EntertainmentHow Ti West Recreated X's Retro-Horror Aesthetic

How Ti West Recreated X’s Retro-Horror Aesthetic

COVID-19 did affect how Ti West approached making “X.” In an interview with IndieWire, West explained how he used “special lenses and post-production effects to create the grainy look of 16mm film” to evoke the time period and other films from the era such as “Debbie Does Dallas” or “Deep Throat.” But this was not always how he wanted to shoot “X.” He told his prepandemic ideas to IndieWire

“The original plan was to shoot on 16mm, but because we made the movie in New Zealand during COVID, it would’ve been impossible to get dailies within two weeks. We shot on the Sony Venice and used these groovy hawk lenses. I went exhaustively out of my way so that people thought I shot on 16. That’s not so much because of nostalgia for the format. Film offers a certain aesthetic that digital is almost there but not the same. Especially when you make a movie like this, that is part of the charm of it.”

West used older light fixtures to create the feel of celluloid. He continued: 

“In post, there’s a minimal amount of defocus on the whole movie, which takes away some of the sharpness — and then there’s a certain amount of moving grain we shot from film to overlay onto it. All of that sounds like a ton of work, and it’s kind of invisible when you watch the movie, because it’s not grindhouse-y or kitschy. It’s there to take the edge off the modernness of the technology.”

The director has used film in the past. “The House of the Devil,” about a babysitter who becomes part of a Satanic plot, was shot on 16mm film, lending a vintage aesthetic that matches its 1980s setting. Shooting in 35mm laced “The Innkeepers” with a chilling nostalgia that offsets the quirky humor of two inn employees searching for spirits.

In “X,” West also uses popular 1970s techniques such as split screens and wipe transitions, the former of which is used in a moving montage set to Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide.” The clips from “The Farmer’s Daughter” seem lifted out of the 1970s, using Academy ratio and a grainier style. The celluloid look of “X” is more than just a visual aesthetic, it comments on the craft of filmmaking itself.

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