Ti West

The Sacrament

Look, I’m not one to brag, but I’ve hugged A.J. Bowen. Of course tens of thousands of people could make the same claim, but how many of them managed this feat shortly after giving his latest film a C+ review grade at last year’s Fantastic Fest? Any fear I had falling into his arms melted away when I realized he bore no ill will my way and instead was a funny, smart and personable guy. It probably helped that he knew my opinion carries little to no weight, but still. I guess what I’m saying is I’m now one degree away from hugging Amy Seimetz, and that’s not too shabby. Anyway, The Sacrament. Writer/director Ti West has made several feature films now, and while his love of genre and intentionally methodical pacing has remained steady across most of them he’s made a noticeable shift with his newest one away from the supernatural and into the evils of the real world. The result is a bit of a mixed bag, but it’s an entertaining and tense-enough watch where the parts are somewhat better than the whole. The film is newly released to Blu-ray this week, and one of the disc’s special features is a fun and informative commentary track featuring West, Bowen and Seimetz. Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary for The Sacrament.

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ff the sacrament

The past is no guarantee of the future, but it’s often a fairly good guide. A new film from Ti West, for example, offers the soft promise of an unhurried pace and escalating terror as evidenced by his two previous movies, The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers. Past films about cults offer a similar road map to where future ones will go, and while there are far more than two on the topic they seem to be split pretty evenly between two destinations. Some say the world will end with guns and Kool-Aid, others say with sacrifices to the gods. VICE is a journalism outfit known for breaking the stories that other outlets pass by out of fear or worries over ratings, but their latest story finds Sam (A.J. Bowen) and his cameraman Jake (Joe Swanberg) tagging along with a photographer friend named Patrick (Kentucker Audley) who’s concerned with his sister Caroline’s (Amy Seimetz) welfare. She’s joined a cult that recently transplanted itself outside of the U.S., and Patrick wants to confirm her safety and extricate her if necessary. The trio arrive, and while things seem calm and relatively normal at first it’s not long before the truth comes calling. The Sacrament is well made in many regards, but it’s also sadly predictable and somewhat pointless. And thanks to its format choice, that of an actual episode of VICE, it’s irritatingly distracting too.

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The Sacrament

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Gene Jones in

In recent years dramatic features like Martha Marcy May Marlene and Kill List, and even documentaries like The Source Family, have seemed to have started a movement that has brought the subject of cult to the forefront of movie thrillers. Perhaps the zombie craze and the vampire craze are finally over, and the next big thing is going to be films of all sorts that tap into the fringe groups of the late 60s and early 70s for inspiration. If we get a misguided movie aimed at tweens where a bookish young girl comes out of her shell after starting an unlikely romance with her school’s dreamy Charles Manson-type, we’ll know we’ve stumbled into a full-on trend. Before the movement can reach its mainstream peak, however, we’ve probably still got some room for a couple more artistically-driven filmmakers to make a couple more legitimately creepy movies about cults, and to that end modern horror master Ti West (The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers) is getting ready to release his next feature, The Sacrament. It’s a found-footage affair about a group of documentarians visiting a cult called Eden Parish, and getting more than they bargained for. Click through to get a glimpse of the carnage, but be warned, the red-band before this trailer only seems to be there because of a little bit of blood and destruction, so don’t expect anything too gruesome to be given away.

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Youre Next Masks

You’re Next caused up quite a stir at last year’s Fantastic Fest. The movie was swiftly picked up for distribution by Lionsgate after receiving stellar reviews, one of which came from our own Scott Beggs, who described the movie as, “pure horror bliss, delivering an engaging group of characters, a badass chick, some iconic masks to add to the collection, and a new twist on slashers.” Rob wasn’t quite as taken with the film, but one thing is for sure, You’re Next is packed with horror images and a song that’ll stick with audiences. While at SXSW, we spoke with the director of You’re Next, Adam Wingard, about those memorable masks, finding its theme song and getting to direct fellow horror directors:

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Director George Clooney

What is Casting Couch? Proof that not everyone’s tracking Hurricane Sandy’s path on Twitter. Some are still out there casting movies. The big casting news over the weekend was all of the big names that were announced for George Clooney’s next project as a director, The Monuments Men. Deadline had the scoop that this period drama about a group of art historians and museum curators trying to recover important and historical works from the clutches of the Nazis is going to star names like Bill Murray, Daniel Craig, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin, John Goodman, Hugh Bonneville, and Bob Balaban. As far as I know none of these people can even speak German, but you’ve still got to look at that list and be impressed. You could cast this crew as an office full of telemarketers and everyone would still watch the movie, making them heroes during the dying days of the Nazi regime is just icing on the cake.

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Editor’s note: Sundance screamfest V/H/S finally hits theaters this week after a successful VOD run, so here’s a re-run of our original review, first posted on January 26, 2012. Chilling! The brainchild of producer Brad Miska, horror anthology film V/H/S features five shorts (and one wrap-around story) from a variety of genre directors, writers, and actors handily proves that the found footage genre is far from dead and there’s plenty of new material to bleed. The film’s “wrap-around” section features a group of Jackass-inspired wankers who get their kicks by filming mayhem and destruction. Dispatched by a mysterious person to break into a house and steal something, they agree – partly for the laughs, partly for the pay-off. The item they must procure? A simple, singular VHS tape. The actual mission? Multi-level and rife with unexpected complications.

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Austin Cinematic Limits

As was also the case with the previous seven Fantastic Fests, I wish I had more time to see more films at Fantastic Fest 2012. That’s the bad part about having an all-consuming day job, it prohibits me from going totally hog wild at local film festivals. Sure, said job pays my mortgage, but I am really pissed off that it prohibited me from witnessing Joe Swanberg knocking out Devin Faraci at the Fantastic Debates. The previous night at the Chaos Reigns Karaoke Party, I did catch Swanberg perform Counting Crows’ “Mr. Jones” (which, I should note, is one of my least favorite songs of all time) which was followed closely by Swanberg’s boxing coach Ti West performance of The Proclaimers’ “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” — though, I have got to say that the karaoke performance of the evening goes to Tim League‘s krautrock interpretation of Enya’s “Orinoco Flow.” Sadly, though, that is the only Fantastic Fest event that I was able to attend. Yes, I even had to miss the Red Dawn-themed closing night party! Of course my liver has been continuously thanking me for not destroying it, but my liver clearly does not understand that half the fun of Fantastic Fest is waking up each morning with a massive hangover. Just you wait until next year, liver! You will suffer the alcohol-fueled wrath of Fantastic Fest!

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Eli Roth and Ti West

Ever since Cabin Fever became a hit in 2002, its director, Eli Roth, has seen himself rocketed to the top of the movie game. Not only did he go on to direct the wildly successful Hostel series, but he also found himself in a position to become an actor, a frequent collaborator of Quentin Tarantino’s, and a producer of a whole slate of genre pictures. Through it all though, West has kept his focus largely on horror, and with his upcoming project, The Green Inferno, he’s finally set to return to the genre as a director. Ti West, comparatively, isn’t as big a name in the grand scheme of the industry. But if you talk to horror aficionados, this maker of low-key, indie horror is one of the most exciting names to come along in quite a while. By directing films like House of the Devil and The Innkeepers, West has proven that disgusting gore and shocking schlock aren’t the only ways to get attention in the scare game. Age old tactics like building tension, establishing mood, and paying things off with a big climax can be just as effective, if not more so. The big news is that Roth and West seem to be teaming up.

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VHS Horror Movie

Back at Sundance, Magnolia seized the forthcoming horror anthology from Bloody Disgusting which means we’ll all have a (limited) shot at seeing it in Octobers. V/H/S, featuring the talents of Adam Wingard, Simon Barrett, Ti West and Radio Silence just to name a few, has several different scare segments all tied together by the story of thieves breaking into a creepy house to steal a tape and watching a handful to find out which one is the right loot. So, it’s pretty much like every Wednesday around here. The first Red Band trailer showcases some excellent shots meant to draw the pee into an audience’s pants. Ghosts, monsters, blood-splattered everything. Check it out for yourself:

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If you’re not familiar with Ti West by know, you really should be. This up and coming genre director really blew the doors off with his 80s horror homage The House of the Devil and his latest film The Innkeepers is another great example of his directing style, building tension slowly but surely to a fever pitch before letting it all boil over in spectacular fashion. For his first effort, Dark Sky went along with that love letter to the 80s by creating a special clamshell VHS version of The House of the Devil which was sold via Amazon in combo packs with the DVD or Blu-ray. I am a proud owner of one of those VHS editions. With the home video release of The Innkeepers hitting, Dark Sky has done it again, this time creating a vinyl-style gatefold edition of the Blu-ray, that is, in a word, gorgeous. However, this time they’ve done a super limited run of only 400 copies, none of which are for sale. So how did you get your grubby hands on a copy? Why the magic of internet movie sites, that’s how!

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Ti West’s The Innkeepers was a hell of horror film – trenchant atmosphere, frightening moments and an antique feeling matched with the modern boredom of minimum wage. Now, we’re giving away a ton of great stuff from the movie. Two (2) winners will receive a special, limited edition (only 400 will ever exist) vinyl-style fold-out Blu-ray copy of the movie signed by writer/director Ti West. Check out the pictures below. One (1) winner will receive the truly gorgeous Dude Designs version of the poster signed by West and stars Sara Paxton and Pat Healy. Five (5) winners will receive the standard DVD copy of the film. So how do you enter to win? Excellent question:

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The Coroner

Director (/writer/editor/producer) Ti West is one of those low budget, independent filmmakers that has managed to secure a lot of attention for himself and amass a pretty devoted following, both in audiences and in critical circles alike. Having seen the bulk of his films, I was never quite won over. He made waves with The House of the Devil, a slow, slow, slow burn of a film that was cool and creepy, but ultimately just a little too…slow. It came as no surprise when his film The Innkeepers again started garnering praise – after all, even his less than great films got a lot of attention. Now, even at less than great, the films are often watchable if not outright good, just of a much different tempo than I prefer. That said, I pressed play on The Innkeepers knowing little other than Ti West made it and people seemed to love it.

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Anthology horror films are an inconsistent genre by their very nature, but when they work well the results can be fantastically creepy entertainment. Films like Asylum, Creepshow, and Trick ‘r Treat are well written excursions into fun-filled terror. Unfortunately, the anthology film is in decline, and of the handful that do find release only a few manage any degree of consistent quality. Sadly, V/H/S is more miss than hit. The movie features five stories plus a wraparound tale all presented in the “found footage” style, but while the last two segments are pretty damn cool and terrifying the initial three (and wraparound) leave a lot to be desired. They each have a singular standout element, but it’s never enough to make you forget how lacking in scares and thrills they are. (And the third one should have been cut all together.) Much like its home video format namesake, V/H/S chooses running time over quality, and the result is a movie that never really finds its footing until roughly two-thirds of it has passed. But once it hits that second to last story the scares, fun and wide-eyed thrills come fast and hard making the film well worth a watch…provided you don’t mind wading through mediocrity to get there.

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Editor’s note: This review was originally published as part of our SXSW 2011 coverage on March 17, 2011. We’re bumping this baby back up to remind all of you dear readers that the film is finally hitting limited theaters this Friday, February 3. Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) do not have what you might call glamorous jobs. They manage the front desk at the oldest hotel in town that just happens to be closing its doors forever. These unflappable, amateur paranormal investigators decide that their last hurrah will involve drinking beer and capturing definitive proof that this tiny little inn is indeed haunted. But when a washed up actress-turned psychic checks into the hotel, she becomes convinced that the novel little pastime these two share may end up being their undoing. I don’t know, I’ve had worse jobs. I really enjoyed The Innkeepers. It’s a very basic horror film that actually benefits as much from its comedic elements as it does its frights. The crux of the film is the relationship between Sara Paxton and Pat Healy who play the desk clerks at the failed Yankee Peddler Inn. I had a blast with these two wannabe ghost hunters. Their dry back-and-forth fosters some fantastic laughs. The dialogue batted between them is very genuine which is both a compliment and a criticism; it’s genuine to a fault. Occasionally, though not often, the lines ring true but un-cinematic in a way that makes them flat and dull. It’s a strange […]

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Fresh off of making one audience member pass out and another one puke into a bucket at Sundance, V/H/S has found a home with Magnolia, and it’s a matched made in hellacious heaven. The horror flick is both an anthology, which seems to be a rising trend, and a found footage movie that has many critics claiming that it refreshes the genre considerably. It’s made up of vignettes from writer/director David Bruckner (The Signal), writer/director Glenn McQuaid (I Sell the Dead), writing/directing team Radio Silence, actor/director Joe Swanberg (Autoerotic, The Zone), writer/director Ti West (House of the Devil, The Innkeepers), director Adam Wingard (A Horrible Way to Die, You’re Next), writer Simon Barrett (A Horrible Way to Die, You’re Next), and writer Nicholas Tecosky. The story focuses on a team hired by a mystery person (or persons) to break into a broken down house to steal a rare VHS tape. Horror ensues. So it’s a found footage horror film with an interstitial device of people looking for found footage. Already off to a good start. This is another ear on the necklace of the You’re Next team of Wingard, Swanberg and Barrett who will see that film released in October of this year as well. Thank god that V/H/S will be seen outside of Sundance. These are the kinds of horror filmmakers that deserve to blow up big. Personally, I can’t wait for the inevitable George Lucas mash-up trailer, V/H/S 1138.

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In October of 2011, Representative Lamar S. Smith (of the great state of Texas) introduced the Stop Online Piracy Act to Congress. The bill’s aim was to bolster copyright holders in fights against those that infringe upon them, and that’s an important task. Intellectual property theft can be incredibly injurious to the victim. In fact, FSR had to cut through red tape in the fall of last year to stop a Chinese-based website from stealing its content and republishing it wholesale. Plagiarism is despicable, and stealing the hard creative work of others is too. However, SOPA is tantamount to drinking drain cleaner because your nose itches. The bill is unduly generic – granting massive powers to the government and entities who would wield it like a plaything to shut down websites for spurious reasons and to keep them down throughout what would inevitably be a drawn-out legal process. In short, for an accusation with no meat on it, some of your favorite sites could be shut down on a whim, creating both temporary and possibly permanent damage. As you can see from our masthead today, we’re in full support of the protest against SOPA (and PIPA, it’s cousin in the Senate). While we don’t know how powerful the SOPA blackout might be, we genuinely wish we could go dark as well, but it’s just not feasible for a site like ours that operates on a smile and a shoestring. Losing a day of revenue is just too much of a […]

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In our first show of the 2012 season, we set off the filmmaking fireworks by finding out why Innkeepers director Ti West doesn’t believe in spooks, and by talking to indie icon Ed Burns about the twitter revolution, his $9,000 budget, and his new must-see movie Newlyweds. Plus, Neil Miller stops by to dangle the hope and potential of 2012’s most anticipated movies over our noses. Will he say the movie you’re thinking of and validate his opinion to you, or will he neglect it, making everything he says in the future suspect? Be prepared to find out a metric ton about movies and their makers, because it’s our third season, and we’re only getting started. Download This Episode

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, we talk with director Jake Kasdan about the horror of getting Cameron Diaz all wet for Bad Teacher. Plus, The Innkeepers and House of the Devil director Ti West offers up his favorite scary movie, and we chat with a man who got a movie deal by posting on Reddit. Download This Episode

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A young woman slinks downstairs in her underwear to fix another drink, recover from some bad sex and turn on some music. The secluded house far away from any city limit sign offers a perfect opportunity to crank of the volume without any close neighbors calling the cops. When her sugar daddy finds her dead body, he’ll also find a message for him scrawled on the sliding glass doors in blood. Thus begins You’re Next. This blood-splattered couple is just the appetizer though. The real focus of the film is a neighboring family that puts the “fun” back in “constantly bitching.” Paul Davison (Rob Moran) and Aubrey (the legendary Barbara Crampton) are father and mother to the brood. Drake (Joe Swanberg) is the ass-kissing mess stuffed into a turtle neck, Aimee (Amy Seimetz) is the perpetual Daddy’s Girl even in her adulthood, Felix (Nicholas Tucci) is the disaffected middle child of history, and Crispian (A.J. Bowen) is the ridiculously-named good son who acts as our entryway into a night that’s meant to celebrate 35 of marriage but will be invaded by figures in animal masks who only mean harm.

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