August 27th is going to be quite an interesting day in the horror world when Lionsgate’s releases their PG-13 horror The Last Exorcism (review), which had its world premiere last night at the LAFF. BC was on hand and had a brief chance to chat with director-turned-producer Eli Roth about the possession flick, his role as producer, and about his forthcoming projects. Last Exorcism is gonna spin some heads. I personally can’t wait to hear the chatter in the Bloody Disgusting community.
Bloody Disgusting: Talk about the difference between producing and directing.
Eli Roth: Obviously, as a producer, I feel like my role is to really support the director. Daniel had done an amazing film called A Necessary Death, that we saw and loved, but this is a different level of film for him, you know? So I wanted to stay out of his way, and just step in when he needed my help, and really be there as a resource for him. So I could pull in the KNB EFX guys, or Nathan Barr who has composed all of my films, or help him with the sound design, really just kind of the very specific horror elements, and just help him where he needs it. It was a great process, it was a lot of fun for me, and Daniel did an amazing job with the film. He’s really into Lars Von Trier, that’s his favorite director, and I obviously love Lucio Fulci, so he really brings the right sensibility for this story, and he really got these creepy, disturbing, subtle moments, and made a very compelling film.
Obviously we got the PG-13 rating, and there’s that instant reaction that horror fans have, that whenever you see a pg13 and you kind of sigh: `There’s not going to be any good stuff in it’. But when we shot this movie we weren’t shooting with a rating in mind, it was just `This will probably be R, let’s just make the scariest movie we can’. But you know, having seen the way that R has gotten, and PG-13 has as well, and you start seeing 1408, Cloverfield, going back to The Ring and The Grudge, there’s a lot more violence that’s permissible in a PG-13 film. And it was kind of in the editing, I realized `God, there’s not a lot of swears, it’s not really a gory film…’. It’s more freaky, psychological, more like Ring or The Grudge. So we’re like, `We’ll see what they say, but we really could get a PG-13′, which we got, so we took it. And it obviously gives us a lot more latitude in the advertising, but I think that a lot of scary movies have worked in PG-13, and I think if you’re going to make an R movie, then you should really take advantage of the rating. If this was R people would be like `Oh I thought it would be gorier’. But with a PG-13, people will go `Wow that was scary!’, so it does feel like the right rating. When you see Piranha 3D – THAT’S an R rating! It’s incredible, pure carnage and blood, and if you want that, that movie certainly satisfies that. But that’s not what this movie is, it’s a very different type of horror film. The two are different ends of the horror spectrum, but I think they’re both films that fans are going to love.
Bloody Disgusting: Going back to the rating, did you have to hide your name, they have to be looking out for you…
Eli Roth: We talked about that: `Should we hide the fact that I’m involved?’. But I actually have a great relationship with the ratings board, they know me very well. I know the Hostels got a lot of complaints; you know, Surfs Up isn’t going to get complaints, my movies are! But they get it, they’re very easy to work with. Their job isn’t censorship, their job is to warn parents what’s in the movie. I remember the first phone call, when they sent them the movie 0 it was Joan Graves, the head of the MPAA! It’s sort of like the principal calling you in. and I thought `Oh man, instantly they went right to the top!’, but we had a great conversation right from the start, and they were great, they said this was PG-13. And you know, Lionsgate was really cool, they said `We don’t want to cut the teeth off this film; if they ask us to make cuts we’ll go R’. And they didn’t, the ratings board was totally reasonable. They saw how we photographed certain things and they helped us keep the movie intact.
Bloody Disgusting: OK so last question – last year was all about the acting, this year it’s producing… when are we going to see you directing again?
Eli Roth: I gotta finish my script, I love directing the stuff I write. Basterds took all my time and then Last Exorcism took up a lot of my time, so that’s really where I’ve been for the last year. But I’ll be back to writing in July, the movie comes out in August, and then I’ll be casting and looking to shoot in September or October.
The Last Exorcism arrives in theaters August 27.