Celebrating 17 Years of Film.Biz.Fans.
by Nigel M Smith
December 27, 2011 10:44 AM
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Ti West On the Real Haunting That Inspired 'The Innkeepers,' Our VOD Pick of the Week

Ti West's "The Innkeepers" Magnet Releasing
Ti West is back to his scary tricks with "The Innkeepers," his anticipated follow-up to his indie horror smash "The House of the Devil." In the haunted house thriller (which debuted this year at South by Southwest to good notices), West updates the setting from the '80s to the present day to tell a spooky tale set at the real life (and reportedly haunted) Yankee Pedlar Inn. Sara Paxton ("Shark Night 3D") and Pat Healy ("Dirty Girl") star as two young hotel clerks on a mission to prove that the historic site is indeed inhabited by ghosts.

The film hits VOD December 30, before opening in select theaters on February 3. It's our VOD pick of the week.

West caught up with Indiewire to discuss his latest foray into horror and the creepy true story that inspired him to make "The Innkeepers."

The story behind the reason you made “The Innkeepers” is almost as good (and scary) as the film itself. Can you tell it for those who aren’t familiar?

Well the hotel that inspired the film is actually in the film. What happened was we were making my previous film “The House of the Devil,” and we were staying at this hotel called the Yankee Pedlar Inn because it was the best option to put the crew up. It was the cheapest and nicest place we could find and about 25 minutes from our location.

We would go and shoot this satanic horror movie nearby, but the weirder stuff would happen back at the hotel. It just started off kind of goofy, but it became this thing where most of the cast and crew started to think there was something up with the hotel.

The staff at the hotel believe it’s haunted. The whole town believes it’s haunted. So it has this kind of mystique to it. But what was charming to me about it, was that it’s this mixture of a historic, perhaps haunted building and totally bad '70s renovation. The people who work there are in their twenties…part timers. So there’s this weird lore of the place. At the same time, the place doesn’t live up to it. So I found it really charming and interesting.

I wanted to make a ghost story. I was trying to think of how to do it cheap. Then I thought, "Why not make a movie we lived?"The place let us be there before, so they were likely to let us do it again. That’s kind of how it all came to be. They let us back in and we moved very quickly.

I didn’t know that the people who work there day-to-day bear a striking resemblance to the two leads in the film. Are they based on people you encountered at the hotel?

I don’t know that the people that work there are that much like our characters, but they’re in the ballpark. The vibe of the people who work there is very similar to the vibe of everywhere I’ve ever worked. I’ve only had minimum wage jobs or directed movies. I never had a fall back plan. Everyone that I sort of worked with in my 10 different part time jobs is kind of mixed up in these two characters.

On DVD/Blu-ray/VOD December 27, 2011

  • Sony Pictures Classics
    1 of 5

    'A Good Old Fashioned Orgy' (DVD)

    Eric (Jason Sudeikis) is a thirty-something party animal known for throwing lavish summer themed parties at his father's Hamptons pad. When Eric's dad announces plans to sell the house, the party animal decides it's high time to throw the ultimate shindig -- a good old-fashioned orgy. This raucous crowd-pleaser premiered at this year's Tribeca Film Festival.
  • Kino Lorber
    2 of 5

    'Tuesday, After Christmas' (DVD)

    A huge hit with critics worldwide, this Romanian slow burner from filmmaker Radu Muntean takes its time to reach its dramatic climax, but the payoff is well worth the journey. The film revolves around a man as he waits for the right moment to tell his wife about the affair he's having with their daughter's dentist.
  • National Geographic Entertainment
    3 of 5

    'The First Grader (DVD, VOD)

    "The First Grader" tells the moving true story of an 84-year-old Kenyan villager who fought for his right to go to school. It was a hit on the festival circuit, following its premiere at the Telluride Film Festival in 2010. In Toronto, the film was the runner-up to the festival's coveted People's Choice Award ("The King's Speech" took the top honor that year).
  • 4 of 5

    'Newlyweds' (VOD)

    With a shooting budget of $9,000, Burns latest venture marks his cheapest directorial outing to date. Working with a three-person crew, Burns had the actors wear their own clothes, do their own hair and makeup and shot without lights for the most part. So what of the film? It concerns Buzzy and Katy, two newlyweds whose honeymoon is upended when Buzzy's wild sister shows up with a lot of baggage (emotional and literal).
  • First Run Features
    5 of 5

    'Jane's Journey' (DVD)

    Those who just know Dr. Jane Goodall as primatologist shouldn't miss this moving documentary that showcases what's she done since giving up that career 20 years ago (hint: it has to do with our planet).


When you say you witnessed some haunted happenings at the hotel, can you elaborate?

Well I’m a skeptic so I don’t really buy it. But I’ve definitely seen doors close by themselves; I’ve seen a TV turn off and on by itself; lights would always burn out in my room. Everyone on crew has very vivid dreams every night, which is really strange.

The one story that is the most intriguing to me -- In the film the most haunted room is the Honeymoon Suite. That’s where the ghost stuff started in the hotel. The only reason I picked the room that I picked to shoot in, was because it was big enough to do a dolly shot. No more thought went into it other than pure technical reasons. So when we’re finishing the movie, I find out that the most haunted room in real life, is the room I picked to be the haunted room in the movie. It could be a coincidence. It’s weird that it happened that way.

Did things continue to occur while you were shooting the film?

Yes. The thing is, one being a skeptic, I tend to not believe it as much. The other things is, when you’re making a movie the experience is so traumatic. I have enough things bothering me, so a ghost’s not going to be my problem.

But, absolutely. The dreams came back the first day I walked in. The vibe was there. Sara Paxton would wake up in the middle of the night thinking someone was in the room with her. Everyone has stories, but I was too busy saying, “Let’s shoot this! We have 17 days!”

Were the cast and crew wary of staying there?

I made one big mistake. Most people I got hyped on the idea that we were staying there. So when I met Sara Paxton, I got her really excited. I just really sold it to her. Two days later, while I’m getting ready to go Connecticut, I get a call from her agent saying, “Sara doesn’t want to stay at the hotel. She’s scared.” I called her agent, and said, “Have her stay the first night and if she hates it, we’ll move her.” So when she got there, she totally loved it. But I freaked her out by building up the mystery.

 It sounds like a method actor’s dream.

Yes, it was actually.

Maybe it’s just me, but I laughed a lot more watching this than with “The House of the Devil.” Was this comedic bent intentional?

It was very intentional, but certainly the credit goes to the actors. I set out to make a workplace comedy that turns into a ghost story.

“The House of the Devil” had a lot of fun with '70s and '80s horror movie conventions, notably in the look and soundscape of the film. Why did you choose to forgo that this time around and tell a straight up ghost story?

I wanted to make a traditional, old fashioned ghost story, but with modern characters that don’t belong. A lot of the times characters in horror movies are almost like born and bred to be in horror movies. I always find that to be a letdown, because they do all that you expect them to do. So that’s why it was so important for me to make a charming workplace comedy. You could have no ghosts in it and it’s be OK, but when the ghosts show up it kind of raises the stakes.

As far as it not being '80s; I got a lot of credit for “House” being a very accurate '80s type movie. But all I was trying to do with “House of the Devil” was make a period piece. The last I thing I wanted people to do was call me out for doing a bad job doing a period piece, because it was the one thing we didn’t have enough money for, so we had to work extra hard to pull it off. It kind of blew up into this whole, “You made a movie that looks like it was made in the '80s!” I guess we did, but it was also like, if the film were set in the '50s, I would have tried to make it look like it was of that period as much as possible.

So this movie, being a modern type movie, there wasn’t a reason to stylize it that way. I think because the '80s is such a retro, hip thing, a lot of people thought “House of the Devil” was ‘my style.’ I think to some degree it is, but that wasn’t really on our plate this time around.

On to your next project...a lot of people are psyched to see the collaborative horror project "V/H/S" at Sundance. Can you tell me a little bit about the film, featuring segments helmed by Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Glenn McQuaid and Joe Swanberg and role you play?

I don’t know if they’d like this term, but it’s a 'found footage anthology movie.' Five different directors made five different segments. That’s how the movie plays out. I did one, so I have about 20 minutes in there.

When you hear ‘found footage’ you probably groan, but it’s relatively clever in the way that they are approached differently each time.

So not in the vein of a “Paranormal Activity” type flick?



Well “Paranormal” is such a weird security cam type movie. For this, everyone took a unique take on how they would use found footage. For instance mine, is as if you found someone’s video from a vacation they went on. So it’s not cameras in the corner of the room catching ghosts, or anything like that.  
 

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1 Comment

  • Jennifer Wirth Symington | December 29, 2011 11:49 PMReply

    At LA Film Fest, someone went by me with a Yankee Pedlar key fob. As a longtime Valley resident, I had to ask why. She told me about the film but it was too late to see a screening. I'm glad it's releasing so we can see it.