Getting the feathered-hair era just right in ‘House of the Devil’

Nov. 06, 2009 | 5:43 p.m.

SCENE STEALER

Patrick Kevin Day is back with another installment of Scene Stealer, which digs into the magic of movie-making. You can read his previous interviews and Liesl Bradner’s Wizards of Hollywood series right here. 

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A love for the horror films of the late 1970s and early 1980s fueled writer-director Ti West’s precise re-creation of the period in his film “The House of the Devil.” But he started with a very odd detail. “The first thing [production designer Jade Healy and I] planned on was using the Coke cups that say Coke really big on the side,” he said.

The memory of the Coke cups played large in West’s self-professed photographic memory of the era, which he bolstered by making extensive lists of items he remembered from his youth. The Coke cups, along with almost all the other props, were found on EBay — and ended up in West’s apartment. “It was important that it not be ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ ’80s,” he said. “It had to be wood-paneled, brown, feathered-hair ’80s.”

To further enhance the look, West adapted the filming techniques of the era: few close-ups, zooms, sustained shots and the use of Super 16-millimeter film instead of digital or 35-millimeter. The effect worked. Two weeks before the film opened, it had a sneak preview for an audience who’d never heard of it. “Most people thought it was a lost film from the 1980s until this 29-year-old director gets up at the end to speak. They said, ‘What’s going on here?’”

– Patrick Kevin Day

Photo: Jocelin Donahue stars in “House of the Devil.” / Magnet Releasing

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