If you can’t get out this weekend to see the latest Eli Roth slasher, Thanksgiving, it wouldn’t be a bad time to bone up on some of his other works. Roth was once the golden boy of horror. The 51-year-old director and producer kind of changed the game in the early 2000s by re-invented the splatter film eventually creating a genre of his own called “torture porn.”
Born in Newton, Massachusetts, Roth got behind the camera at an early age, shooting parodies or homages to horror movies popular at that time. Quentin Tarantino was a huge influence in Roth’s college years while attending NYU’s film school. He was even nominated for a Student Academy Award for Restaurant Dogs, a gritty homage to Tarantino.
Roth loves horror movies. His History of Horror docuseries is one of the best in-depth looks at the genre from its beginnings to its modern-day appeal. He is also a producer of many projects including The Last Exorcism I & II, The Sacrament (2013) and Aftershock (2012).
He hasn’t directed a mainstream movie in five years so it is exciting to see his name on a movie theatre marquee once again with Thanksgiving. His next project is a movie adaptation of the popular video game Borderlands which has seen more than its fair share of production woes. Due to his commitment to Thanksgiving Roth couldn’t do any Borderlands re-shoots, but gave his blessing to director Tim Miller (Deadpool) to take over.
Below are some great Eli Roth-directed movies to catch up on if you find yourself unable to make it to the theater for Thanksgiving. Most of them are underrated and deserve a second look because one thing Roth knows more than horror movies is the fans who love them just as much as he does.
Cabin Fever (2002)
What started it all. This film will literally get under your skin. It’s a standard horror narrative: friends decide to vacation in the woods, in a cabin, partying. What they don’t know is that they have been exposed to a virus which has devastating lethal effects. Since it’s a flesh-eating virus you know things are going to be icky, and they are. The leg-shaving scene alone is a graphic reminder of how Roth makes movies; suspenseful, moody, and extremely gory. Don’t get this mixed up with the inferior 2016 remake. You can watch this free on the Roku app (with commercials) or on Starz. You can also rent or buy it on all digital platforms.
You can’t mention Roth’s name among friends without saying Hostel. What Jaws did to swimmers, Hostel did for international travelers. Again a troupe of male teenagers gather to have some fun, but this time it’s in Slovakia. They are enamored by two young women who flirtatiously get them to spend the night at a hostel. It’s all bled and breakfast from there as each member of the friend group is dissected one-by-one by a cult of rich psychopaths. “Torture Porn” is born. You can watch this free on Roku, Amazon, Pluto, or Plex. Rent or buy it on all digital platforms.
Hostel: Part II (2007)
More of the same as above, but this time women are the marks. Although it never reaches the terrifying levels that its predecessor did, Hostel: Part II still packs a punch. Continuing with the “torture porn” theme a group of young ladies are vacationing in Europe when they are coerced into staying at the hostel. Each of their passports is used as auction lots with the highest bidder getting to dismember them. It’s disturbing but effective. Free on Roku, Freevee, Pluto, or Plex. Rent or buy it on all digital platforms.
Hostel: Part II
The Green Inferno (2015)
This one deserves a second chance. It’s Roth’s homage to the 70s found footage splatterfest Cannibal Holocaust. Although he doesn’t use the cinéma vérité technique like the original film, it’s no less a brutally realistic look at the savagery suffered by victims of an ancient cannibalistic Amazonian tribe. Rent or buy it on all digital platforms.
The Green Inferno
Death Wish (2018)
As we mourn the acting loss of Bruce Willis as he slowly succumbs to the effects of dementia in real life, we at least can remember him in his films. Death Wish isn’t one of Roth’s best movies, but Willis is outstanding as Paul Kersey who takes justice into his own hands after his wife and daughter are brutally attacked during a home invasion. Not as gruesome as some of his other films, Roth’s Death Wish definitely has its moments and deserves a watch based on Willis’ performance alone. It is a remake of the 1974 Charles Bronson film of the same name. Subscribers to DirectTV can watch for free or rent or buy it on all digital platforms
The House with a Clock in Its Walls (2018)
One of his more recent projects, The House with a Clock in Its Walls transitions Roth from R-rated adult content to a PG one. Starring Jack Black, this fantasy movie is a fun one. Using more CGI than practical effects, Roth loses a little bit of his horror cred, but this is still a wonderful Halloween movie the whole family can watch. Free on Fubo or FXNOW or rent or buy on all digital platforms.
The House with a Clock in Its Walls