An interview with Gabriel, brother of Cabin Fever and Hostel director Eli Roth

Growing up with a love of Horror movies, it is no surprise that these brothers would end up working together in the genre.
Gabe’s collaboration with Eli has led to him producing, directing, shooting and editing behind the scenes documentation for both
Cabin Fever and Hostel (as well as portraying small roles in both films).
In addition to producing Eli’s fake trailer
Thanksgiving for Tarantino & Rodriguez’s Grindhouse, on Hostel Part II Gabe acted as associate producer, as well as second unit director involving many of the intense FX sequences.

For someone venturing into motion pictures, a good foundation is a must, and when it comes to Horror, it’s never really as convincing unless the filmmakers involved are truly into the genre and understands its intricacies.
“Our parents pretty much gave us free reign to watch whatever we wanted, but they watched it with us.”
These naturally include some of the all time classics.
“We’d watch everything - I saw The Exorcist at around 3 years old, but I only really appreciated it much later when I was older. When video really got big we’d be exposed to much more stuff like Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Pieces. Eli, myself and the family would watch all these movies.”

And those films definitely had an impact.
”With the Thanksgiving trailer for Grindhouse we wanted it to have that feeling of Maniac (the classic directed by William Lustig, starring Joe Spinell and featuring brilliant Tom Savini FX). “
“Kids today are very lucky – on DVD they can rediscover all these cool movies,” but within reason…
“I feel age restrictions are important. These movies are not for everyone and you need a measure of maturity. We were lucky that we could watch these movies with our parents. Some 13 year olds can understand these films while many can’t. Parental judgment is definitely important.”

When it comes to the craft of filmmaking, different people prefer different aspect of it.
”Interestingly I love the production and post-production process, not the pre-production. To me it is an overwhelming headache. I’m excited when we’re in production where I can dive into the moment.”
And when it’s all in the can, the fun isn’t over.
“In post-production you can sit back and reflect, and have an influence over the outcome. It’s a great process.”

In recent years the torture horror genre has experienced a resurgence, to the extent that it may have lost its impact. But, the Roths were at the crest of that bloody wave.
”Eli definitely played a big role in its revival. In a big way it is influenced by directors like Takashi Miike (who had a cameo in the first Hostel), and a homage to many of the Italian movies we love. It’s a look back across three generations – like punk rock, with new bands honoring The Ramones.”

Trends, fads and themes may come and go, but Horror is here to stay, and a great learning ground for new directors (as with South African born Jonathan Libesman who made Darkness Falls and Texas Chainsaw Massacre The Beginning).
”Horror movies will never go away – it’s a great thing. As with any film, you get good and bad ones. Many directors started out in the genre, even Steven Spielberg with Jaws.”

But the genre may be in danger of cannibalizing itself, unless it gets a steady injection of “fresh ideas to keep things interesting. Things get recycled a lot. In Eli’s case the movies are developed and made with a refined style.”

What many viewers forget is that Horror movies are not just a case of squirting blood and pointing the camera with important components not to be neglected, including “a good script naturally, a visionary director, and all aspects of mood.”
And the seemingly easy route with remakes isn’t always feasible: “It really depends – there is room for remakes. John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) was great. Some are just remade for no reason – it’s fine if it stays true to the material or adds a twist.”

While the first Hostel had many people sit up and take notice, Part II drew some serious criticism, much in the vein of condemning it as Horror Porn. “Many reviewers simply shot it down quickly. But one of the coolest advocates for Hostel Part II was Stephen King who defended it in the L.A. Times. Eli was really touched by that.

When it comes to movie taste, Gabriel’s is a broad one.
”I respond to many different things. I mean, I love the new Harry Potter movie, I think it’s a great kids’ horror movie. It has some interesting characters. You watch the movie and you forget about everything. I think that is what Hostel does.”

Having grown up with Eli and worked closely with him on his movies, Gabe knows his brother better than most, and he’s no bloodthirsty madman.
”Eli is very sensitive to everything around him. It’s like he has an antenna on his head – he’s quite impassioned in his responses. He has very strong opinions on everything. He’s sensitive to the world around him, and when writing a movie things that bother him make its way into the script. He’s a great storyteller and is capable of drawing verbal pictures.”
And these observations have a lot to do with the nature of exploitation: ”In many ways the USA treats people badly,” and that metaphor is very strong in the Hostel films on how the world views Americans.

Working so closely together, one would expect the brothers to knock heads at some time, but their vision is a common goal.
” We have the same interests. In the case of Hostel, that’s his baby, and I was there to support and help him. We lived together during the making of it and talked through all the shots, making sure there is no miscommunication.”

And on a shoot with so many brutal scenes, the severity often bled onto the set of Hostel Part II.
“The two days with Heather Matarazzo hanging upside was intense! She never complained once, naked covered with blood – she’s the model of professionalism. Months ahead she did yoga training to prepare for it, and at times was hanging upside for 5-6 minutes at a time, sometimes up to ten minutes straight. It was pretty intense.”

Next on the cards: “We’re talking about Trailer Trash, something along the lines of the Thanksgiving trailer. We’ve been going 2 ½ years non-stop with Hostel and we’re quite happy going on vacation!”

- Paul Blom