When a film gets the Eli Roth stamp of approval, it is likely to draw notice.
That’s the case with Guillermo Amoedo’s supernatural thriller “The Stranger,” which is opening in theaters and On Demand on June 12 under the banner “Eli Roth Presents ‘The Stranger.'” If you’re looking for an On Demand title, the Roth imprimatur is likely to pique your interest, which Amoedo appreciates.
“I think that having Eli’s name attached gives the film a lot of visibility, because there are so many horror films now out there,” Amoedo told Indiewire. “It may help the film to have more visibility and bigger distribution, but then the audience has to decide.”
Produced through Roth and his Santiago-based partner Nicolas Lopez’ Chilewood and executive produced by Cassian Elwes, “Eli Roth Presents ‘The Stranger'” premiered at 2014 Fantastic Fest before being picked up by IFC Midnight. The film tells the story of a mysterious stranger who arrives in a small Canadian town and plunges the community into a bloodbath.
As co-writer of “Knock Knock,” “Green Inferno” and “Aftershock,” Amoedo had previously collaborated with Roth. “The Stranger” marks his directorial debut. “It all ties together: ‘The Stranger,’ ‘Knock Knock,’ ‘Green Inferno,’ it’s all part of the canon, all of the films we’ve been creating,” Roth told Indiewire recently.
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Roth explained the financial model for Chilewood, a production company in which Spanish-language films made through Lopez’s Sobras International Pictures and English-language titles in association with Roth, are produced in Chile for under $10 million. “The idea was finding a new spot to make genre movies where you can do it at a price where they still are high quality, and export them for the world,” explained Roth, who added that Chile is a great double for many other locations in the world. In the case of “The Stranger,” it stood in for the Pacific Northwest.
Even before they began working together, Amoeda said he was a fan of Roth’s work. “I had seen both ‘Hostel’ films and really loved them,” said Amoeda. “I really liked the way he wrote and directed the Hostel’ films.”
If anything, Amoeda felt that Roth’s work was misunderstood. “I thought [his films] were under-appreciated because sometimes they are talked about like ‘torture porn’ and you have this kind of image like you will just watch the characters being tortured for an hour and a half,” he said. “But when I saw the films, it’s much more than that. There’s violence in his films and you can’t deny that it’s a horror film, but he also works in a lot of character development and he knows how to tell stories. It’s not just torture and blood and violence, it’s much more than that.”
Roth said he helped Amoeda in the post-production stage of “The Stranger.” “I really was there to help them aid in post production much in the way I was in ‘The Last Exorcism: Part II’ or ‘Man with the Iron Fists,’ where I can really look at the cut and the edits and really help them get the tension right. I think that’s where my strength is,” said Roth.
According to Roth, Amoeda “really wanted to make a very creepy, slow-burn horror movie,” but Roth said, “it’s much more of a quiet moody film.”
Below are more highlights from our conversation with Roth:
What impresses you about Amoeda’s work on “The Stranger”?
I think he has a fantastic, fantastic eye and he really got that dark quiet mood, and the loneliness and the isolation of this town. It’s a terrific film and I wanted to come out and support him. I think anytime someone wants to create their own energy, when they have an idea and they can really execute it and do a really good job within the confines of what they’re given, those are the people that I really want to support. I thought he did a great job. We did the movie for such a low budget and it doesn’t look or feel it. It looks beautiful.
There’s been a new wave of indie genre films that are getting critical notices, which is not always the case for genre films. Is the perception of horror changing?
I definitely feel that we’re hitting a wave where you have really intelligent filmmakers with critics that really get it and appreciate and love genre. The people who are writing the movie reviews now grew up on this stuff, so they don’t see genre as garbage, they’re rating them as a horror movie. They’re not putting it up against “The Imitation Game” or “The King’s Speech” or a film that has a much bigger budget going, “What was the filmmaker trying to achieve?”
They’re trying to achieve a scary movie, and it is smart and it is creative. In mainstream cinema I think that you’re seeing the most interesting and original cinema coming out of genre movies now. Because what’s happened now on the studio level is that studios — and I’ve been told this over and over in meetings — studios want to do remakes or proven intellectual properties because it’s less of a risk. They’d rather make a remake that’s not as good of a movie because if it fails they won’t get fired. But if they take a chance on a huge budget original movie, someone’s going to be accountable for that. So what you’re seeing is that that originality, those original stories like “It Follows” and the “The Babadook,” are coming in from these million-dollar horror movies.
So that’s the space where you can still be original and take chances. If you make a movie that’s smart and well thought-out, people will be forgiving. Nobody cares that the first “Paranormal Activity” was shot for $15,000 because it was just so creative and it was compelling. It was a haunted house story in a way we’ve never seen it before.
It’s great that we have critics that aren’t automatically assuming that it’s a bad movie because it’s a horror movie or a genre movie. They realize that there’s very smart filmmakers making these films. It’s a great way to break into the industry, but it’s also — the critics are starving for new movies.
Are you actively looking for new talent, in Chile in particular?
Absolutely. Nicolás López and Miguel Asensio are there in Chile, and they know the filmmakers. Like Ernesto Díaz, who edited “Green Inferno,” is making films. There are a lot of new directors that are breaking out, and what I’ve been able to do is start this digital network Crypt TV here in the US, with Jack Davis and we’re strategic partners with Jason Blum, where we’re finding new filmmakers and putting out short digital content. But we’ve found a wealth of filmmakers that want to break into the industry that have made amazing short films they want to grow into larger movies, that they want to grow into bigger films and get noticed. So there’s a whole new way of doing it.