I am a big believer in the value of looking intellectually at things that are considered too “low brow” to find the value in. But horror movies have always reflected the times in which they were made, and they can tell us a lot about our culture, our fears, and our psychology. Just like analyzing anything in popular culture, horror movies have more to say than just Have you checked the children? Or rather, they are saying more in this statement than you might think.
Director Eli Roth, a fixture in the modern horror world, has decided to take a deeper look into just what we’re talking about here. He is the man responsible for one of my all time favorite horror movies, Cabin Fever, an underrated comedic gem within the genre. He is most famous for creating the Hostel franchise which came on the heels of Saw and represented a gorier alternative to the classic slasher. In fact, Roth is part of what journalists have labeled the “Splat Pack,” a group of filmmakers known for creating horror with a low-budget and a LOT of graphic violence. Not my favorite, but I can’t deny its influence.
AMC is producing the six-episode-series as part of their “Visionaries” series:
“Featuring A-list storytellers like Stephen King, Quentin Tarantino, Jordan Peele, Jason Blum, Robert Englund, Linda Blair, Tippi Hedren, Rob Zombie, Haley Joel Osment, Jack Black, John Landis, Jamie Lee Curtis and more, Eli Roth’s History of Horror brings together the masters of horror – icons and stars who define the genre – to explore its biggest themes and reveal the inspirations and struggles behind its past and present.”
Hearing Stephen King, Jordan Peele, Zob Zombie, and Jamie Lee Curtis talking about their horror projects all in one place? Be still my screaming heart.
Roth had this to say about his newest project:
“I’m thrilled to be part of this incredible series. For years, I’ve wanted to create a definitive ‘History of Horror,’ a living record of the genre with interviews from all the greats, old and new. Sadly, we lose more of these masters every year and with them go their stories and experiences. This show will serve as a record for future generations — fans and filmmakers alike — to enjoy. I could not be prouder to create this with AMC.”
It’s about time we had a series like this, and Roth is right. With the loss of George A. Romero, as well as Wes Craven, one of my all-time favorite directors, we need a deeper look at these legacies, and we need to hear about the work from the folks who created it before they can no longer speak for themselves.
I’m always one for a good debate horror movies. Personally, I am a die hard teen and college slasher fan. Give me 90s classics like Scream, Urban Legend, and The Faculty. I love a little bit of camp with my horror, with the nice relief of cheesiness. I like to laugh along with the melodrama of horror, and I LOVE a good party scene that comes just before the killing starts. Other folks love the 80s slashers, or paranormal mysteries, or classic monster flicks, or cinematic powerhouses like of The Witch or It Follows or Hereditary. Then there’s the films that go ahead and say what our culture needs to vent, films like the incredible Get Out. Oh, and I do love a found footage film (looking at you Blair Witch Project).
With so many subgenres to choose from, there’s bound to be disagreements about what horror matters most, what doesn’t, what is good, and what is bad. and what is just plain stupid: “Horror fans, the only thing they love more than horror movies is fighting about horror movies,” Roth said.
I’m a nerd in more ways than one. There is really nothing I love more than a good cultural analysis. I find it endlessly fascinating to think about almost anything this way, to break it down to its elements and ask why. I always wonder, “What does this say about our country, our citizens, our hopes and fears, our changing political landscape?” It seems like Eli Roth is trying to do just that with his History of Horror. “Each one-hour episode will take viewers on a chilling exploration of how horror has evolved through the eras and impacted society, as well as why loyal fans remain addicted to fear,” Roth said.
"Horror gives us the opportunity to discuss the undiscussable," said Roth. He believes the Walking Dead to be an allegory for the economic crisis in 2008. "The Walking Dead hit, and it was heavily tied to the mortgage meltdown about displacement. I feel like maybe in two or three years [horror] will reflect the political divide, and it might not be exactly about that, but horror taps into the subconscious fears of the time."
Eli Roth’s History of Horror will begin October 14th at midnight ET/PT, just in time for Halloween.