Horror movies in the past two decades have been as fast paced as many of our day to day lives have become. And who can blame them when technology moves at the speed of light and keeping ones attention requires more and more stimulation to the point that simply unwinding these days often involves prescription medication.
With our faced paced lives movie studios, writers and directors in an effort to keep us on the edge of our seat have adapted their style to fit, what they feel, will appeal to todays audience. And for the most part it works, at least on the surface. But has all this instant gratification and the lack of story development effected us in a negative way? I for one certainly feel strongly that the answer is “yes”.
As if the industry isn’t effected enough our beloved horror genre seems to be feeling the brunt of this “new waive” of entertainment more than others. Because horror in the past replied mainly on character development and building tension not much changed throughout the decades of film making. You simply had a story that would arc with hopefully a terrifying payoff at the end.
Look at films that paved the way like the Universal Monsters or more recent films such as Stanley Kubrick’s The Shinning or Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby. These films had compelling stories but most importantly you cared about the people in the films themselves. With today’s horror these basic elements are often overlooked or replaced for instant scares and CGI blood baths.
Ti West in his young career has already changed the way we look at modern horror. Coining the term “slow burn”, West has accomplished both intelligent storytelling with undeniably terrifying scares proving that technology does not make a film inherently better.
In a recent interview with the SFEExaminer West had this to say about his preferred way of filmmaking, “I like obsessing over the most meticulous parts of the craft. For me, cinema is more than just entertainment. With all of my favorite filmmakers there’s a good cooperation between the visuals and the content.”
Born in Wilmington, Del., West grew up in video stores, often recording movies he wanted to see with his VCR. He tried to see everything; the horror section seemed especially alluring and forbidden.
When he attended the School of Visual Arts in New York, he met veteran actor and filmmaker Larry Fessenden (“Wendigo,” “The Last Winter”).
Fessenden, taken with West’s talent, offered to put up money for a low-budget film. That became 2005’s “The Roost,” about teens terrorized by crazed bats.
West’s breakthrough came with 2009’s “The House of the Devil,” a film that slowly builds toward its bloody climax, a devil-worshipping ritual. Yet the movie’s sleight-of-hand had some viewers complaining nothing happened.
“I can watch a movie about a girl walking around a house, and I’m watching a movie about a girl walking around a house,” West says. “Other people will watch it and think nothing’s happening. What people are complaining about doesn’t make sense to me. There’s nothing I can do about it.”
This is indeed what makes West so different then the modern horror writer and director. The 2010 horror film “The Innkeepers” changed the way I currently look at horror films and has set the bar incredibly high. “The Innkeepers,” is an extraordinary work of horror that defies viewers’ expectations and serves up plenty of tingles.
It tells the story of the Yankee Pedlar Inn, about to shut its doors for good. Two hotel workers, played by Sara Paxton and Pat Healy, agree to spend their final shifts on the premises.
At the same time, they hope to catch a glimpse of the inn’s famous ghost, Madeline O’Malley.
West’s movies are generally about deflection and rhythms. Like a magician performing tricks, he prefers wide corridors and brightly lit spaces to shadows and darkness. He extends the time before the dramatic payoff, or shortens it, or changes the payoff entirely.
West’s next film titled “Bedbugs” is currently in the works and is sure to provide spine tingling scares with his trademarked “slow burn” approach. This may be one film that shows creepy crawlers off in a sense that will have you questioning whether or not you want to sleep in your house. I for one certainty can’t wait to see what more this young talent has to offer the genre that I love so much.