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Quentin Tarantino and Eli Roth on how 2020 fed History of Horror Season 2

By Tara Bennett
Eli Roth's History of Horror

After Season 1 of Eli Roth's History of Horror gave fans a primer on the entire genre, Season 2 is kicking it up a notch by adding Academy Award-winning director Quentin Tarantino as a contributor to the AMC show. During PaleyFest NY 2020, the cinephile joined Roth to talk about their favorite genre, horror, and all its subgenres, along with a wide array of fellow fans like Bill Hader, Slash, Alexandra Billings, Ari Aster, and Laraine Newman.

Ostensibly, Roth and Tarantino paired up on the virtual panel to hype Season 2, but they mostly ended up taking a deep dive into their mutual passion for all things slasher and gore. Both admit it's their favorite horror subgenre. When it came time to make Season 2, Roth said he wanted to get hyper-specific about some transformational films and themes. "I also wanted to honor newer horror films to 'connect the dots' to the classics," Roth, who played Sgt. Donny Donowitz in Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, explained. "And no one does it better than Quentin Tarantino."

History of Horror at PaleyFest NY 2020

"Quentin was, for me, the sommelier," Roth said about Tarantino's influence on him as he was learning about film and horror. "I would read what his influences were and find them. He used to do the QT Fest, and he would always ask the audience to judge [a film] for what it was trying to do." Roth said he now tries to do that with History of Horror.

Both admitted it's been a surreal year for everyone, including them. Asked how they've coped living in a real, global horror story, Tarantino joked, "I never thought I'd be living in a year written by Michael Crichton. It's The Andromeda Strain, but we’re living through the PG version. God forbid, this was a disease where you are puking your guts out!"

Roth said he's escaped by filling in the blind spots of his cinematic experience by watching a lot of The Criterion Channel, and by going back to his horror comfort films. "I’ve gone crazy watching movies, going into Green Inferno and then Death Wish. Deadly Manor or Deadly New Year are how I go to my happy place to escape. I finally saw The Wailing and I loved it."

While their panel conversation and the series dove into a lot of old-school classics, including a focus on directors like Brian De Palma and his seminal classic adaptation of Carrie, the pair were also asked about the overall health of horror right now.

Roth is enthusiastic about how important the genre is for studios, citing one of the last mainstream hits released right before the pandemic lockdown, Leigh Wannell’s The Invisible Man. "Horror has the respect of the studios, and it's getting big releases," he assessed. "And there are so many horror TV shows, starting with The Walking Dead. Every channel has their horror series, like Lovecraft Country. And we certainly have enough to be terrified about for the next 20 years. Horror reinvents itself with the times."

Tarantino added that even as horror continues to evolve, it will never be as scary as real life to him. "I remember as a kid watching the local station at midnight, and there was a police newswatch with these wanted criminals, and they would describe the horrible crimes. I'm like 5 or 6, so for the rest of the night that guy was bursting into my house," he laughed with mock fear. "There was nothing scarier than that. Nothing scripted or dramatic is terrifying. I came of age during New Hollywood. I saw everything, and [my parents] didn’t care. My mom said: 'I’m more worried about you watching the news. It’s a movie. It’s not real!'"

New episodes of Eli Roth's History of Horror air on AMC on Saturday nights.