American filmmaker and actor Eli Roth is known for his directorial work in the horror genre, especially for films like Cabin Fever and Hostel. Along with other directors like James Wan and Rob Zombie, among others, Roth has been included in the “Splat Pack” — a group of filmmakers who are known for their explicit depictions of cinematic violence. Roth has also received the Visionary Award in 2013 for his contributions to the horror genre.
In an interview, Roth said: “I think that horror films have a very direct relationship to the time in which they’re made. The films that really strike a film with the public are very often reflecting something that everyone, consciously or unconsciously feeling – atomic age, post 9/11, post-Iraq war; it’s hard to predict what people are going to be afraid of. I generally follow my own compass and make films about what’s scaring me. The films that really resonate are the ones dealing with fears people can’t really discuss – as long as the fears are done in a creative and fun way.”
He also noted: “What makes the genre interesting is the difference of range and opinion. Often horror directors get together and there’s very few women – and we wish there were more. Generally, I make movie’s based on ideas I respond to – so it’s the ideas not the gender. But in general, I think the genre really needs it.”
On his 49th birthday, we take a look at Eli Roth’s filmography with a special emphasis on his horror films in order to evaluate how his works have influenced the genre.
Eli Roth’s best horror films ranked:
5. Knock Knock (2015)
This erotic horror film stars Keanu Reeves as a happily married architect who gets entangled in unnecessary complications when two women (Ana de Armas and Lorenza Izzo) show up at his door. The film was a commercial success, but its satirical interpretation does not achieve the intended effect.
While talking about the origin of the idea, Roth revealed: “The inspiration is a film that Colleen Camp was in called Death Game. That was a very little-seen film that got released overseas but kind of fell into obscurity in the US and was never really released.
“We wanted to do kind of an updated version. I really wanted to do a film like a modern Fatal Attraction that felt like something that was a tense psychosexual thriller, like the old films that [Roman] Polanski used to make or Paul Verhoeven, but we just felt like the story and the setup were so good that we could do an amazing update of it.”
4. The Green Inferno (2013)
A tribute to cannibal films like the Cannibal Holocaust, The Green Inferno tells the story of a young college student trapped in the Peruvian jungles with a cannibalistic tribe. The film received backlash for its depiction of the tribe, with many considering it to reinforce colonial prejudices.
Roth said: “I wanted people to say ‘The people who made this movie were insane.’ We went and did it and, miraculously, nobody got hurt. I look back on what we did, and it’s crazy — especially with all the safety precautions involved in movies made in the U.S.
“Most things are done on green screens and on a (sound) stage. This movie doesn’t look like anything else. There’s no other movie where you would say ‘Yeah, it looks like that.’ It’s vibrant. It doesn’t look like a horror movie. It looks like an adventure.”
3. Hostel: Part II (2007)
The sequel to Eli Roth’s famous horror film Hostel, Part II, follows two art students kidnapped while on a foreign trip. While it wasn’t as successful as its predecessor, a news outlet claimed that Hostel: Part II was the “most pirated film ever”.
“We don’t have to educate people on what Hostel: Part II 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 II,” the director said.
2. Hostel (2005)
One of Roth’s highest earning projects, Hostel launches an investigation of an insidious organisation that kidnaps and tortures tourists.
The film grossed $19.6 million over the opening weekend and went on to rack up a total of $80.6 million. Some critics pointed out that the use of Holocaust imagery in the film had a connection to Nazi exploitation films.
Roth recalled, “[Chris] Briggs had this idea, he said ‘I want to make a movie called Hostel about backpackers, but I have no idea what it’s about.’ We started thinking and I was like Jesus, that’s such a great title, and I love that universe of backpacking and traveling all over Europe. For a long time I thought about it, and then it suddenly hit me, I thought oh my God the hostel is just the neck, it’s about this thing entirely. And so I thought about it and just saw the whole movie, it just clicked.”
1. Cabin Fever (2002)
Cabin Fever is a horror-comedy that marked Roth’s directorial debut. It presents the case of a group of college graduates who get infected by a flesh-eating virus while vacationing in the woods.
Roth used his own experiences as an inspiration for the film, thinking back to when he got a skin infection in Iceland.
The filmmaker explained, “I set out to make a roller coaster ride you could watch while getting drunk with your friends, where you’re laughing one minute, and screaming the next. And it also features my first acting appearance in one scene, which was only by accident because I replaced an actor at the last minute. It was because of this cameo that Quentin Tarantino put me in Death Proof and ultimately Inglourious Basterds, but this is what started that whole mess.”