What can I say, I have always gotten a kick out of Eli Roth. Even though I’ve only really seen him onscreen bashing Nazi brains with a baseball bat in Inglourious Basterds. I don’t have the aversion that my colleague Nikki Finke does for what she calls Roth’s “torture porn” offerings, because I never had the stomach to watch Cabin Fever or the two Hostel films. In the first place I grew up in an era of the original Night Of The Living Dead and Halloween, when it was enough to stalk promiscuous kids without harvesting their organs for profit. Regardless, Roth killed it at Toronto last week; before he even premiered the film he starred in and produced, Aftershock, he made a $2 million deal against gross and a guaranteed wide release for that film and another, Clown, about a dad who subs for a missing clown at his kid’s birthday party, can’t shed the clown white and slowly becomes a homicidal maniac. He’ll make a lot of money, as he always seems to, particularly because Aftershock only cost $2 million to make. But even more interesting is Roth’s grand plan to turn his flair for scare into a real empire.
DEADLINE: You made arguably the biggest deal at Toronto. Why did you sell it before it premiered?
ROTH: Anytime you make a movie the goal is a wide theatrical release, with the right distributor. Now that Lionsgate and Summit merged, there’s an opportunity for Dimension to make a move and become the horror powerhouse they were in the 90s and Bob told me, I want you to do what Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino did with us. Well, I’d made the Thanksgiving trailer for Grindhouse, and I developed the Stephen King novel Cell but I’d never done a movie with Dimension. On Cabin Fever, I offered it to Bob and then had to rush to sell it to Lionsgate before they found out Bob passed. When I first wrote Hostel, Bob said no, and when Screen Gems freaked and said they wouldn’t release it, I showed Bob the cut again. He said it was too violent, that he wouldn’t feel good putting it out into the world. Then it opened at $20 million and did $80 million on a $3 million negative cost. Those were the days when you could sell a lot of DVDs and we just hit the jackpot. Bob and Harvey apologized.
DEADLINE: Only in horror do you gross 25 times your budget.
ROTH: Even Hostel 2, which is Nikki’s favorite movie, I bought my parents a house with that one. We should all fail so well. (more…)