Our friends at Truehorror.net, have an interview with Eli Roth on his new slasher film Thanksgiving, and have allowed us to post it. Check out Lisa Fremont’s interview below and also her review. The interview has a YouTube link and below it will be a transcript, if you prefer that. Go visit Truehorror.net for more great interviews and reviews.
Of the various faux movie trailers that played as a part of the Tarantino/Rodriguez film Grindhouse, Thanksgiving was the most memorable. Coming off of his success with Cabin Fever and Hostel, it seemed like a no brainer that writer/director Eli Roth would turn his faux holiday slasher trailer into a full feature length film. Well, patience is a virtue and sixteen years later that has finally become a reality.
As Thanksgiving opens in theaters on November 17, Eli Roth was gracious enough to answer some questions about his new film. Seated at an impressively ornate and beautiful table with a full Thanksgiving spread, Roth is every bit the enthusiastic film scholar you expect.
I’m sure you’ve answered this a thousand times, but what was the biggest difficulty taking it
from two and a half minutes to over one hundred minutes?
“Well, the biggest difficulty is when we made that fake trailer, we had no story. My best friend Jeff and I had come up with this idea when we were twelve years old. Growing up in Massachusetts where Thanksgiving is obviously a huge, huge deal, so every year there is the school play, you go to the local recreation, there’s two different recreation villages that you go to, one in Plymouth, and there’s the parade, but there was never a slasher film. So, when the trailer opportunity came up, we already had it. You know, Quentin and Robert said to me, “Do you want to do a fake trailer?” And I said, “Oh, I’ve got it. It’ll be Thanksgiving, we’ll do all the kills.” So, then we shoot those kills and afterwards, we’re like, “Great, we’re done, we don’t have to make the movie. We did the best parts.” Then the fans kept demanding it and we’re thinking, “How do we do this? There’s no story there. And then it was those Black Friday videos. Once we started seeing these trampling’s over the Christmas shopping, these viral videos of the kids going off and people crushing each other to get tv’s, waffle irons, iPhones or whatever it is, for us, that was really fertile ground for a horror film. Now we have our theme, we have our inciting incident, and we can start to structure the story.”
It is interesting how you were able to modernize it with the Black Friday sales and how that can kind of go into more deeper meaning of, people need a waffle iron for cheap because they’re not making enough money. The aesthetic is no longer 70’s/80’s slasher film like it was in the trailer: now it’s more polished and I was wondering if that was a conscious choice with the updating with social media and the story in today’s timeline.
“The intention was to always make a modern slasher film. Even when we were kids. When I saw Mute Witness, I go, “I want to make a movie that looks like that.” When I saw Scream for the first time in theaters, I thought, it’s such a beautiful looking film, I thought this is what I want to do. So, Grindhouse works because you are sandwiched in between Planet Terror and Death Proof and Don’t and Werewolf Women of the SS. It’s part of an overall aesthetic of that three and a half hour experience. When you take it out of that experience, for me, it didn’t work. I don’t need that outside of the Grindhouse experience. The intention was always to make a movie that looked like a modern slasher film. That’s why Milan Chadima, we shot Hostel, Hostel 2 and the Grindhouse trailer, we wanted it to look beautiful. We weren’t just watching horror movies, we watched Sorcerer, we watched Five Easy Pieces for the diner, we watched Diva, Beineix’s Betty Blue, Fellini’s Toby Dammit. Donato Rotunno photography, you know there’s a lot of color. Porky’s: it’s a beautiful looking high school film, so we shot it to look like that. Christmas Story: also Bob Clark, in addition to Black Christmas, so yeah, you had the influences of those horror films, but also, it’s gotta look like a demented holiday movie.
The Thanksgiving dinner should look beautiful and lush and rich and Peter Mihaichuk, my production designer Leslie Kavanagh, my costume designer, we wanted these colors. Like the shirt I’m wearing,(*He’s wearing the same bright, bold, red and gold button down that he has been favoring lately in a lot of his press. It’s very appropriate and looks great next to the bloody knife sticking out of the turkey.) all of it, everything ties together a mood, a feel, a rich feeling, it’s just, you have a bloody knife through the turkey. It’s perverting the holiday, which is what I saw the Black Friday Christmas sales happening, are perverting the holiday and now, you know we go right from Halloween to November 1 and my phone starts getting text messages about Black Friday sales. There’s no Thanksgiving anymore: we go from Halloween to Black Friday. So, it really is about how these sales, and you can say it’s greed, but you’re right, it really is because a very few at the top are keeping all the profits, everyone’s pay has been cut to shit and so people are forced to go into these gladiator games to get, you know, enough Christmas gifts for their kids, so all those layers of perversion and perversity of the holiday, to me, is rich, fertile ground for social commentary, satire and really a great horror film.”
The best thing about horror is that it’s always taking the pulse of today and putting it in a more consumable, if you will…
As somebody who saw the Thanksgiving trailer and it was my favorite faux trailer of that Grindhouse experience, I guess I was delighted and saddened to see that it wouldn’t’ be like Maniac or Pieces. It looks like the Thanksgiving trailer would go as a double feature with Pieces.
“Pieces is my favorite film of all time, so obviously, I have the vinyl of the Stelvio Cipriani music and I was temping it in the movie, so we looked at Mother’s Day, Pieces, The Prowler, Maniac, all of those things. Nightmare in a Damaged Brain, New York Ripper, any of those movies from that period. The one that stuck out was Fulci’s House by the Cemetery. It’s shot in Massachusetts, it’s got a bleak, beautiful, small town New England fall look that I love. The Prowler also has fall, east coast, small town sheriff, those were for sure, some of the influences along with Carpenter and Bob Clark, but I didn’t want it to be a joke. I love those movies, but those movies are of the time. Pieces starts with, where you have the shot of the house and the identifying title of where you are and what time period it is, so we do that, like the way the Prowler starts or the way Halloween starts, you know where it’s a POV shot and we’re saying where we are, so there are certain nods to those movies. They have a feel and a vibe, the way we shot, these beautiful lenses out of Japan that are brand new, but they’re using 80’s glass so there’s imperfections and soft focus and you know, the look of it, it’s beautiful but it still has a cinematic quality to it. But to me, as much as Grindhouse was really about fetishizing those films and trying to nail that aesthetic, I was like, ‘I’m making a movie for modern audiences, so you have a classic slasher feel to it, but you know, we’re incorporating viral videos and people being tagged in social media. You know, if there’s a tragic event, someone wants to film it for likes rather than stop for help, so they’re punished, so those are the themes I was dealing with and I felt like there was no need to make it look like those movies”
I appreciate that you put all of the social commentary and the modernism in it without it becoming heavy handed and a message.
“Yeah, I don’t want that. When I see Sleepaway Camp, I want to see a slasher movie, when I watch Dawn of the Dead, I want a horror movie. Blood stains your eyes; the first time, that’s all you see. I want the scare, the kill, but I also want something there, so if you want to go back for seconds, so to speak, and thirds and fourths, you can go, “Oh, that’s the theme.” I wanted a movie that kids could be writing thesis, high school papers on for a hundred years if they chose to.”
Thanksgiving is in theaters November 17.
Interview courtesy of Truehorror.net