Director Ti West doesn’t believe in ghosts. That may seem strange for a guy who makes horror movies and whose latest film The Innkeepers – a story about the last two employees at a haunted hotel that’s going out of business – is about to close out the 6th edition of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, but West insists it’s not a big deal. He keeps his own beliefs off the big screen.
“That was a big point for me in making the movie. I wanted to make something that could be clearly interpreted from a skeptic’s point of view as well as a believer’s. I worked very hard at making sure the audience could make a concrete case for either one.”
The idea for The Innkeepers came about while West was working on his last film, the critically-acclaimed The House of the Devil.
“When we made The House of the Devil we actually stayed in the hotel that The Innkeepers is based on. We would drive thirty miles to set every day to shoot our satanic horror movie but stranger things were happening back at the hotel. A large part of the cast and crew started believing it to be haunted. The hotel owner and the entire town are convinced it is…So cut to a year and a half later…I wanted to make a ghost movie and I thought…What if I just made it about that place we stayed? There was a lot of charm along with its creepiness. It was a perfect location.”
A location that may have successfully cast its spell over the cast and crew of The House of the Devil, but didn’t quite manage to sway West’s supernatural non-believer status.
“I am a skeptic. That being said, staying at The Yankee Pedlar is the closest I have ever come to believing. There is a strange vibe to it. Lot’s of weird little things happened to me there, but nothing major enough for me to believe. I am the kind of person that needs total proof. Until then…I think it’s just a creepy old building.”
The Innkeepers has surprised festival-goers by veering away from West’s usual intense style by featuring comedic elements mixed in amongst the things that go bump in the night.
“I don’t like to repeat myself. The last film I made was about a broke college girl who was really bummed out about her life. It was a film about desperation. I didn’t want to redo that tone. I wanted to make a really charming workplace comedy that turns into a horror movie.”
West is a huge fan of the horror genre, which is probably why Devil and his two earlier films The Roost and Trigger Man, have earned such acclaim amongst critics and fans: it’s clear that horror is where his heart and soul lies.
“It’s a visceral experience, much more so than other genres. It is interesting to me that it can provoke such a strong physical and emotional reaction. Content-wise I have always been attracted to stuff that was edgy or taboo. I don’t know why. My taste in music and movies has always been somewhat counter-culture for as long as I can remember. As a filmmaker the genre is great because it really affords you the ability to experiment with all sorts of stylistic and aesthetic choices that wouldn’t work in any other genre. That is exciting to me.”
West is currently working on two features that he’s hoping will start production soon: one science fiction-based and the other a werewolf story.
“I’m impatient and always want to be shooting. Hopefully it happens early next year.”
The Innkeepers is set to be released via VOD on December 30 and will make its debut in theatres on February 3.
If you happen to be in Toronto tonight, you can catch The Innkeepers as it makes its Toronto Premiere in the closing night slot at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival. As an added bonus, Ti West will do a Q&A with the audience following the film.
Check the Toronto After Dark website for ticket information.
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