If you are looking to be scared, Eli Roth, the multi-talented director/producer/writer/actor, is a good person to go to. His breakout movie Cabin Fever and his juggernaut Hostel films broke records (and surely streaks of restful nights). So when he put is stamp on The Stranger, we had to ask him what drew him to the script and what’s currently on his must-watch list.
What drew you to this film?
I loved Guillermo Amoedo’s take on the vampire subgenre, which is to say that we never explicitly say in any way it’s a vampire film, because at its core, it’s not. It’s a condition, it’s a plague, it’s a curse, but it’s not people with fangs who live at night. I also loved the mood of the movie, the quiet tone, the isolation of this town. We shot it near the end of the world. It looks spectacular. Guillermo’s an artist—he really shot a beautiful looking, haunting, creepy, elegant film.
What can you tell us about the plot (without giving too much away)?
A stranger comes to town to look for an old friend. He’s trying to remain out of the way and low key but is attacked, which starts a chain reaction of events that slowly unravel everything and everyone around him.
What are some of your other favorite horror movies and shows out recently? What do you recommend fans shouldn’t miss?
I loved It Follows. It was so smart, so simple, and very, very scary. The performances are amazing. It’s a great idea, really thought through all the way to the end. I also loved The Babdook—the performances in that film were incredible. About the scariest first 45 minutes I’ve seen in a horror film in a long time.
It seems like slow-burn horror movies are having a resurgence. What in the genre is really impressing you?
I think the a lot of the best horror has moved to television, where you really get time to build up the characters and care what happens to them. Back when I made Cabin Fever, people told me the film wouldn’t work because the buildup was too long—same with Hostel. I find it’s always better to invest the audience in your characters, otherwise you just have a body count film. Once the scare wears off, which it inevitably does, you need to have something for audiences to return to when they watch the film in subsequent years. That’s where the character moments and dialogue really rise to the surface. Audiences are patient, they love good characters and tension. They don’t need to be hit over the head every five minutes with a jump scare. Trust in your movie and the audience will trust in you.
Horror is finding a place on TV more and more. How do you think the genre works in that storytelling setting?
Some stories just can’t be told in 90 minutes. It’s not about who lives or dies, it’s about taking a terrible circumstance like a plague and seeing how it affects all aspects of life. You can explore the subject in a way you never could in a two-hour film. Plus with cable, people can now be far more permissive with the violence in a way they never could before. And people like Ryan Murphy have cracked a brilliant way to kill your characters, which is to kill them and bring them back in a new setting each season.
What projects do you have coming up that you can tell us about?
The Green Inferno is finally coming to theaters September 25th from Universal Pictures and Jason Blum—I’m so thrilled about that. The release was delayed an entire year, but the team at Blumhouse Tilt and Universal managed to save the release. Also Knock Knock is opening internationally this summer and here in the fall. It’s a thriller starring Keanu Reeves, Lorenza Izzo and Ana De Armas. It’s wild and fun.
Don’t miss Guillermo Amoedo’s The Stranger premiering in theaters and On Demand, June 12.