Guru of gruesome Eli Roth has freaked you the freak out with nightmare-inducing flicks like Cabin Fever, Hostel and The Last Exorcism. And now he’s digging even deeper into the dark potential of the human mind with his documentary How Evil Are You? airing Sunday, October 30th at 9pm e/p on Discovery Channel. We chatted with the writer director about the show, then slept with the lights on for the next week.
The scary thing about this show is that it’s not something you made up. This is all real.
That’s right. The nature of the show is: does evil exist? Are people evil? We wanted to see if the Milgram experiments, which were done 50 years ago, still hold up today. In the experiment, test subjects were told by a professor to administer shocks to another person. They don’t know that the person is just an actor who is not really being shocked, but the idea was to see how far the test subjects would continue shocking another person because the professor, an authority figure, was telling them to do it. I have to tell you, it was one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever witnessed. An actor goes, “Please stop, I’m in pain, I’m in agony.” And the scientist just goes, “Please don’t stop, he experiences no harm please continue the experiment, the experiment requires you to continue.” And people did it, upping the voltage each time they were told right up to the end.
Do the test subjects freak out when they realize, oh my God, I just basically tortured someone at someone else’s request?
Most people find it a very positive experience because they say that they didn’t know they were capable of doing that. I was curious to know if the people who went all the way were into horror movies and violent video games, if that had any influence. But that wasn’t the case. One woman who went right up to the end was like, “No, I watch AMC Network, Food Network and Casablanca is my favorite movie. I never watch violent movies.” I asked her why she persisted in the experiment and she said, “Well, you know my father used to spank me and I’m very used to listening to authority.”
How did this show come about?
Discovery contacted me and asked if I wanted to host one of these curiosity shows. It was very flattering, they were like, “Well, we’ve got you and Stephen Hawking.” So I thought, I have to make my show and it has to be better than Stephen Hawking’s show! So we sat down and we started talking. My feeling is that evil doesn’t exist—it’s just your point of view. There are evil acts but a suicide bomber to one group is the devil and to another group is a hero so it’s really what side of the coin you’re on.
Let's let readers take a look at a preview of the show below, then we'll keep chatting.
Halloween is right around the corner. Besides this show, any recommended viewing?
I always go for the classic silent films around Halloween: Carl Theodore Dryer’s Vampyr, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Phantom of the Opera, Nosferatu. I love those, you can’t go wrong. Or there’s always Evil Dead.
What has been your take on the psychology of people who are into horror movies?
Horror movies explore things that are illogical and things that don’t happen in our world—things that might happen in the afterlife. I think that horror movies are a great way to explore that and discuss it in a safe way so you don’t sound crazy. And they’re a great release. There’s no place else in our society where we’re allowed to scream, except maybe sporting events, but we’re not allowed to be afraid.
Got anything else coming up we should be on the lookout for?
The Man with the Iron Fist. We don’t have the release date yet. That’s the movie I wrote with RZA: It’s a martial arts movie. RZA directed it and I produced it with Strike Entertainment. RZA stars in it with Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu, Bautista, Cung Le, and Jamie Chung. It’s this crazy fun period action fantasy martial arts movie with Wu-Tang music. It's insane.
Anything scenes you can describe to give us a taste of the world we're about to witness?RZA is the only word.
How Evil Are You? airs Sunday, October 30th at 9pm e/p on Discovery Channel.