I met the great horror directors at one of the ’Masters of Horror’ dinners that director Mick Garris throws. About five years ago he invited me to one, and I got to sit at the table with Don Coscarelli (“Phantasm”), Stuart Gordon (“Re-Animator”), Tobe Hooper (“Texas Chainsaw Massacre”), John Carpenter (“Halloween”), Wes Craven (“A Nightmare on Elm Street”), John Landis (“An American Werewolf in London”), Joe Dante (“The Howling”), Bill Malone (“House on Haunted Hill”), Joseph Zito (“The Prowler”), Armand Mastroianni (“He Knows You’re Alone”), Tom McGloughlin (“Friday the 13th Part VI”), Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth”), Mick Garris (“The Stand”), David Cronenberg (“Scanners”), Rob Zombie (who needs no introduction), and a bunch of other horror directors (it rotates from dinner to dinner.)
I invited Lucky McKee (“May”) and Richard Kelly (“Donnie Darko”) to go with me, and we just sat there and geeked out, asking all these great directors about the difficulties they had getting their visions to the screen intact. These dinners are what eventually spawned the Showtime series “Masters of Horror,” which Mike Garris created. The name started as a joke, and we’d say things like “The Masters of Horror demand more ketchup!”
The rule is you have to have directed a horror film in order to join the dinner. No one else is allowed. No journalists, no spouses, no guests. Horror directors only. As the dinners continued, I brought a few other people in, like James Wan and Darren Boussman, and even brought Quentin to a dinner, which was really fun. There’s a real bond between horror directors, because only we know what it’s like to put these ultra-violent movies out there and have the fans love them, and have press attack us.
I’ve always felt very strongly that cinema violence holds a mirror up to the culture and does not influence it, because all of these horrible things were happening long before movies were even invented. In fact, the most horrific tortures you can imagine are all on display in the Museums of Torture all over Europe. They have the actual tools, along with diagrams and graphic descriptions of how they worked. These tortures were invented by the church to extract confessions during the witch trials, which went on in Europe for over 250 years. Most people in America don’t know that. I grew up in Massachusetts, and all we heard about were the Salem witches. 19 people were burned as witches in Salem. 300,000 people were tortured to death for being witches over a period of 250 years in Europe, and it was all done through the church and the court system. So no matter what I think of or put in the movie, it’s already been done, and it’s been done far worse by religious leaders of the time (who later admitted that perhaps there were no such thing as witches, and it was all a mistake. Oops…).
Missed any of his daily entries? Click here for the “Eli Roth Diaries” archive.