Ti West got his first breakthrough in “The House of the Devil”, a subtle, slow-burn horror film with a flavor of nostalgic elements. West’s film was celebrated by the critics and earned him lots of fans in the horror community. West kept making horror films. He says his sensibilities are not outrageously commercial but also hardly avant-garde.
He also kept re-inventing himself, “The House of the Devil” was more of your satanic horror, while “The Innkeepers” was a ghost story, “The Sacrament” was a found footage horror. He always tries different stuff, and thanks to finally having a better marketing team in A24, his first slasher film “X” and its prequel “Pearl” finally introduced him to wider audiences, even though he was making interesting stuff for more than a decade.
Not so surprisingly, West’s taste is broad. He likes “Moneyball”, he likes “The American”, he likes “Indiana Jones” series and he also likes lots of cult films. West is yet to make a big studio film. He doesn’t have anything against it. In fact, his favorite movie star is Tom Cruise and he would love to work with him (though he also knows most probably it’s not going to happen). He didn’t do anything big because remakes were all he was offered for a long time and he’s afraid of losing the creative freedom.
Then again, maybe his heart is just in the smaller films. If you had seen his Sight & Sound Top 10, his choices were mostly acclaimed, popular films and people wondered why he chose those. Maybe because he felt it’s better to vote for his favorites that will actually get lots of other votes as well to secure a place in the poll or maybe he really thinks those are the best or maybe there’s another reason. That said, West has a fine taste enough in movies and if that list is only you’ve seen by him, here’s ten more of his favorites that are worth checking out.
10. Habit (1995)
It makes sense to start the list with a horror film that also has a personal connection with Ti, because it’s written, directed and starred by Larry Fessenden who’s the reason why West has started his career at the first place. West hired “Habit” when he was in high school and he had no idea that when he’ll move to New York, he’ll meet Kelly Reichardt and when she’ll learn that he loves “Habit”, she’ll introduce him to Larry who were interested in making no-budget horror films and will give Ti the support he needs.
As for the film, it follows a man named Sam, a self-destructive, vaguely artistic New York bohemian who has recently lost his father and his long-time girlfriend. He starts a relationship with a woman whom he suspects to be a vampire. West calls it a truly “unique” vampire movie which only got made thanks to the independent film boom in the 90s. This is one of those films where you don’t know where you watch a horror story or it’s all in the part of our leading man.
It’s constantly intriguing and also well-made given its budget. No wonder it inspired West so much because it contained so many elements that will be used a lot in independent horror movies in the future. Most websites go by the release date of 1997, but it’s originally premiered in 1995 at Chicago International Film Festival. Since then like other unique independent vampire movies of the era, such as “The Addiction” (1995), its still looking for its wider audience.
9. BMX Bandits (1983)
West was making films before as well but “House of the Devil” was where Ti West caught the attention of horror fans. One of those happened to be Nicole Kidman who contacted with Ti and let him know that she’d like to collaborate if he has a role for him. Ti wanted to write something but for whatever reason, their project didn’t come up together (most possibly for financial reasons).
As for Ti, he was a fan of Nicole’s work long before that. He feels bad that when they met he felt too embarrassed to mention this Australian gem. Obviously, it’s more influenced by Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, but looking back one would think it’s one of the “The Goonies”-influenced blockbusters if you didn’t look up the release date.
With a fine theme song and lots of cool bike sequences, it has that childish silliness that wins you over. It’s also a fine film enough to introduce your children to cinema of Nicole Kidman. It has a likeable trio on the center of the film which makes it easy to sell. Kind of a kids film that deserved more attention. Oh and hopefully, West and Kidman will find something to collaborate on. This is a fun movie for the children but for everyone who has a child in them still.
8. The Monster Squad (1987)
Since we’re talking about kids films, it’d be bad if we just skip “The Monster Squad” which West called his own “Goonies” while growing up. The film features pastiches of the Universal Monsters, all of the same movie which doesn’t make sense but also what makes it so much fun. Maybe that’s also why it was deemed a little too scary for the kids and ended up being a box office flop. As you can expect, the reviews had become much positive since then. Shane Black’s script is witty and original, not just the “monsters version of the Goonies” but it also has lots of clever subtext and well-written dialogues where young people talked like young people, with swearing and all that.
The film doesn’t treat its characters as kids but even more like developing adults. The creature design is fantastic that will make you nostalgic about the times where so many great stuff were handled with practical effects. Everybody is doing a good job but Tom Noonan Is especially notable who plays Frankenstein’s monster, because he collaborated with West on two fine films called “The Roost” and “The House of the Devil”. As you can expect, they talked a lot about this movie. He says it was a formative movie for him and one can see why.
7. American Movie (1999)
Enthusiastic filmmaker Mark Borchardt tries to adapt a drama he wrote called Northwestern in the first part of the film. However, after just a few weeks, the project outgrew him. When the cast and volunteers lose faith in the project, Borchardt changes his plan and strives to complete a partially completed short film called Coven. With money he borrowed from his family and earned working in the cemetery, and the support of his parents and best friend Mike Schank, he feverishly tries to finish the film and then distribute it on VHS. With the proceeds from this project, Northwestern should finally be finished.
“American Movie” is the only documentary on the list. This is an incredible film because it just shows what kind of passion these independent filmmakers have for their craft and can easily inspire anyone who has an interest in making movies. The film is both funny and sad and obviously means a lot to independent filmmakers like West as many of them share the same passion. No matter what will you end up thinking about Mark in the end, this is something that should be watched by anyone who has an interest in filmmaking and cinema.
6. Bad Taste (1987)
Aliens are invading the earth to provide their planet with fresh human meat. After numerous slaughterings, they are confronted by a group of young people whose leader puts an end to the slaughter with a chainsaw! A no-budget film by Peter Jackson that has become a cult film in fan circles thanks to combination of a variety of gory effects with whimsical humor. This was yet another important film for West because it was the first time he was not just enjoying the film, but also realizing how the shots were made. It made him go “Yeah, I can do that”.
West adds “The reason that movie is one of my favourite films is [that] I saw it when I was very young because it had a very sort of provocative box cover of an alien giving you the middle finger in the video store; that was very charming to me. It seemed like something that needed to be rented for a sleepover. It’s one of the grossest movies ever, so it was always the benchmark of, like, ‘Is there a more disgusting movie than this?’ And also, not a lot of people had seen it, so it was like a badge of honour.” That pretty much sums up the charm behind “Bad Taste”. He also called it the grossest movie he had ever seen and coming from a horror fan, it’s a good praise enough.