.' And that, in many ways, was antithetical to what the movie was. There was a movie when I wrote this movie that people had in their head that they were terrified I could be making and then the movie that it actually is, and that was important to me that it be like, no, this is a fun and sort of charming movie, not a dark, nihilistic movie."

That being said, there is more to explore in the world of "X" — and more dedicated filmmaking to highlight over the course of American history. "I'm trying to build a world out of all this, like people do these days," West explained to Indiewire at South by Southwest in March 2022. "You can't make a slasher movie without a bunch of sequels."

What's to come

While debuting "X" at SXSW in March 2022, West revealed that not only did he have a prequel film in mind, but it was already shot and ready to go. The filmmaker shot "Pearl," the prequel about a character who has a murderous streak in "X," right after the A24 slasher was completed. As for how he planned to approach "Pearl," West noted he is dedicated to staying true to the spirit of independent filmmaking — but he wants to position the conversation through a different lens this time.

"If 'X' is about the way this auteurist era of independent filmmaking is affecting people, 'Pearl' is sort of about the old Hollywood way that affected people," he explained to Indiewire while attending the festival. "The way in which they enrich each other is all a part of the craft of filmmaking. I wanted to do something where all of the crafts of the movie were their very apparent charms."

But he's not stopping there. West also revealed at South by Southwest that he is now working on a sequel film to "X," which will cover a completely different facet of film culture from the other two movies. "That one will be about how home video has affected people," he added. "I'm very proud of these. They're super different and very out-of-nowhere. You won't need to see one to see the other but they do complement each other."

There's no word on a release date for "Pearl" or the "X" sequel film, but considering how fast West is moving, it seems like this filmmaking horror trilogy will be complete sooner than we think.