Eli Roth has evolved as one of Hollywood’s most interesting horror directors, and not one to shy away from gore and violence. He nay well have outdone himself with the much anticipated sequel to his hit chiller, Hostel.
In Hostel Part 2, three young Americans studying in Rome set off for a weekend trip when they run into a beautiful model from one of their art classes. Also on her way to an exotic destination, the gorgeous European invites the co-eds to come along, assuring them they will be able to relax and rejuvenate.
Will the girls find the oasis they are looking for? Or are they poised to become victims for hire, pawns in the fantasies of the sick and privileged from around the world who secretly travel here to savor more grisly pursuits? These qestions and more unravel in typical Roth style, and in this exclusive interview, the brash and fascinating director talked to Paul Fischer.
Question: Firstly, I love your Grindhouse trailer.
Eli Roth: Oh thank you very much. That was the most fun I’ve ever had shooting anything. It was a blast.
Question: I can imagine.
Eli Roth: We just went nuts. Like that was literally like right at the end of Hostel II, I just hacked on two shooting days and we all just stuck around and did it for fun. And staging that parade was insane and we had a great time. In fact, like it’s inspired me to do a whole movie of fake trailers called Trailer Trash. ‘Cause I have so many ideas for either like steak movies or just terrible films that I’ll never make but that I think would be amazing trailers. And filming it was so fun because you get the satisfaction as if you made a feature. Because everybody just comes out remembering the best parts anyway. So you feel like you made a whole movie. And it’s all money shots. It’s like cheating. Like I got to just film the best stuff.
Question: Rumour has it that you’re actually making a feature out of your Thanksgiving trailer anyway.
Eli Roth: Well I talked to Edgar And Edgar said, he’s like ‘If you do Thanksgiving I’ll do Don’t’ and I was like ‘Alright’. So if they make a Grindhouse II with I want to do it like the real Grindhouse films of the 70s, maybe like a million bucks. Like we’d put really strict limits, 45 minutes, one take. Like set up all these rules for ourselves so that if we’re going to do it just like do it down and dirty and cheap like a real drive in movie.
Question: Which is probably why this Grindhouse double feature got a lot of mixed reviews and didn’t do as well because they went overboard with the budget.
Eli Roth: Well I think that people loved Grindhouse. Everyone who saw it loved it. The critics loved it, the fans loved it. I just think that the length scared people away and a lot of their audience now has kids. I talked to my friends who love those movies but didn’t go see it and I said ‘Why wouldn’t you go and see it?’ and they’re like ‘Well it’s three and a half hours and then you’ve got to get dinner and plus we get a baby sitter for five hours. There’s that extra money’ and you think ‘Oh wow. There’s a whole – you can’t take your kids to it. You have to get a baby-sitter. It’s like a whole extra expenses, it actually pushed people into the territory of ‘Well I want to see it but I’ll see it on DVD’.
Question: Now let me ask you about the publicity aspect of promoting Hostel II domestically. because it seems you’re not doing any domestic press. Why do you think that is and how concerned are you about that?
Eli Roth: Not concerned at all. I think it’s a smart idea. I mean I think that Saw III, Saw II they didn’t do any press screenings.
Question: But they did a junket —-
Eli Roth: Well here’s the thing. for Hostel and for Hostel II, people know what it is. I’ve talked about the film and I’m not even going to see it until like 5.00 today. It’s finally like I’ll see it at the lab. It’s like still coming out of the developer. But truthfully, right now, the power of the movie is the mystery. We don’t want spoilers getting out there. So if we just screen it for anybody – we don’t want to have a press junket without showing it but we don’t want to screen it for people because then all the story twists will get out.
Question: So why have an international junket over a domestic junket?
Eli Roth: This is really publicity questions. I have no idea. I mean the big thing that I don’t’ want is I don’t want the story twists to get out because as soon as someone sees it, it all gets out there on the internet and then everybody know what’s happening.
Question: When you’re doing interviews for Hostel II, what difficulties do you encounter trying to talk up a movie that we can’t see.
Eli Roth: We don’t have to try to talk it up. I mean the truth of the matter is fans know what the movie is and they know that I’m directing and the people that saw Hostel and loved it are so excited. The film came on tracking huge, and so they know that the audience is out there and people are salivating to see it. And the interest, like we don’t have to try and, people know what it is. And I think people have an idea what it is . We don’t have to educate people on what Hostel part 2 is. It’s a continuation of the story exactly where the last one left off and the goal was to make a better, scarier film. I wanted to make a film like Road Warrior which was a sequel that I thought blew away the first one. You know, we took the best parts of the first movie and really built on that and that’s what I really feel like I’ve been able to do with part 2.
Question: So what is the challenge then for you as a filmmaker, to outdo yourself with a sequel to the first film?
Eli Roth: The challenge is how do you make the film terrifying when people know what to expect. When people expecting a certain thing, how do you surprise them? It’s like the Exorcist 2 problem. Where you can’t just have another, a girl gets possessed by the devil against, but without it, how is it Exorcist 2? So you have to have sequences. And I looked at the successful horror sequels. There was the Saw II, the Evil Dead, Devil’s Rejects. And I felt that I just really wanted to, instead of trying to top myself, I’d start a continuation of the story. And I looked at what really terrified people. Obviously the violence, people loved, you know. They love the eye getting cut out, they love the girls getting run over. But what really seemed to disturb people the most was the scene where the client was Rick Hoffman, the American client who is in the locker room going ‘How did you kill him? Did you kill him slow? Did you kill him fast? What do you do? Like there was just a scene of two people talking and it was daylight and there was no violence, it was shot reverse shot. That scene, the look on his face, the excitement of him asking – he’s so excited to kill somebody, that scene, you know in audiences around the world people said that for them was the scariest scene in the movie. And I thought, you know, there’s really something here and I really want to explore that. So we’re going to see what happens when girls are lured there, go through this and we’re going to follow three closely parallel stories of the clients. We’re going to learn exactly what happens when you pay for them and what happens when you get there and how do you select them and can you have interaction with them before you go in the room? We’re going to learn everything, and I want to learn all the minutia about the organisation, how it’s run and follow these characters until everyone meets in this one horrible place.
Question: Are your movies critic proof?
Eli Roth: No I mean no movie is critic proof; even horror fans criticise Hostel I for not being violent enough but I do think that, you know I was very pleased that La Monde picked Hostel as the Best American Film of the Year ahead of The Departed, an art form magazine called Hostel the smartest that they’d seen on American foreign policy and American imperialism. And you know the New York Times called it most misogynistic, homophobic film ever made. So it’s like I just want my films to connect with audiences and I’m not doing the movies for reviews. I’m doing films that I believe in. I think I’ve proven to the world that you can make movies that really work on a low budget, that you just need great actors, you don’t necessary need marquis movie stars . And I’m just happy – I just want audiences to connect with the film. And to be able to continue doing what I’m doing.
Question: You’ve made films that really do, set about ‘pushing an envelope’ in terms of horror. How difficult is it for you now at this point in your career, relatively short as it is, to be able to outdo yourself again with a completely different property?
Eli Roth: Well, you know, it’s always easy to be more disgusting or dismember another tool or another body part and, you know, then I’m more disgusting. The challenge for me is to make a film better and scarier. I want to have a film which has much better production design, better photography, better script, better acting, you know. And I really try and challenge myself in terms – I don’t think of it as ‘OK how can I outscare the first one’, I just think about ‘How can I make a better movie?’ ‘How can I learn from my mistakes?’ ‘What really, really worked?’ ‘What scenes in Hostel I really worked and what scenes didn’t?’ The challenge is to make a better film and to make a film that would, you know, the point of Hostel I was it’s a very deliberate, clear tonal shift. With Hostel II I wanted to start off in that dark place and really maintain it, while at the same time staying ahead of the audience and continually surprising them.
Question: Will there be a Hostel III?
Eli Roth: Right now there’s none. I’m done with it. I’m very proud of it and I feel like I’ve told all the story. Then again, I didn’t plan on doing Hostel II either, so I don’t want to say never but right now there’s Hostel I and Hostel II and that’s it. And maybe if I’m inspired by some idea for Hostel III I’ll do it at some point down the road but I really want to do Trailer Trash and I want to do Cell and I’ve other ideas that I want to do.
Question: Will you continue working in the horror genre or do you want to completely do a 360 and do something different?
Eli Roth: No no no, I’m only going to tell stories that I genuinely believe in and that I love and Cell is a horror movie and I love it and Trailer Trash is a comedy and I love it. So I’m really attracted first and foremost to stories. And I have my own stories that I want to tell and I love horror. I will never stop making horror films but I’m certainly going to mix it up and do other genres. You know, the goal is to be someone like Peter Jackson or Sam Raimi who have roots in horror and they have very diverse careers and that’s the kind of career trajectory that I really want to work towards.
Question: Now Trailer Trash is obviously a completely different film.
Eli Roth: oh it’s totally like Borat or Jackass or Monty Python, it’s total, complete, absurd silliness. It’s really ridiculous.
Question: Are you writing it with anyone?
Eli Roth: I’m writing it with my brother, Gabe. And I have some other ideas that – like just movies and ideas and things. Like, I wrote Thanksgiving with my friend, Jeff Rendell and we’ve got some other ideas for slasher movies that we want to throw in there. And my friend Noah Belson who I wrote my animation, Rotten Fruit with and Chowdaheads. We just have all these like kind of pet movies that we wish we could make one day that we probably never will. And now they can all become like great trailers in Trailer Trash.
Question: So how many trailers do you think you’ve included in that?
Eli Roth: Probably twenty to twenty-five.
Question: And that obviously will be done on a low budget – you can afford to do something like that on a low budget right?
Eli Roth: No, it’s gotta look like there’s twenty-five different movies. A low budget is the average budget in Hollywood. ‘Average’ is $80 million. I did Cabin Fever for $1.5, I made Hostel for four. I didn’t make Hostel II for much more than that. So like if someone gave me $15 million, it’d be a huge budget for me, you know. My relative for big budget is so far different from everyone else on the planet. It’s like there are filmmakers who would get $20 million for a movie and say ‘I can’t do that. That’s too low budget for me’ and that would be more than all three of my films combined.
Question: Will Trailer Trash contain multitudes of different casts or will you try and mix and match sort of the same cast throughout?
Eli Roth: It’s gotta feel like different movies. I’m certain that some people will be in some more than others but I want it to feel like everyone’s in this one.
Question: That’s quite a challenge.
Eli Roth: It’ll be fun. It’ll be a bunch of commercial shoots. That’s the great thing about Trailer Trash. I can start shooting it and then shoot Cell and then finish it.
Question: When will you start?
Eli Roth: There’s no start date yet. I’m writing it now. There’s nothing beyond Hostel II and then I’m going to take the summer and do press and tour and write Trailer Trash and the in the fall I’m going to start up again.
Question: Do you have a distributor or do you think you’ll just wait.
Eli Roth: All in negotiations.
Question: Well it sounds like a great idea and trailers are going to be genre movies? Are they going to be combinations of different …
Eli Roth: You’ll see. You’ll find out. Picture Thanksgiving. Watch Thanksgiving and go twenty-five of those. It’s all money shots. Total crowd pleasing money shots. It’s going to be really fun. Totally silly and completely immature and sophomoric and ridiculous.
Question: Which is like you right?
Eli Roth: Yeah exactly. That’s how I want people to perceive me of course.
Question: As sophomoric and ridiculous.
Eli Roth: No, no. Just this movie. I mean Monty Python, John Cleese is one of the most brilliant men ever and he made the silliest movies of all time. That’s the goal. Sacha Baron Cohen is a genius and he makes Borat.