Eli Roth: Horror’s New Master for the Digital Age

Eli Roth, Hostel: Part II, Hostel, Cabin Fever, Clown, Restaurant Dogs, Thanksgiving, Grindhouse

Eli Roth: Horror’s New Master for the Digital Age

Eli Roth was born on April 18, 1972, in Newton, Massachusetts. He was raised in a Jewish household as his family is from Austria, Russia, and Poland. His parents are Dr. Sheldon Roth who is a psychiatrist/ psychoanalyst and also a clinical professor at Harvard Medical School. His mother, Cora Roth, is a painter. Eli Roth speaks French. Russian and Italian.

Eli Roth is an American film director, producer, writer and actor who is known for directing Hostel a horror movie, and its sequel which was called Hostel: Part II. Another notable fact about Eli Roth is his role as Donny Donowitz “The Bear Jew” and starred in Quentin Tarantino’s film, Inglorious Bastards. For that, he won both a BCFA Critic’s Choice Award (Best Acting Ensemble) and SAG Award (Best Ensemble).

For his explicitly graphic and bloody horror film, journalists have added him to the group of filmmakers who are known as the Splat Pack. For Roth’s contribution to horror, he received the Visionary Award at the Stanley Film Festival.

Roth took an interest in filmmaking from quite an early age, and after watching Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), he started shooting films. Before he graduated from Newton South High School, Eli had made over 100 short films along with his brothers Adam and Gabriel. He attended film school at Tisch School of Arts at the New York Festival.

To be able to fund his films during college, Roth took the job of an online cyber sex operator for Penthouse Magazine posing as a woman and a production assistant on feature films. Eli Roth also managed and ran the office of the producer Frederick Zollo but quit after graduation so that all his attention and time could be devoted to writing full-time. He found work at Private Parts of Howard Stern as his assistant and stayed nights at the Silvercup Studios in Queens and worked on his scripts while Stern slept.

Eli Roth landed his first Hollywood job as an extra on The Practice when he moved to Los Angeles, and it was offered to him by the actress Camryn Manheim. While she filmed the show, Roth stayed in Manheim’s dressing room and worked on his scripts. Both of them had cultivated a friendship in New York when Roth was working for Fred Zollo.

Manheim’s cousin, Howie Nuchow who was the former EVP of Mandalay Sports Entertainment, also met with Roth and was also from Boston. This opportunity led to the first animation project of Roth, Chowdaheads in the coming year. Another project, co-written by Roth with Manheim which was called The Extra. Later, the pitch got sold to Bill Mechanic’s Pandemonium’s Company was a producer as well as the former CEO and Chairman of Fox Studios.

Short Films

During the final years of NYU film school, which were 1993/1994, Eli Roth directed and wrote a student film called the Restaurant Dogs, which was a homage to Reservoir Dogs, a film by Quentin Tarantino. Restaurant Dogs was nominated for a Student Academy Award in 1995 and eventually won its division (Division III).

Eli Roth had met with David Lynch during his internship with Fred Zollo and had kept in touch all these years. In the late 1990s, he eventually ended up producing content for him with his new website. Roth had met film and TV composer Angelo Badalamenti through Lynch, and it was his music that was used in his first feature film. He also met a member of a special effects company KNB EFX who contributed to his first feature.

When Roth moved to Los Angeles in 1999, he not only directed, produced, wrote, edited and animated but also provided some voices for series of animated shorts Chowdaheads for Mandalay Sports Entertainment. They were to be telecasted between the pro wrestling matches, WCW Monday Nitro. But the CEO of WCW who had given the green signal for the project got fired right before the weekend when it was to air so although they had completely, it never actually broadcasted. Noah Belson, another of Roth’s friend, had co-written the shorts and provided the voices of other characters.

In the mid-2000s, Roth directed, wrote, animated and produced a series of stop-motion shorts called The Rotten Fruit, a five-minute pilot with financing from the website Z.com. After several of episodes had been completed, the dot.com company folded, and Nissan picked up the domain name for its Z sports car.

Part of Roth’s work was done at the Snake Pit studios for The Rotten Fruit with poseable clay, miniature sets, foam figures, two high-end digital still cameras and a couple of Mackintosh computers. Noah Belson again did the character voices and the writing job.

Eli Roth Gets a Fever

Along with his college roommate Randy Pearlstein, Roth co-wrote script called Cabin Fever in 1995 after his graduation. They based the idea on a skin infection that Roth had contracted while he rode ponies at a family friend’s farm in Iceland in 1991. Most of the stuff was written in 1996 during Roth’s job as a production assistant for Howard Stern’s Private Parts.

Cabin Fever was produced in 2001 by Lauren Moews of Tonic Films, and Susan Jackson was the executive producer. Made on a $1.5 million budget was raised from private investors. At the 2002 Toronto Film Festival, Jackson sold the film to Lionsgate for 3.5 million which was the biggest sale of the festival that year. Cabin Fever was released in 2003 and was the highest grossing film of Lionsgate that year earning $22 million at the U.S box office and making $35 million worldwide.

After the film had been released, Lionsgate stock rose from $1.98 a share to $6 a share when it bought Cabin Fever. The new net worth was used to buy Artisan Entertainment. Cabin Fever made Eli Roth a star in the horror genre. In an interview with Premiere Magazine in 2004, Quentin Tarantino called Cabin Fever his favorite new film and Roth, the future of horror.

Roth recently had the chance to executive produce a movie which he has not done before. A remake of his 2002 Cabin Fever which is being directed by Travis Zariwny. For Roth, it is supremely satisfying to have a second film made on a script that he wrote which nobody wanted initially.

Hostel (2005) was Roth’s second feature film and produced for just over $4 million. In January 2006, it opened No.1 at the box office and earned $20 million in the first weekend. It went on to gross $80 million worldwide and more than $180 million on DVD.

The story line was simple with three friends who are lured to go to hostel thinking their sexual fantasies will come true. Instead, they fall into the trap of an international association which provides first-hand torturing and killing experiences for atrocious wealthy tourists. Hostel was rated No. 1 on Bravo TV’s 30 Even Scarier Movie Moments. The Empire magazine’s readers voted it the Best Horror Film of 2007.

Eli Roth and Grindhouse

To make Hostel, Roth turned down studio directing jobs. To keep the budget as low as possible, he took the directing salary of $10,000 only so that no limits were to set on the violence of the film.

Film critic David Edelstein in New York magazine attributed Roth with creating the horror subgenre “torture porn” or “gorno” using extreme ferocity and violence to excite the audience like in a sexual act.

Eli Roth directed and narrated the faux trailer segment Thanksgiving in 2007 for Grindhouse. He also appeared in Death Proof which was a part of the Tarantino’s film.

The 2007 Spike TV Scream Award for Best Screenplay was won Roth and co-writer Jeff Rendall for their work in Grindhouse, and the honor was shared with Tarantino, Rob Zombie, Robert Rodriguez and Edgar Wright.

The year 2007 brought the sequel of Hostel, Hostel: Part II. The film was opened in the sixth place in June with $8.2 million, and it grossed $17.6 million is US theaters. Hostel: Part II cost $10.2 million and earned $35 million in theaters worldwide and $50 million on pay television and DVD.

Lionsgate credited the lower grosses to the summer release especially opposite blockbusters like Shrek 3, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End and Ocean’s 13. Another reason was of the workprint of the film being leaked online before its release. There were almost 2 million illegal workprint downloads on Hostel II opening.

Hostal II was nominated for six Spike TV Scream Awards which included Best Director and Best Horror Film. It made to the Entertainment Weekly’s list of 20 best horror films of the past 20 years.

In the 2006 issue of Men’s Fitness, Eli Roth was voted “Most Fit Director” which is taken very seriously by Roth and he follows a strict workout routine documenting it on Hostel DVDs.

2016’s Clown started as a fake movie trailer which was posted on YouTube by the director Jon Watts that said it was from Eli Roth even though he had nothing to do with it.

Eli Roth was so impressed; he met with Watts, and they agreed on making it. It is the story of a loving father who dressed up as a clown for his son’s birthday, but the costume turns out to be cursed and does not come off. Roth produced Clown and it made to #1 on iTunes horror section recently.


If you liked Eli Roth: A Horror Master for the Digital Age take a listen to:
How to Make Terrifying Horror Films with Edwin Pagan

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