The horror genre is complex, filled with ups and downs, but there's a documentary series that seeks to understand that curvy road for all it entails. Eli Roth's History of Horror will be premiering a second season on AMC, hosted by the modern horror icon himself, Eli Roth. And while many interviews will be shown between Roth and industry leaders, actors, and directors within the genre, we were able to talk to the interviewee himself. So get ready to hear from the man himself on inspirations, what parts of the series are favorite moments, and what is in Roth's future.
Bleeding Cool: Horror is a genre that has gone through many changes over the decades, which stands out the most to you?
Eli Roth: I grew up in the VHS era, so for me, the early 80s will always be my favorite. I believe you tend to fall in love with the era you grew up with because that's when horror movies are most effective. Everyone has that memory of being at a sleepover and someone putting on the movie you're not supposed to watch and having it ruin your life for months. I miss those days. Also, the memory of seeing great scary movies with friends or on a date, it's like you all braved it out and feel bonded forever from it. That's the beauty of horror movies; those kinds of intense experiences really stick with you from childhood and adolescent years. The technology of the makeup effects really caught up with the movies in the early 80s, and suddenly the gore in low budget films became incredibly realistic, with artists like Tom Savini creating his masterful effects. So those were the films that I loved, even films like "The Mutilator" or "Sleepaway Camp," if it starts with red titles and synth music, it already won me over. But to someone else, that time they saw "The Ring," there will never be anything scarier than that night. And for someone else now the time they saw "It," that's going to be the pinnacle of horror for them. And that's the fun of the show, taking the modern movies and showing the direct line they have with the films that came before them and talking to the creators and actors about what influenced them and what they love.
BC: Is there a figure in horror history that you admire the most?
ER: Stephen King, for sure. He just never stops. So many others would rest on laurels, yet having created the most iconic scary stories since Edgar Allen Poe, he just keeps going. I loved his book On Writing, it really inspires me and keeps me going to stay creative and keep moving forward every day. Not everything gets made, but you can always control what you write and just keep honing your craft as a storyteller.
BC: Do you think we'll see more stories revolving around the types of fears brought on by the pandemic?
ER: Horror always reflects the time in which it was made in some way, even if it's not obvious. Look at the tensions in the country, and then look at the success of Us. Clearly, that film was tapping into something everyone was feeling and needed to talk about. Then here we are a year later and there's a huge explosion and protests, but I do think years from now you can look back and see that Us was sensing that same frustration and anger. Jordan and I discuss it on the show, how the film taps into themes of incarceration, and a class of people locked away for the benefit of others, the revolt, and upending of society. The Invisible Man tapped into spousal abuse, but it also on a very basic level is just a great fun, smart, scary movie.
To me, nothing beats a great scary movie, but it has to work from beginning to end. If you change the rules for convenience in the last ten minutes the whole ship sinks. Not every film holds up to that standard, but when they do, you get a classic like A Nightmare on Elm Street or The Ring. But I think we will be seeing all kinds of horror films years from now that reflect this time. In the first season, we discussed the correlation between The Walking Dead zombie craze and the mortgage crisis, which lead to mass homelessness. We also connected Dracula to the horrors of the first World War. There's a reason we're still discussing these films 80 years later, they really tapped into something, and I think 80 years from now people will look back at this period and say "this was about COVID" or social unrest, or income inequality, all the things that plague us today.
BC: Do you hope to dive further into the history of horror with any further upcoming seasons?
ER: Absolutely. It's tough to narrow the subjects down to six, and then even more difficult to narrow down the movies. As long as there's horror in the world there will be horror movies and we can keep going. There are so many more I want to discuss, I have to cram as many as I can into every episode. Also, there are creators who want to do the show but are not available on our shoot dates or not in Los Angeles when we film, so I want to try and get them in.
BC: Is there an episode from the upcoming season that sticks with you the most? And why?
ER: Honestly I love them all. It's the project I'm most proud of. My favorite movies, with the creators talking about them, with really great scary clips. The podcasts go really deep, and the interview with Megan Fox, in particular, was spectacular. I had never met her and always wanted to discuss Jennifer's Body with her. To hear that that whole time of her life, when she was the most famous girl in the world, what that was like, how she channeled it into the character and why the performance is so iconic today, it was incredible. She really just opened up and let it all out, I'm very grateful she gave that to the show. I've never heard her discuss the pain and frustration of that time in her life in such detail and how she put it all into Jennifer. Also Bill Hader, Ari Aster, Andre Ovredall, Nancy Allen, Piper Laurie, and returning guests like Rob Zombie, Jordan Peele, Slash. So many amazing guests.
BC: What specifically excites you about the future of the horror genre? What do you hope to see in the future?
ER: More great movies from new creators. That's the beauty of horror, the entry-level is make a great scary movie. It doesn't have to cost a lot. Just when you think the genre is done it reinvents itself.
BC: Are there any projects you currently have in the works?
ER: Yes. I'm very excited about my film Fin. It's a documentary I've quietly been working on about shark finning. It will be the scariest film I've ever made because unfortunately, it's all real. But there's hope, I wanted to make a film that presents the problem but shows ways we can all help solve it. I'm just finishing the post-production on it now and hope to premiere it early 2021.
The first episode of the second season of Eli Roth's History of Horror premieres on AMC on October 10th at 10 pm (EST). This season looks to be promising some amazing interviews, discussions relevant to the way horror interacts with an audience and a great continuation of hosting by Roth.