Week 24: “The Horror of Eli Roth”
On the eve of such great news that The Green Inferno (2014) is finally getting a theatrical release after being shelved at the last minute last year and the excellent news that he is in pre-production on the long stuck in development hell adaptation of the hugely success novel Meg (novel by Steve Alten), what better time is there than now to take a look at the films of writer/director Eli Roth?
Although he started as an actor (uncredited) in various films like The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996) and The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), it was his debut feature Cabin Fever (2002) which really put him on the map. He also wrote and acted in the film about four friends who encounter a stranger suffering from a flesh eating virus which not only threatens their own lives but their friendships as well. The low budget horror film was filled with plenty of gore and sex and ushered in the so-called “torture porn” genre (despite there being more extreme films before it). It was a huge success especially considering the low budget of the film.
Before going back behind the camera Roth decided to continue on the sidelines as an actor in Tales from the Crapper (2004) and 2001 Maniacs (2005). Despite elevating to director he also managed to star in Terror Firmer (1999) and Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV (2000), so, you should see, Roth’s passion would remain in front of the camera as well as behind it. His next film was Hostel (2005) which shocked the industry with its uncompromising violence and its commentary on the world of underground killing for money. Like his previous film this is a gritty look at two American tourists and their friend who run afoul of a murder syndicate. This film was unlike anything American audiences had ever seen and it was extremely successful with more mainstream audiences.
Roth quickly followed up the success of Hostel and the good will and popularity of his faux trailer “Thanksgiving” (part of the film Grindhouse) with Hostel: Part II (2007). This was a much more refined film in terms of screenplay, style, art direction, and execution. This was the film that would show audiences that Roth was becoming a better director with style and something to say. Unfortunately, the torture porn cycle of films was quickly dying down and this was a less successful film than its predecessor.
Following Hostel: Part II’s poor performance at the Box Office Roth would turn his talents to producing, writing and acting. Over the next several years he produced The Last Exorcism (2010), Aftershock (2012) – which he also acted in, The Man with the Iron Fist (2012) – which he also wrote, The Last Exorcism Part II (2013), The Sacrament (2013) and most recently Clown (2014) – which he also acted in. As an actor he was also in Death Proof (part of the film Grindhouse), Inglourious Basterds (2009), Piranha 3D (2010), and Rock of Ages (2012). As a writer he also wrote The Green Inferno in addition to The Man with the Iron Fists.
The Green Inferno would be Roth’s next feature film behind the camera more than five years after the release of his last film. This would be a return to form for the director who was now tackling the cannibal genre of horror. Unfortunately, for Roth and audiences the film would be shelved before seeing release in 2014. This did not deter the visionary director who forged ahead with his next film Knock Knock (2015) which is also scheduled to be released this year. This film stars Keanu Reeves and is a big departure for Roth whose films usually have character actors or no stars at all. The film is getting great reviews from early screenings and should propel him to more mainstream films, which is where his latest project Meg comes into play. Based on the bestselling novel Steve Alten it is believed that Roth will finally get this film out of development hell which is where it has been since the rights were purchased the year the novel was originally published.
Roth’s career is something he redefines at any given moment. In addition to acting, writing, and producing films he executive produces several television series and he’s also created a horror attraction in Las Vegas, among many other ventures. The one common element between all of Roth’s many ventures is that he loves horror and as an audience member we can be assured that he will never be predictable and always be innovative.