Eli Roth's History of Horror

TV review by
Jenny Nixon, Common Sense Media
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This horror genre deep-dive can get pretty gory.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

It's a celebration of the horror genre, and some guests may surprise you with their thoughtful takes on the genre, but this isn't really something to watch and expect to feel uplifted.

Positive Role Models

The series doesn't go super deep on this, but there is some discussion of the way certain horror films examine themes like misogyny, race, and sexuality. A deeper exploration of these topics would be great, as would having a more diverse group of on-screen talent to analyze the genre.

Violence

Expect to see everything that goes bump in the night and then some. There's tons of gross, gruesome, blood-spattered violence and scenes of creepy killers, corpses, dead animals, and more. There's also behind-the-scenes footage and input from various special effects artists too, which may help alleviate some of the scariness for some viewers -- but definitely not all!

Sex

The occasional brief clip depicting sexual themes, often mixed with violence -- for example, in the discussion of the 1972 Wes Craven film Last House on the Left, which includes a notoriously horrible rape scene. (Not much is shown, thankfully.)

Language

Profanity consists of words like "hell," "damn," "bitch," "bastard."

Consumerism

This series airs on AMC, so one could argue that the extensive analysis of their smash hit series The Walking Dead is a bit self-serving -- but it has been such a cultural phenomenon that you couldn't really make a true "Zombie" episode without covering it.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Occasional depictions of adults smoking, drinking, and doing drugs. Sadistic killers huff gas and drug people so they can do disgusting experiments on them -- anything and everything is par for the course here, it's horror!

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Eli Roth's History of Horror contains sometimes-graphic clips and discussions centered around topics such as torture, serial killers, and demons that may be disturbing to younger or sensitive viewers. The guests are adults and definitely speak like it; occasional profanity includes "hell," "damn," "bitch," and "bastard." It's the blood-spattered scares that are of more concern here, at least for younger kids and those who frighten easily. If you wouldn't allow your kiddo to watch the movies discussed in this series, it's probably best for them to sit this one out.

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What's the story?

ELI ROTH'S HISTORY OF HORROR is an anthology series in which director (and sometimes actor) Eli Roth gathers a slew of filmmakers, writers, actors, and critics to discuss and dissect all things scary, focusing on film. These "talking heads" examine the socio-political themes that may or may not be present in these films -- like the shopping mall-set zombie flick Dawn of the Dead, said to be a pointed critique of consumer culture -- as well as the way horror has changed and grown over the years. Each episode covers a different topic such as Slashers, Vampires, Ghosts, and Haunted Houses, and dives right in with spooky footage from popular examples of each sub-genre as guests share their thoughts. Language can be salty and there's blood and gore galore, something to be aware of for young and/or squeamish viewers.

Is it any good?

Say what you will about Roth as a director, but the dude is definitely a horror fanatic and as such, makes an exuberant and knowledgeable host for a project like this. Eli Roth's History of Horror probably won't blow the minds of any hardcore genre buffs, as much of the trivia has been trotted out elsewhere before, but it's still pretty fun to see slasher film stalwarts like Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween) and Tony Todd (Candyman) crack wise and pontificate on the iconic roles that made them famous.

The fact that the series switches to a new topic each episode also helps keep things moving, and the discussions can be surprisingly thoughtful but are not so bogged down by theory as to become boring. The jump scares and creepy visuals help keep it popping, too. A more deliberate focus on underrepresented voices in the genre would be a welcome change-up as the series moves forward, so we're not just hearing Rob Zombie tell the same stories over and over again. Overall, this is a decent enough primer for the casual horror fan looking to delve a little deeper into how these films came to be and how they've evolved over the decades.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why people are drawn to scary movies. What is it that's so fun about being frightened?

  • Do you have a favorite horror movie? Do you think it has an underlying social theme, or is it just scary for its own sake?

  • How is violence, particularly graphic violent acts, used as a tool in telling horror stories? What effect does it have on a viewer? Does violent content ever deter you from watching something? Do you find it distracting or instrumental in telling a horror story?

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