I like Eli Roth, as a person and a filmmaker. When he first hit with Cabin Fever I thought he was kind of a douchey dudebro frat type, but over the years I’ve come to see that the guy is a legitimate fan and all around decent fellow. On top of that, I think Hostel and Hostel Part II are damn good films, and that the uproar they’ve caused – there’s a British bill pending that would make owning stills from Hostel Part II illegal! – are a sign of how well they’re made. Nobody gives a shit about the violence and cruelty in the Saw films because they’re bad, bad movies, but Roth has filmmaking chops and makes his violence more than just gross or cool – he makes it uncomfortable and creepy. You feel bad because of it, which is what the really great fucked up movies accomplish.
So you can imagine my disappointment when Roth sent an email to Nikki Finke, one of the most malicious gossips in Hollywood, and someone who has been calling for just about the outright banning of Roth and films like Hostel, to tell her that he’s leaving the gore behind. Here’s what he wrote:
"As far as violence goes, I think at this point I’ve pushed the boundaries of horror as far as I can, and it’s someone else’s turn to take over spilling blood and guts. I have new challenges and much more ambitious ideas that are not horror related that I’m working on, as well as other artistic endeavors outside of film. I love directors like Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson, who pushed the boundaries of gore and horror in their early career, and then took that same energy and aesthetic and applied it to other genres. I’ll always love horror and I’m sure I’ll make more horror movies, but once you’ve spilled that much blood, you kind of have it out of your system and look for other ways to make audiences scream and cheer and vomit."
I don’t have an argument with what Roth is saying (although it’s kind of a weird thing to say – just go make other kinds of movies, don’t run around telling us you’re closing the book on one aspect of your career), and I’m really interested in his future work, like the comedic Trailer Trash. What’s troubling is that he sent this email to Nikki Finke, who has been squawking about ‘torture porn’ for some time now, and recently took credit for the fact that the genre seems to be on the way out (despite the fact that one of the best films at this year’s Screamfest LA, À l’intérieur, could quite comfortably be considered ‘torture porn,’ proving the genre ain’t dead. Oh, and despite the fact that nobody outside of Hollywood reads Nikki Finke’s execrable blog, especially not the kids who didn’t turn up for Hostel Part II this summer. If anybody killed Hostel Part II it was the genre press and the decision to open the film at the wrong time of year). The fact that he even got in touch with her almost reeks of desperation, like he’s trying to get the bully to leave him alone. Just last month Roth came out swinging against Lisa Schwartzbaum from EW (someone who average moviegoers DO read) after she said that she would never watch a Saw or Hostel film, but he’s coddling up to Finke, who I will bet also has not seen Hostel and who has called him ‘disgusting’ and ‘desperate’, far harsher words than Schwartzbaum used.
Part of this is that he’s trying to sell copies of Hostel Part II on DVD tomorrow (buy it here from CHUD through Amazon!), although I don’t think Finke’s audience is going to run out and buy it. I also wonder if he’s just trying to get her to lay off of him so that he can get into the offices of executives – the kind of people who DO read Finke, bizarrely enough – and pitch projects without her nastiness hanging over his head. Because frankly I don’t otherwise understand why he’d even bother with her at all.
Roth got really burned on Hostel Part II, and I hope that his first taste of cinematic defeat isn’t making him reign himself in. Whatever genres or concepts he wants to pursue, he should, and he’ll have the support of CHUD when he does it, but he shouldn’t let the Hostel Part II experience turn him into a second guesser who tries to make nice with the worst people in the industry.