The very mention of Eli Roth’s name is enough to make some critics and cinephiles see red. The 43-year-old writer, director, and occasional actor invented neither torture nor porn, obviously, but the term “torture porn” was inspired by one of his movies, and for many, Roth is the smug, sleazy poster boy for everything wrong with modern horror films, i.e., misogyny, sadism, nihilism, xenophobia, etc. The last couple of months have been especially Roth-heavy, with the near simultaneous releases of Knock Knock and the long-delayed The Green Inferno, both of which garnered the kind of scolding, dismayed reviews previously earned by such Roth efforts as Hostel and Cabin Fever. Now, in an intriguing think-piece called “This Director Has Become The Biggest Troll In Moviemaking,” BuzzFeed’s Alison Willmore has noticed a strange connecting thread between the two new Roth films:
Both persistently, persuasively angle to make you angry. They’re bad faith arguments expanded to feature length and served up with a you mad, bro? smirk. Roth, having reached the limits of splatter as a way to provoke, seems to have settled on something new: trolling.
Significantly, both Knock Knock and The Green Inferno claim to take on significant social and political issues, but they do so in a way that seems specifically designed to infuriate viewers, almost as if righteous indignation rather than fear had been the reaction Roth was trying to elicit from his audience all along. Roth has called Knock Knock a feminist film, for instance, but Willmore contends “that’s true only if feminism is considered interchangeable with misandry, infidelity is equated to sexual abuse, and victimization is treated as a weapon.” The Green Inferno, meanwhile, is Roth’s statement about so-called “social justice warriors,” but Willmore points out that he goes to outlandish extremes, including the creation of an “invented, lurid caricature” of a fictional tribe, to tell his story. Willmore’s article argues that these seeming deficiencies may be deliberate ploys by “canny filmmaker” Roth in his relentless quest to provoke his audience.