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By Christopher Stipp

The Archives, Right Here

Check out my other column, This Week In Trailers, at SlashFilm.com and follow me on TWITTER under the name: Stipp

THE INNKEEPERS

the-innkeepers-posterI don’t get many two-fers around these parts but I was sure going to take advantage of the opportunity after being offered when both PAT HEALY and TI WEST came up for THE INNKEEPERS. Many have probably heard of the film by now either because people have been muttering about how great it is or because of director/writer Ti West’s appeal to the 21st century generation to not download his film. What is remarkable about the plea, though, was that it was a manifesto not admonishing people who would do it but that it took a decidedly positive tone in the way it championed the independent spirit and grit of those who helped make the film and to make a statement by buying a ticket, by buying into the idea that this movie has an intrinsic value and that by buying it you’re not owning a commodity but are making a statement about independent movies. It was a special thrill to talk to Ti and to get an idea of his passions and his motivations. Equally, talking to Pat Healy was fascinating if for no other reason than to talk to an actor who isn’t buying into the usual affectations of Hollywood actors. He’s easy like Sunday morning and his performance in the movie only helps make the case that Ti’s writing is sharp and on point. THE INNKEEPERS is a must see this winter and you can catch it now through VOD or wait until February 3rd when the movie will be coming to theaters.

TI WEST - INTERVIEW

CHRISTOPHER STIPP: It’s a pleasure to talk to you. House of the Devil is still one of my favorite horror movies to come out in the last few years. After watching The Innkeepers, I was struck that you’re not one to gravitate towards splatter. How did you reject the pull to make something akin to torture porn that is en vogue? Did you say to yourself that you wanted to make more intelligent, better thought out horror?

TI WEST: Well, it’s not that it’s really thought out on my end. The style just comes out that way. I remember being at the premiere and we were like “Alright, here we go…” when people started calling it a slow burn. The reason it’s called a slow burn is because it doesn’t have a scare every scene and all these positive reviews that called it “the new slow burn movie”…it was then that I realized I had no control over it. It was actually a great moment because I realized there is no point in me thinking about that anymore. For me, it’s a movie first and a horror movie second. I don’t go to movies to see people get killed. I go to see stories and characters and that’s the way I make movies and I’m just going to keep doing it that way.

CS: The reception, like you said, has been so positive much in the way the House of the Devil was marketed so well and The Innkeepers, following that movie up, has got a little bit of comedy, little bit of that scare. When you sit down to write these kinds of films, what is first and foremost in your mind when you begin just penning something like this?

WEST: I don’t know. It’s such a personal experience. With this movie it was personal because we lived in that hotel. And then slowly as the production went on people started to believe the hotel was haunted and the staff thought it was haunted. There really was a guy at the front desk with a ghost hunting website – the whole town is obsessed with the place. And so a year or so later when I wanted to do a ghost story I thought, man. I lived one. Wouldn’t that be cool? I know that so well so why don’t I do that movie? And what if we actually went back to the real place? How bizarre and a strange filmmaking this would be. So that’s what we did. And I tried to infuse – what was most important to me was to make it a charming ghost story because I had never seen that before. I always tell people I am cut out to either direct movies or be like a bus boy. I don’t have any skills. I can do minimum wage jobs, I can direct movies and I have a fondness that comes with the existential crisis that comes with a minimum wage jobs and I thought it felt – like the juxtaposition of that with a ghost story made sense to me. I don’t know. It’s the creative process. You come up with stuff and get excited about it and if you can stay excited about it, then it’s legit. This is one of those ones – it was two years of trauma making a movie and I’m still proud of this movie and I’m still excited about it and I’m still happy to talk about it. I think just because there are enough personal elements to the movie that it means something to me. And hopefully if it does mean something to me – and then mean something to you – you will somehow sense that there is enough care in it from the person who made it that something will come across.

CS: And it does. I think that’s what’s been so great about The Innkeepers and the House of Devils that there is a level of craftsmanship that somebody actually had skill and wanted to really nurture the movie that you’re watching. Do you feel as a filmmaker of the 2000’s is it possible to keep going at the clip you want and get the kind of creative freedom you want at this level? Or do you see if you want to get bigger, you would have to give up something in return?

WEST: I don’t know. And the times I’ve tried to do bigger things I’ve had had to give up. But the misconception that to do a bigger movie “well, you’re going to have to compromise” and I always answer with, “Alright, what does that mean?” Every movie we’ve ever made, every single day is a compromise and there is always something that you just can’t do the way you want to. I don’t have a problem with compromise. Compromise is filmmaking. And then you find out, if you like my movies and then you like a script that I write, then what are we compromising on? We’re on the same page. You like what I do and others do that and that would be great. Where I get scared is the mainstream world postproduction is treated very differently. So the process of developing a movie, shooting a movie, is very similar, very creative and very exciting, for lack of a better term. But postproduction in indie world is a continuation of the importance of what you’re trying to do. The Hollywood-world, for lack of a better term is a calculated, marketing, mass audience appeal testing, all the way that that happens doesn’t make any sense to me. I shoot a movie to be edited in a certain way and then I cut it together that way. Whereas, a lot of the big movies are like you should shoot a lot of coverage so you have lots of options just in case we want to change it. But, we don’t want to change it. We all agreed that this is the way to go. So there’s a second-guessing period that is huge in postproduction. I think that there are a lot of people with opinions that don’t really know what to do during production – it’s moving too fast that they can’t stop the ship and change their mind. Whereas in postproduction they can say stop editing and let’s discuss this and maybe change it and then everyone get panicky and that’s where I worry about making a very good movie but it gets derailed. It’s happened to me. I am always gun shy because of that.

CS: Hearing you talk I am reminded of the story with John Hughes and how he wrote Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It was done over a weekend, he sketched it all out. While some musicians say their biggest hits were written in a day or an hour, there are so many stories of people over-thinking the process.

WEST: I wrote The Innkeeper in 3 days. So, it is what it is. I don’t know if it’s better or worse but that’s how it goes sometimes. When you’re making it, I’ll go back to the post production thing, it’s like there’s a point where it’s like, this made sense to us 6 months ago, don’t panic now.

(Laughs)

But on a larger scale there’s a lot of people who’s jobs are on the line and in any world you’re job’s not on the line it’s just your life, a lifestyle, but if you go to the office everyday and you’re in post production, you don’t want to lose your job so it becomes show it to everyone on the planet and we have to address all the problems as if all those people made the movie and to me that just doesn’t make any sense. I can kind of see where you’re coming from but it’s not a smart way to do things and you’re just going to have this muddled mess. And, so what if they thought 2 minutes of the movie, were like I didn’t like that one section, well so what. You don’t have to. But when everyone panics that’s a bad way to make decisions.

CS: Do you fall on the side of “I’m OK over here in the indie world” or do you like internally hope that if someone wants to throw a hundred million dollars your way and say, “OK kid, go make your film”?

WEST: Well, if someone gave me one hundred million I would absolutely do that. But they all do that. They come to you with either a remake or a sequel or a script that’s not very good and they say we have 10 million dollars and you think this isn’t as good as doing a hundred million go-make-your-film-thing. I’ve had a lot of options to do bigger stuff but it’s never been appealing enough and there hasn’t been enough of a trade-off to risk making a shitty movie. If they gave me 10 million dollars I probably would just take one for the team and try but that’s not the case. It’s not a beneficial thing for me. What am I getting out of this? I’m making a movie I don’t care about, it’s probably not going to turn out well, I don’t make a lot of money, I don’t get to work with anyone I want, the idea is stupid. That’s not selling out to me. Selling out is, like you said, someone comes to you and says we’re going to give you 100 million dollars to do this thing and that’s just not the case.

Or, people have come to me and say we love what you do and we love your new script, let’s make that for more money. That’s ideal. But it’s a weird time right now where everyone goes have you heard have you heard about that Paranormal Activity movie? It was made for 30 grand and made 150 million dollars. We’ll give you 30 grand to make a movie. Dude that’s like hitting roulette, big. Yes, it’s the best way to hit it but you usually don’t so can we not just shift the whole industry to make the cheapest movie? It’s a weird time for movies. The indie movies have become Hollywood movies just made with less money. The stories are the same as any studio movie – they are just made cheaper, so now their indie. When I grew up, I grew up in Philadelphia, the art house theatre I would see movies that were different than any movies I had seen before – they weren’t hard core art movies but they were indie movies and it doesn’t feel like that anymore. It just feels like you have a bunch of celebrities and you made it for 6 million dollars instead of 70. OK?

CS: And I know my time is short but I’d like to pull it back together with your statement a couple of weeks ago where you asked people to not illegally download the film, I was moved by it and want to get your thoughts about a) why you wrote it and then b) how it felt from getting such a positive reception, from people saying he’s damn right about it?

WEST: It’s not about stealing and that’s just a semantic situation people get very reactionary about. It might be stealing but I don’t think about it like that. I think of it as not supporting. It doesn’t have to be me but everyone has their idiosyncratic thing in life whether it’s a band, a movie, a filmmaker, that they like cherish because it gives them something that they really enjoy. I think you really need to give back to that and you need to support that back. It is important as a consumer for lack of a better term to actually think about what you’re doing. It’s a powerful time to be that and it does make a statement and I think people should be more responsible. It’s a lifestyle or a culture more than it is an industry or business and to keep that going you need to have conversations. If nothing else, I hope to have started a conversation that can keep going.

CS: I agree. It would be easy to take a cookie from the cookie jar but for a little movie that could it’s important to support it and my little part here is to help get that word out for whatever it’s worth.

WEST: I appreciate that.

patPAT HEALY - INTERVIEW

CS: Thank you so much for talking with me.

HEALY: My pleasure.

CS: Phenomenal film. I saw it and saw it last night again and it’s great. I would like to get started by at least finding out – you and Ti seem to have known each other for awhile and anyone who has seen House of the Devil would jump at the chance to work with the guy.

HEALY: Exactly right.

CS: How was it that he told you about the role you were playing? How did you fit within his vision?

HEALY: I met him at the LA Film Festival in 2007 – he had Trigger Man and I was doing Great World of Sound, he had seen that, and I saw House of the Devil and I was really knocked out by that. I think, coincidentally or maybe not, right after I had seen it I got an email from a mutual friend of ours and an actress and said he was looking for me for his new movie and I really right there was ready to do it. Once I got the script I looked at it and we share the same sort of dry deadpan sense of humor. He certainly believed in me. I didn’t audition or anything like that, he believed I was the right person from the work he had seen and we got to know each other a little bit.

I inherently understood that that sense of humor, that cynicism, is not necessarily me but comedy rhythm is me – that dry stuff. And then I think what I thought was really interesting in reading it maybe some of the stuff I talked about with him was the idea of reality of haunting vs. something going on in a person’s head and my character being a skeptic who doesn’t necessarily believe in all that – the sort of cynic of the two and the other person – Sara plays it way overboard in the other direction. I understand that because I myself am a skeptic and don’t really believe in that stuff and think it’s mostly a product of environment and things in people’s heads. But, I think the thing that really send that over the top for me is like a lot of people say, and I agree, that what makes the movie work is that you actually for once in this genre care about the characters and they’re finely tuned relationship.

I like that through line without giving too much away. I know you’ve seen it but he’s really sort of purely motivated by his feelings for her which are not reciprocated by her. He’s operating under this delusion that he sort of gets shattered and sets this whole final act into motion. I really like that about him and understood that. That scene where the unrequited love gets spoken and then towards the end of the film was interesting but heart breaking to play but fun to watch in the theater. It’s really funny because we all relate to or understand being in that situation at one point or another. It comes off as funny I think because it’s played genuinely.

Paramount TheaterCS: And he’s able to evoke something that is really sort of natural – it’s not forced and obviously something people have seen and really responded to it in House of the Devil. It’s great that we have filmmakers who are making paranormal activity – the idea that you don’t need to have a hack and slash to be able to scare people. Talking with Ti and what he was expecting with this movie and how he wanted you to play it, how did you understand it? Obviously there’s a little bit of humor in this movie which is weird to some people coming into a movie where you are expecting to get scared a little bit. How did he approach it and say this is going to be a scary movie but with humor?

HEALY: I think it’s all there on the script. I don’t think there was that much explaining to do. I don’t think it’s a great idea as an actor to focus on the genre that it is, unless it’s some really specific art soft of style that needs to be played for the thing to work. I never approached it like it was a horror movie until the last day of shooting where we shot, at least my climax of the movie. It does get very scary for me and it does get very real for me. We had done the whole movie at that point so it was easy to play that tension. But so much was done with the way he cuts it. They way Ti cut it, and the way Elliott shot it. He’s so meticulous with the work that he does with Graham Reznick the sound designer and Jeff Grace the composer.

He spent much more time with that than shooting it. If you get a chance to sit in a theatre and see it, every little creepy crack and every little string is really has an effect. Having been familiar with his work and being a movie fan I I can see what the end result was going to be so some of that is in my mind as I’m doing it. I just followed the story. I had the script for a couple of months and followed the story and had the projectory of the character and luckily we shot it for the most part in sequence. He was easy to play. You don’t think I’m doing horror or I’m doing comedy. I just get to behave and you’re on location and you just do the work in this weird place and you’re having fun with these fun and funny people and it comes off as effortless. It’s a different thing for him. I think that Ti is not necessarily a horror guy. It’s what’s been offered to him and that’s what he’s done but I think he’s capable of so much more. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, he’s one of the best at what he does but I think in this movie he’s very good with actors and relationships and comedy and all sorts of things. I think he’s going to go and do a variety of great things.

CS: I absolutely agree. He’s one of the freshest talents in the market right now.

HEALY: He’s a real person, a real down to earth guy and he understands how regular people talk and are with each other. He’s worked retail jobs as have I and he gets it. I think people respond to that.

CS: To that point that he takes longer in the editing room that it was to shoot – if I’m looking at this correctly, it was a 17 day shoot. To go that fast, to actually bust through it like that, is there any sort of preparation on your part as an actor/performer? He’s obviously not big on giving ornate direction and wasting everyone’s time of having to be prepared.

HEALY: And, I’m not interested in that either. Say you are doing a television show or something – sometimes you get the part on Friday and you have to go to work on Monday, you don’t get that kind f prep time. I did have the good fortune to have the script for a couple of months. To me, an actor’s job is really all homework. He casts you so you believe that he believes you can do it so you do your homework. It’s been really fun. I don’t want to sit around and waste anybody’s time talking about motivation for hours. He doesn’t either. Then we can just play with it. Everyone knows what they were doing. Everyone was really prepared. Then you can have fun and that’s what it was like. It’s stressful, it’s not any money if things screw up, and luckily they didn’t.

Shooting on film, so it’s not like you can do take after take and God bless them for doing that by the way. I don’t know, it forces you to be really creative on the fly in a way. Sometimes I think if you have too much time and too much money – too much time to think about things and too much money to blow on stuff – it’s not necessarily as interesting as what we got. We got spur of the moment rather than deliberating on stuff. Ti is extremely prepared down to every detail. He knows exactly what he wants it to be and he’s exacting but it never felt like we were working with a task master or anything like that. It was more of I’ve seen this man’s work, I know what he’s capable of doing, he knows what he’s doing and I trust him. I won’t speak for him but I certainly felt that he felt the same way about me, so it was a good working relationship.

CS: I know I’m almost out of time but I have to at least ask the question – looking at the finished product and again, it was a short schedule, a short shoot, knowing what you saw on the page, seeing it all the way through, did you see what was on the page or did he surprise you in areas.

HEALY: It far exceeded my expectations. It shouldn’t have because I was so impressed with House of the Devil and I thought they had even less time and less money on that and that was really impressive so I shouldn’t have been surprised but it impressed me. Especially once I’ve seen it a few times and got over the shock of seeing myself or remembering how it was shot – maybe I had seen it two or three times and with an audience watching it for the first time in a 35m print for the first time. It really is impressive and far exceeded my expectations for what it could be to see all the interesting, different things he’s trying to do all at the same time, harkening back to something more innocent and old-fashioned at the same time.

I’m really impressed by it.

I’m pleased with my work and everyone else’s work on it but I think Ti and his team did an exceptional job and it seems people are responding positively to it. Hope it will lead to more opportunities for him. I’m sure it will.

###

THE SCORPION KING 3: BATTLE FOR REDEMPTION and KILLER ELITE

I’ve got a couple of Blu-rays to give away and they’ve got your name on them.

scorpion_king_3_blu-rayFor those who are looking for a film that looks like nothing but cheesy goodness here is a description of the film straight from THE SCORPION KING 3’s press release:

A once-powerful warrior king takes on a new life as an assassin for hire in the DVD Original ™ The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption. The latest chapter in Universal’s enormously popular The Mummy franchise, The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption brings the heroic, larger-than-life saga of the dethroned king Mathayus to face some of his fiercest demons and most vicious rivals-both real and supernatural-ever.

In a dangerous, action-packed battle to regain his glory and reclaim the empire, Mathayus’s journey is steeped in intrigue, sorcery and romance, fueling this new film that spawned from the billion-dollar The Mummy film franchise. The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption tops the series once again, featuring even more of the heart-stopping action, mind-bending stunts and astonishing plot twists that have earned the series millions of fans the world over. The film’s spectacular fight scenes, choreographed by renowned stunt experts Kawee “Seng” Sirikanerut (Ongbok, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Civilization) and Supoj “Jimmy” Khaowwong (Batman Begins), are showcased within enchanting ancient palaces, against a backdrop of breathtaking desert vistas.

The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption stars Golden Globe® winner Ron Perlman (”Sons of Anarchy,” Hellboy II: The Golden Army) as Hours, the powerful King of Egypt and Billy Zane (The Roommate, Titanic) as the villainous Talus. Directed by Roel Reiné, the film also stars Victor Webster (”Castle,” Surrogates) as Mathayus and UFC star Kimbo Slice (Locked Down), Bostin Christopher (Unbreakable); six-time WWE World Champion Dave Bautista (House of the Rising Sun), and Temeura Morrison (Green Lantern, Stars Wars: Episode 3 - Revenge of the Sith), Selina Lo (Shanghai) and Krystal Vee (Streetfighter: The Legend of Chin-Li).

250x334px-ll-ea077493_killerelAnd for those needing a little more Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert De Niro in their lives, comes a film that feels gritty, raw and all sorts of action packed. Here, then, is a blurb about KILLER ELITE:

When his mentor is taken captive, a retired member of Britain’s Elite Special Air Service is forced into action. His mission: kill three assassins dispatched by their cunning leader. Based on a shocking true story, Killer Elite is a gritty battle between guns-for-hire that has been hailed as “one of the best action thrillers of the year!” by Richard Roeper, ReelzChannel. Pitting two of the world’s most elite operatives against the cunning leader of a secret military society, Killer Elite stars Jason Statham (The Transporter, Death Race), Academy Award® winner Robert De Niro (The Godfather Part II, Raging Bull) and Academy Award®-nominee Clive Owen (Children of Men, Closer). Featuring unstoppable action and a tremendous cast – including Dominic Purcell (”Prison Break,” Straw Dogs), Yvonne Strahovski (”Chuck”), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (”Lost,” “Oz”), Aden Young (Sniper, “The Starter Wife”) and Ben Mendelsohn (Trespass, Knowing) – Killer Elite is “a classic action thriller that will keep you guessing till the last scene.” (Patrick Carone, MAXIM).

All you have to do in order to be eligible to win one of these beauties is send your name and address to me at Christopher_Stipp@yahoo.com and I’ll put you in the running. Good luck!

###

Marty Works his Magic on Melies By Ray Schillaci

hugo-movie-poster-021If you had told me that the man responsible for some of the darkest and greatest films of our time (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas) was to be the creator of the most endearing family film of the decade, I probably would have scoffed. Put aside your humbug, Martin Scorsese has delivered his magical gift, “Hugo” just in time for the holiday season. The only drawback is the marketing department at Paramount. The trailer gives the film a homogenized family-film look that does not do this wonderful tale justice. To add insult to injury; nothing is said about the use of 3D being the best since “Avatar”.

Director, Martin Scorsese weaves a tale of wonder around an orphan whose life has been dedicated to keeping the clocks wound and fixed while living in the walls of a train station. His observation of the life around him in 1930s Paris is one of amazement and magic with a touch of melancholy. The boy, Hugo Cabret, played with heart wrenching realism by Asa Butterfield, involves himself in a mystery encompassing his deceased father, an automaton and a bitter toy peddler. Also captured is the wondrous world of George Melies, film pioneer extraordinaire.

In anybody else’s hands this movie might have been a disaster. Slapshtick could have been drawn with even broader strokes, characters might have been paper-thin and CGI special effects would have dominated the screen with loud pompous sound effects. But in the hands of the master and lover of cinema, Mr. Scorsese unfolds this gentle tale with great alacrity. Every actor involved delivers a performance that captures our hearts and imagination. The standouts may already have their mark on the Oscar race with Ben Kingsley’s grand performance, Chloe Grace Moritz capturing the spirit of a young Ingrid Bergman and Sacha Baron Cohen channeling the subtlety of the great comic actor, Peter Sellers.

The film is also a technical marvel with the 3D delivering snowflakes nearly making us shiver in delight, surrounding us with intricate clock mechanisms and delivering a magical side of film rarely seen. The entire production is first class and is guaranteed to be recognized come award time. In fact, this may be Scorsese’s triumph, for it is his true passion of film history that gives this movie its emotional punch.

For once, I can say this is a movie for the whole family. I had taken my kids (including a teenager), my wife, father and his cousin (both in their 70s) and everybody fell in love with “Hugo”. We also had friends join us and they had asked me about some of the film history discussed in the movie and their fascination spurred a fun conversation that delved even deeper. I believe my dad summed up the movie beautifully when he turned to me with deep emotion and stated, “That was a work of art.”

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