Eli Roth dives into the horror genre’s rich past in his AMC docuseries “Eli Roth’s History of Horror.”
Roth executive produces and hosts the series, currently its second season (Saturdays at 10 p.m.) It features interviews with titans of the genre such as Stephen King and Jordan Peele — along with examinations of popular tropes in classic creepy movies (haunted houses, witches, etc.)
Roth, 48, best known for his starring role in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds,” also wrote and directed the 2005 box office hit “Hostel” and its sequel, and executive-produced the spooky Netflix series “Hemlock Grove.” He spoke to The Post about “History of Horror” and more.
What’s your history with horror, and how did that lead to this show?
I grew up in the video boom of the ‘80s, completely horror-obsessed. In the ‘70s I couldn’t see those movies, and cable TV didn’t exist yet, so the only way to experience them was to hear some kid’s older brother describe the movie to you. Then in ‘82 [or] ‘83 VCRs became widely available and the video stores opened and I basically lived there until I graduated high school. I loved coming up with special effects and figuring out how to shoot a death scene, which I would do on weekends with my brothers and friends.
I started shooting movies when I was 8, with Super-8 [and] then VHS. It was a natural progression from there. Horror has always been the black sheep of the film genre. And nobody has ever really catalogued the genre in a way that put the movie into a historical perspective and showed what they were really about. I always say the blood stains your eyes, but once you get past that, you can see incredible technique, style, skill, performances.
You’ve met many giants of the genre. Is there anyone you particularly enjoyed working with?
Mick Garris invited me to a “Masters of Horror” dinner after “Cabin Fever” made its festival premiere. I went there and had dinner with Tobe Hooper, Wes Craven, Don Coscarelli, [John] Carpenter. It was my Fangoria collection come to life. And they were all so nice, so funny, so humble, so complimentary. And sadly they started dying, which was another reason I wanted to make the show. When we lose them, the stories go with them, and they’re truly connected to another time.
Do you pick each episode’s topic based on your personal interests?
I always approach it from, “How can I get my weird obscure movies into the show and have the network think it’s a great idea?” Like if I say, hey, let’s do “The Wicker Man” (1973), “Pieces” (1982) and “Cannibal Holocaust” (1980) they’ll look at me like I’m nuts, because those aren’t the most mainstream films for American fans…But I want people to see them and I know the fans would love them. So by mixing in modern “unclassifiable” films like “Us” and “Midsommar,” and putting them under the “Nine Nightmares,” we get away with it.
The other topics, I just love. I’m a big fan of killer kid movies, they’re so insane and transgressive, even the low-budget grade Z ones like “The Children.”
You act, write, host, direct and produce. Do you have a preference?
I love directing. But mainly when I direct I want to have written it, or rewritten it. Acting is fun but only if a friend is behind the camera. Directing is my true passion. But I do love being on camera in the documentary setting talking about what I love, like horror films and sharks. I’m very excited for everyone to see my documentary about shark finning, “Fin,” which I’m almost done with. I’ve secretly been making it for the past three years. It’s probably my scariest film to date because it’s real.
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