Eli Roth is one of the few major movie directors in America who has stuck to horror films throughout his career and remains unapologetically devoted to the genre. His exuberance comes through on screen with his penchant for graphic violence tinged with dark humor. His Hostel series is largely responsible for the coining of the term "torture porn" for exploitation movies that wallow in extended scenes of violent torture. Although his inspiration lies in the horror films of the '70s and '80s, Roth has managed to carve out his own niche as he constantly pushes the boundaries of the genre in mainstream cinema.
Roth wrote what would become his feature film directorial debut, Cabin Fever, in 1995, but as a recent college graduate of New York University's film school with little experience, he to put it on the back burner and focused on breaking into the 'biz. He created several animated shorts and even had small acting roles in a pair of low-budget Troma releases (Terror Firmer and Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV), all the while making contacts in the industry.
Roth's work eventually paid off when he acquired producers and a $1.5 million budget to begin shooting Cabin Fever in 2001. In the film, Roth twists the conventional horror movie scenario of horny teens in a cabin in the woods by creating a "killer" that's not a person, but rather a disease. A flesh-eating virus pollutes the kids' drinking water, contaminating them one by one and dividing the group through fear of its contagious nature. The movie combined horror with black humor, a dark sense of irony and social satire that added depth beyond the standard horror plot.
Cabin Fever wasn't released until 2003 but became a surprise hit at the box office, particularly in comparison to its miniscule budget. While Roth went on to bigger and better things, a sequel was green lit for release in 2008 without the director's involvement.
Roth's next picture was 2006's Hostel. With a budget close to three times that of Cabin Fever, the director expanded the scope of the film to an international setting. It revolves around a couple of Americans backpacking through Europe who stay at a hostel that serves as the cover for a ring of wealthy men from around the world who pay to torture and kill the hostel's young guests.
The cautionary tale's grisly scenes of torture helped usher in a new trend in horror filmmaking deemed "torture porn," although Hostel and others like it fall firmly within the tradition of '70s exploitation fare like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes. As he is adept at doing, though, Roth has breathed new life into old conventions, wrapping them in new settings and spinning them with a hip, modern edge.
Hostel was an ever bigger hit than Cabin Fever, and spawned a 2007 sequel that Roth also directed. While not as successful as the first, the second Hostel performed well, especially for an R-rated horror movie.
Also in 2007, Roth participated in the Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez double bill Grindhouse by directing a trailer for a nonexistent movie called Thanksgiving. The trailer was an homage to the holiday-themed slashers of the '80s (Halloween; Silent Night, Deadly Night; April Fool's Day) and made such an impact that Roth adapted the faux trailer idea into a feature film called Trailer Trash in 2008. The movie consists of trailers for fake horror and other genre films.
Roth's biggest project yet, however, promises to be his adaptation of the Stephen King zombie novel Cell, which is scheduled for a 2009 release.
- Aftershock (2013) [Actor][Producer]
- The Last Exorcism 2 (2013) [Producer]
- Hostel: Part III (2011) [Producer]
- The Last Exorcism (2010) [Producer]
- Piranha 3-D (2010) [Actor]
- Don't Look Up (2009) [Actor]
- Hostel: Part II (2007)
- Grindhouse: Trailer "Thanksgiving" (2007)
- Hostel (2005)
- 2001 Maniacs (2005) [Actor] [Producer]
- Tales from the Crapper (2004) (V) [Actor]
- Cabin Fever (2002)
- Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV (2000) [Actor]
- Terror Firmer (1999) [Actor]