“Hopefully, I’m not the Judd Nelson of the Splat Pack. Preferably, I’ll be the Rob Lowe.” So quips Hostel Part I and II writer/director Eli Roth, the gore icon whom Quentin Tarantino calls “the future of horror” and let do that fake trailer in Grindhouse. “Quentin and Robert and the Weinstein Company love the trailer so much they’re already asking me, ‘Where’s the script for Thanksgiving?” Roth notes.) But it’s what Roth says next in an MTV.com video interview during a car ride to New York’s Comic-Con that is the reason filmmakers like him make me nauseous. “When I go see an R-rated horror movie, I want lots of violence. I want nudity. I want sex and violence mixed together, Roth says. “What’s wrong with that? Am I the only one? I don’t think so.” How comforting for me to know such disturbed human beings as Roth are innovating today’s horror flicks. Is it any wonder, then, that the gore and violent sex quotient is out of control in this movie genre? “Hopefully we’ll get to a point,” adds Roth, “where there are absolutely no restrictions on any kind of violence in movies. I’d love to see us get to a point where you can go to theaters and see movies unrated and that people know its not real violence.” So is there anything that can offend Roth? “I do feel like terms like ‘torture porn’ are offensive.” Roth rails that his sequel, Hostel: Part II, opens against George Clloney’s, Brad Pitt’s and Matt Damon’s caper pic sequel this June. “It’s going to be the Splat Pack vs. the Rat Pack.” If you can fight back total revulsion, read the full Q-and-A.
Q: You’re often lumped in with other young horror directors like James Wan (Saw) and Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes). Do you enjoy being associated with that group?
Roth: We’ve been referred to as the Splat Pack, which I think is a cool title. Hopefully I’m not the Judd Nelson of the Splat Pack. Preferably I’ll be the Rob Lowe. We’re all just trying to bring back really bloody, violent, disgusting, sick horror movies.
Q: It’s a noble pursuit.
Roth: Yeah! I feel like in the ’90s, horror just lost its way and everything became so safe and watered-down. When I go see an R-rated horror movie, I want lots of violence. I want nudity. I want sex and violence mixed together. What’s wrong with that? Am I the only one? I don’t think so.
Q: What kind of trajectory would you like to see horror take in the future?
Roth: We’re in a really violent wave and I hope it never ends. Hopefully we’ll get to a point where there are absolutely no restrictions on any kind of violence in movies. I’d love to see us get to a point where you can go to theaters and see movies unrated and that people know its not real violence. It’s all pretend. It’s all fake. It’s just acting. It’s just magic tricks. Hopefully we’ll get to a point where people realize movies don’t cause violence. It just reflects the violence going on in the culture. I’d love to see us get to a point where you can make a movie and not worry about the limits of the violence. Then I think they’d get so violent that people would get bored of it.
Q: What do you say to critics who call your work “torture porn”?
Roth: It’s so funny how critics will always quickly reduce horror almost to a subgenre of pornography. I do feel like terms like “torture porn” are offensive. When I see a critic refer to Hostel as torture porn it feels like in the 1950s parents going, “I don’t want you to listen to that rock and roll. It’s dangerous!” It makes me laugh. It makes me feel like they’re out of touch.
Q: Do you feel a sense of fraternity with the rest of the so-called Splat Pack?
Roth: We don’t go out like the Bloodhound Gang, or go back to the clubhouse and watch movies — although we kind of do in a weird way. We were all kind of the outcasts, so there’s a real bond between everyone. None of us are competing for the same projects. Everyone is doing their own thing. And when a movie is successful, it helps all of us. When House Of A 1,000 Corpses was successful, it helped Cabin Fever. When Cabin Fever was successful, it helped Saw.
Q: What was appealing about going right back into another Hostel film for you?
Roth: I watched ["Hostel"] with audiences all around the world and everybody loves the kids and the girls getting run over and the eyeball getting cut out, but more people told me that they were freaked out by the American businessman in the locker room with the gun going like, “What’s it like to kill someone?” And they’d say, “I want to see a movie about that guy.” So with Hostel: Part II, I said, “Let’s really go deep into the minds of those businessmen. Let’s watch the process from start to finish.”
Q: What scenes are audiences going to be talking about as they leave Hostel: Part II?
Roth: You’ve got to have those signature scenes. Let’s just say there’s one scene that’s going to make every girl in the audience cringe and scream, and there’s one scene that’s definitely going to make every guy in the audience cringe and scream.
Q: Do you have a third Hostel in mind?
Roth: It’s not something I’d do, but never say never. I did parts one and two without a break, so my head has been in that torture factory every day for literally two years now. I need to switch it up. I need a little sherbet in between to just cleanse the palette.
Q: Tell us about your fake trailer in Grindhouse. Could you imagine the fake film Thanksgiving spawning a full-length movie?
Roth: Oh, absolutely. The trailer was so much fun. It’s all gore and nudity. It’s all money shots, bodies being chopped up and people being stabbed and cheerleaders stripping on trampolines. It’s three minutes of pure happiness. The feature will never live up to the trailer unless we just do 90 minutes of that. For Grindhouse 2, I think there’s a very strong chance of shooting it. Quentin and Robert and the Weinstein Company love the trailer so much they’re already asking me, “Where’s the script for Thanksgiving?”
Q: You have yet to work with a truly large budget. Hostel: Part II is only a $20 million movie, right?
Roth: I wish. If you combined all three of the budgets of my movies it wouldn’t even equal the salary of one castmember on “Ocean’s Thirteen.”
Q: Are you itching to do something on a larger scale?
Roth: It’s interesting, because I’ve had opportunities to do franchise movies. Once your movie opens at #1, you’re offered everything. There were movies like “Halo,” and they’re remaking “The Hulk” again, and “Die Hard 4,” and I just thought I’d rather write and direct and do my own thing. I don’t need to jump to a $100 million movie. There were some books I was interested in. I was like, “I’d love to do ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ or ‘In the Heart of the Sea.’ ” But the truth is, right now I love writing and directing my own stories. I really wanted to adapt the “Tripods” trilogy, but it went to another director.
Q: How do you feel about your competition this summer at the box office?
Roth: It’s going to be the Splat Pack vs. the Rat Pack. They were like, “We’re going to open [Hostel: Part II] in June.” I’m like, “What else is opening then?” They’re like, ” Ocean’s Thirteen. ” I’m like, “Well, that’s awesome, because it will be fun to go up against George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon.” But you know what? I still want my money back from Ocean’s Twelve. The biggest heist they pulled in Ocean’s Twelve was taking the public’s money. I want my money back before I see Ocean’s Thirteen.
Q: No one will say that about Hostel: Part II though, right?
Roth: No. I think people will say, “I want my lunch back,” after Hostel: Part II.”