Eli Roth has been documenting the making of "Hostel: Part II" with a series of diary entries for MTV. Last time Roth discussed the rules of the "Masters of Horror" dinners. Today he talks about the healthy competition between he and the other elite horror directors today.
Right now we're at an interesting time in American horror. 2003 was the year that R-rated horror returned with a vengeance, starting off with "House of 1000 Corpses," followed by "28 Days Later," then "Freddy vs. Jason," "Cabin Fever," and "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." The public was hungry for violent films, and in 2004 R-rated horror went even more mainstream, with hits like "Dawn of the Dead," and of course, "Saw."
The "Saw" phenomenon fired up all the studios to make grisly horror films, and there were many rip-offs that went into production, none of which captured what made "Saw" work so well. The guys who make "Saw" genuinely love these films, and like the other horror directors, are making films that we'd want to see. People in the industry also love to declare horror dead, which is completely ridiculous. I've been hearing that one for years. Horror isn't dead, crappy films are dead. If you make a bad film, people aren't going to see it, and if you make a great one that excites audiences and gives them an experience unlike anything they've ever had before, they'll come out in droves. Read More...
Eli Roth has been documenting the making of "Hostel: Part II" with a series of diary entries for MTV. Yesterday Roth talked about how he and his peers came to be known as "The Splat Pack." Today he discusses the rules of the "Masters of Horror" dinners.
I met the great horror directors at one of the 'Masters of Horror' dinners that director Mick Garris throws. About five years ago he invited me to one, and I got to sit at the table with Don Coscarelli ("Phantasm"), Stuart Gordon ("Re-Animator"), Tobe Hooper ("Texas Chainsaw Massacre"), John Carpenter ("Halloween"), Wes Craven ("A Nightmare on Elm Street"), John Landis ("An American Werewolf in London"), Joe Dante ("The Howling"), Bill Malone ("House on Haunted Hill"), Joseph Zito ("The Prowler"), Armand Mastroianni ("He Knows You're Alone"), Tom McGloughlin ("Friday the 13th Part VI"), Guillermo del Toro ("Pan's Labyrinth"), Mick Garris ("The Stand"), David Cronenberg ("Scanners"), Rob Zombie (who needs no introduction), and a bunch of other horror directors (it rotates from dinner to dinner.) Read More...
Eli Roth has been documenting the making of "Hostel: Part II" with a series of diary entries for MTV. Yesterday Roth talked about hearing the final sound mix for the film for the first time. Today he discusses how he and his peers came to be known as "The Splat Pack."
About a year ago, I read an article by the British film journalist Alan Jones, who referred to the current wave of new horror directors as "The Splat Pack." This group was myself, James Wan ("Saw"), Neil Marshall ("The Descent"), Alex Aja ("The Hills Have Eyes"), Darren Boussman ("Saw II"), Leigh Whannell (who wrote the first three "Saw" films) Greg McLean ("Wolf Creek"), and Rob Zombie.
Having met most of these guys, we all immediately learned that we had one thing in common: we love R-rated horror movies, and we felt that horror had gone soft, and we wanted to bring back the "hard" R. Everyone, in their own way, wanted to make the kinds of films they grew up on that they felt was missing in mainstream cinema today. Rob Zombie had been making "House of 1000 Corpses" while I was making "Cabin Fever," without any knowledge of each other's films. When I first met Rob, we talked about the horror films we grew up on and how we missed the visceral, grizzly, realistic horror films. We couldn't figure out why sex and nudity had evaporated from scary movies, and we talked about how horror fans want their horror movies horrific, not safe and PG-13. Not that there's anything wrong with PG-13, but that rating tends to best suit more supernatural movies like "The Grudge" and "The Sixth Sense," whereas the films we were making were more realistic, and more brutal. Read More...
Eli Roth has been documenting the making of "Hostel: Part II" with a series of diary entries for MTV. Yesterday he discussed his battles and unlikely friendship with the MPAA. Today Roth talks about hearing the final sound mix for the film for the first time.
Once the film's cut, we mix the sound, which is what I've been doing at the Alfred Hitchcock Stage at Universal Studios for the past two weeks. Our mixers, Chris Jenkins and Frankie Montano, are awesome, and just did "300," amongst other films. They're amazing. My sound guys -- Brian Best, Kami Asgar and Sean McCormack -- are doing all the sound design, continuing the work they did from the first "Hostel." I worked again with my composer Nathan Barr, who I have worked with since "Cabin Fever," and he did another brilliant, terrifying score.
I obsess over every sound detail, and have to hear every single branch crack, footstep, and knife stab in every scene before we mix it. If something doesn't sound right in my mind's ear it will drive me crazy, and Brian will go and search for the sound until he has it exactly. The simplest sound can make a scene scary, even when you never intended to have it there in the first place. We can add a door creak or a metal scrape to an empty room, and suddenly it feels more creepy. You can't really explain it, you just have to feel it. We just played back the film and listened to all the reels all mixed. It was horrifying. Some of the scenes sound so beautiful you could just lie there and listen to the music for hours, and other scenes are so horrific and painful you're certain the screams will give you nightmares. But seeing the film today I felt a great sense of inner peace. It was the first time I'd seen the film all together, with music and sound effects. Read More...
Eli Roth has been documenting the making of "Hostel: Part II" with a series of diary entries for MTV. Yesterday he discussed the music of his forthcoming film. Today Roth writes about his battles and unlikely friendship with the MPAA.
Contractually, for theatrical release I have to get an R-rating. This is not always easy, especially as the climate of the culture changes and parents groups get more and more upset about violence in films and on television. "Hostel Part II" is a more violent and scary film than the first "Hostel," and a lot of that has to do with the fact that this time it's happening to girls. It's just more horrific.
I was careful about how I used the violence, and really wanted to create an overall more terrifying film experience, and not just make a gore-fest. You can always make a film more gory by adding more tools and more bodies, but what I really wanted to do was create classic horror movie moments and make the entire film scary from start to finish. The problem is if your film's too intense, the MPAA will rate your film NC-17, which means that the studio won't release your film in theaters, except maybe a few art house cinemas. I cut the film for what would ultimately be an unrated DVD, but I was hoping to get as much of that violence as possible through the ratings board. Read More...
Eli Roth has been documenting the making of "Hostel: Part II" with a series of diary entries for MTV. Yesterday we delved into editing room lessons he learned from David Lynch. Today Roth writes about the process of scoring a movie.
Our day begins at 9:45 or 10. We talk about coffee, and then start cutting at 10:30. We break for lunch around 1:30 and come back at about 2:30. [My editor] George like to nap for 15 minutes after lunch, and I'll make some phone calls, and then we'll get back into it at about 2:45 or 3:00. We cut until about 7:00 or 7:30, and if we're really in a groove, we'll even go until 8:00 or 8:30. George goes home, and I stay in the editing room and start playing with music cues. I eat dinner from 8:30-8:45, and then music editing until about midnight, or 1:00 in the morning.
This goes on every day for months. I work weekends, just music editing. Music editing is where you try out different pieces of score in different scenes, just to give your composer an idea of what you want. Sometimes the songs in the film are the final songs, but most of the time my composer will write new score for those scenes. But one thing I learned very early on is that when you show other people scenes, even though it's rough, and even though you're in the editing room, those scenes had better be scary. And if you don't have the right music, a scene won't work. Imagine "Jaws" without that orchestral string music, or "Psycho" without those shrieking violins. They just wouldn't be the same. I used a lot of music from the first "Hostel," so the film would have the same feel, and supplemented it with tracks from "The Grudge" and "The Shining" if I couldn't find something from the "Hostel" score that worked. Read More...
Eli Roth has been documenting the making of "Hostel: Part II" with a series of diary entries for MTV. Yesterday Roth wrote about favorites perks of the backlot. Today he talks about the greatest editing room lessons he learned from none other than David Lynch.
Kubrick said that when he finished shooting and stepped in the editing room, from the moment he stepped in, he was no longer a director -- he was an editor. Nothing was precious -- it if didn't work, he left it on the cutting room floor. I have always tried to apply the same philosophy, and if something doesn't work, I have no problem losing it. Once you're done shooting, you start going through all your footage. I like to go through every take of every scene. [My editor] George will build a version of the scene, and we'll watch it, because it's good to see someone you trust's point of view of how the scene could work.
But editing a scene can make you insane -- there are literally millions of ways you can go. And there's only one that's right, and that's the one that feels right. And there are many times when you cut a scene so it works perfectly on its own, and when you put it between two other scenes, it feels wrong. Editing is like sculpting -- you just keep working the footage over and over, tweaking, cutting, changing, trying things, until it feels right. Read More...
Eli Roth has been documenting the making of "Hostel: Part II" with a series of diary entries for MTV. Yesterday Roth wrote about his secret weapon in the edit room. Today he talks about his favorite mode of transportation on the lot.
One of the other advantages to working with [editor] George Folsey Jr. is that he's always working, and has great contacts at every studio. Right before "Hostel: Part II," George cut a kids movie for Warner Bros. called "Unaccompanied Minors," so he had all his editing machines set up on the Warner lot. Instead of moving to a new place, Warner Bros. just let us stay in the editing rooms, since no one else was scheduled to move into those rooms for a few months.
Warner Bros. has a beautiful, beautiful lot, and every day that I go to work, it feels like something out of "Pee Wee's Big Adventure" or the beginning of "Ed Wood." I see directors like Chris Nolan and Zack Snyder around, and I'm editing next door to Wolfgang Petersen, who's editing his director's cut DVD of "Troy." (That's right, I get to share the same bathroom as Wolfgang Petersen. Kinda awesome. )
But the best thing about working on the Warner lot, by far, is that we have our own golf cart. I couldn't believe it when I first saw it. I mean, I have a thing for golf carts anyway, but to have my own golf cart on a movie lot...this was a dream come true. I ride around in that cart all the time. I have absolutely no idea what we could ever possibly use it for, except for giving tours to friends when they come to visit me in the editing room. I ride all over the lot, looking at the different shows and movies shooting, and usually wind up getting lost or stuck in a dead end somewhere around Joel Silver's company. There's a nice small-town America back-lot where I like to drive to, with fake stores and a fake school and everything. It's so cool. And somewhere in between the coffee drinking and golf cart rides, I have to edit the movie.
Missed any of his daily entries? Click here for the "Eli Roth Diaries" archive.
Eli Roth has been documenting the making of "Hostel: Part II" with a series of diary entries for MTV. Yesterday Roth introduced us to his editor. Today he reveals his secret weapon in the edit room.
The secret ingredient to a good editing room is the coffee. I never -- ever -- drank coffee before "Hostel: Part II." I just didn't like the taste. Even all those years I worked with David Lynch, I don't think I ever had so much as a single cup, and he's a coffee addict. But somewhere along the way living in Prague I got hooked on the European coffee. It's what got me through the exhaustion of the shoot. I had no idea that if you were tired you could drink coffee and it totally wakes you up (I'm a little slow when it comes to some things.)
By the time I got back to Los Angeles, I was craving the European coffee. Luckily, [the editor] George is a coffee afficionado, and has a beautiful 30-year-old Spanish espresso machine all set up in the editing room. He gets the beans from this place in Beverly Hills, and grinds them up fresh. When I get into the editing room, we usually spend about half an hour making coffee. We just grind up the beans and talk about terrible coffee drinking experiences we've had. By the end of the first week we've pretty much gone through all our stories, but we'll then talk about how great it is that we have the best coffee on the lot, and isn't it wonderful how we can drink all this coffee, and -- oh -- wait, we should probably edit. Then we got into the editing room and start to look at footage.
Missed any of his daily entries? Click here for the "Eli Roth Diaries" archive.
Eli Roth has been documenting the making of "Hostel: Part II" with a series of diary entries for MTV since March. Here he takes us into the edit room to meet a collaborator.
Once I finish shooting, I usually get sick. Very sick. I go through about three different prescriptions on average when I'm shooting -- and not for the fun kind of illnesses, I'm sorry to say. I get strep throat, sinus infections, chest infections -- it's kind of inevitable. As the director, you can't take a single day off, so you really have no time to recover, and you just have to ride it out and cough your way through it. After you've built up an immunity to your cast and crew, who you've been living, working, and eating with for months, your adrenaline carries you through the end of the shoot, and once you wrap, you just collapse. I usually take about a week off to rest and wind down while my editor assembles footage.
I work with a great editor named George Folsey, Jr., who edited great films like "Animal House," and produced such classics as "Trading Places," and "An American Werewolf in London." I like George because he's old school — he's in his mid-60's. I like working with someone who has far more experience than I do because those are the people you learn the most from, and they always have the best stories. George's son Ryan edited "Cabin Fever," and when Ryan was working on another film George stepped in and edited "Hostel." He literally went from editing "The Pink Panther" to editing "Hostel," which was so low-budget we actually got a free room because we edited in a back room in the "Pink Panther" suite. George also knows everyone in town, so he has tremendous contacts when it comes to setting up things like the sound mix, which is crucial to any movie, and especially a horror movie.
Missed Eli Roth's last few diary entries? Check out his last "Hostel: Part II" column here, and check back right here on the blog for upcoming daily installments.