The rise of Eli Roth in the film industry has been a peculiar one. He first struck gold as one of the pioneers of the torture-porn horror movement in 2006, with the release of his low-budget smash hits Cabin Fever and Hostel. Despite costing just $4.6 million to make, Hostel especially was an absolute hit at the box office, bringing in $80 million worldwide. It wasn’t long before he got the attention of his idol, Quentin Tarantino, and Roth’s career was launched.
Since then, his resumé hasn’t been what you’d expect from a universally-recognized name in Hollywood. He hasn’t gone on to write or direct a slew of successful movies in the wake of Hostel, and he certainly hasn’t been a part of the king-making factory that is Marvel Cinematic Universe. His influence has been far more subtle, working closely with Tarantino on multiple projects, while taking his love of the horror genre and parlaying that into producer credits left and right.
It’s easy to lose track of Roth’s subtly as a filmmaker when his most renown films are both horrifically violent and gory. Hostel and Hostel II both carry with them a dark comedic sense and biting social commentary, that gets lost in the shuffle of violence that times can be hard to watch. Read one interview with him, and it’s clear that beneath the surface, his creative ambitions extend far beyond grossing people out. In the same way Tarantino is obsessed with Spaghetti Westerns and classic Kung Fu movies, Roth is an avid fan of horror. And while we haven’t yet seen that executed to the extent Tarantino manages with his chosen fandom, we may finally get that with Roth’s next project.
It was recently announced that Roth would be taking on a project that previously was stuck in development for the last 20 years, simply titled Meg. The prehistoric shark thriller was originally slated for release through Disney in 1997, but it was beat to theaters by a similar movie in Deep Blue Sea. Since then, it’s been passed around from studio to studio, finally ending up in the lap of Warner Brothers. In the wake of Jurassic World shattering box office records, it’s no coincidence that it’s finally coming out development hell now.
Given Roth’s lack of blockbuster experience, many could ask why he’s being entrusted with what amounts to a potential studio tentpole. The answer to this lies in the director’s passion for the horror genre; Meg represents his chance at a Tarantino moment. Roth’s status as a horror buff makes him eminently qualified to take on a movie focused on a giant shark terrorizing innocent people. In many ways, the Kill Bill saga was Tarantino’s homage to his favorite films. Meg can act as the same, as the perfect vehicle for a Jaws parallel, mirroring one of the best monster movies ever made.
Despite his name recognition, Eli Roth has had yet to truly be given a chance to take on a massive studio project (something that could have been by his own choice). But with wealthy financiers and a solid idea, he now has a chance to let his passion for horror shine through on a massive scale. The only thing that remains is for him to seize the opportunity to translate this over to audiences on the back of a killer prehistoric shark. Seems easy enough.
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