Director Eli Roth tells Mike Davies about his horror hotel where guests check out permanently...
Five years ago, having raised money from private investors and family, 27-year-old filmmaker, animator and sometime "untalented stand-in" (according to Martin Brest who fired him from Meet Joe Black) Eli Roth started filming Cabin Fever, the $1.5m horror movie that would, two years later, become his feature debut as writer-director.
A homage to the genre's gory glory days of the 70s and 80s, it would go on to take some $21m in the US and over #2m in the UK.
Understandably Roth, the son of world renowned psychiatrist Sheldon Roth, was suddenly not only the golden boy of horror but the director every studio wanted for their next project.
Roth, however, was not impressed with the scripts and offers that landed on his desk.
He doesn't like to mention specific titles for these "depressingly bad" movies, but he does cough something that sounds like House of Wax and sneezes what might well be Dukes of Hazzard.
What he did have simmering on the back burner however was a story new best buddy Quentin Tarantino enthusiastically described as "the sickest idea I've ever heard."
Far from the 'safe' watered down horror movies the studios wanted to churn out for the teenage market, this would be much more in keeping with Roth's love of things like Cannibal Holocaust or Pasolini's Salo, more in tune with the genuinely horrific but psychologically complex work coming out of Japan and Korea.
Something that would allow an outlet for audiences to scream and exorcise the terror he believes has been backing up in the system in the wake of Bush's foreign policy.
Roth's idea was Hostel, a story about how a couple of Americans go to Amsterdam for sex and, lured by promises of even more extreme action, wind up in Eastern Europe, victims of a snuff factory where the bored rich pay to satisfy their most murderous desires and fantasies.
Just as Cabin Fever was inspired by personal experience of a nasty skin disease and an article about a flesh-eating virus, so too was Hostel apparently grounded in real life.
"I'd found this website that was offering a trip to Thailand where, for $10,000, you could walk into a room and shoot someone in the head," the ever voluble Roth enthuses.
"They claimed the victims were volunteers and the money would go to help their family, while you got to experience the rush of taking a life. I thought this would make a hell of a documentary if it was real. But you had to give your credit card details. I thought, 'if this is a scam then they have my credit card...and if it's real, and it does exist, then they have my credit card'.
"I didn't want that either way and I didn't need to know that badly. But I loved the fact that someone could conceptualise that businessmen could be so numb that nothing stimulated then and they wanted to take experience to the next level. I know people like that and I could imagine them doing it."
On Tarantino's advice, Roth elected to film in Prague, using an Eastern European crew, with a seven week schedule (a homage to The Wicker Man, he says) and with a budget of just $3m that, knowing that even if it flopped they'd still make $8million on DVD, would ensure the studio kept out of his hair.
It didn't flop. Instead, it opened with a staggering $20m, toppling The Chronicles of Narnia from the top of the box office, prompting many critics to declare the world was going to Hell.
Ostensibly complying with genre conventions that if you have sex you die a horrible death, it's packed with acres of naked female flesh, just the stuff to get its target audience salivating.
But these are ugly Americans abroad and when the film suddenly spins on its axis it becomes something that's grim, terrifying and genuinely nasty. For Roth, the film carries a powerful subtext commentary on contemporary America.
"There's this whole thing at the moment with web sites that trick girls by saying have sex with us and we'll get you citizenship," he expands. "You know it's fake but that's what people are getting off on, that moment of humiliation. It's all about that feeling of power that Americans want. Control excites people and you can see this attitude where Americans think their dollars will protect them.
"They could have sex at home but American girls aren't enough for them. They go to Amsterdam for the hookers because they want the power of buying someone to do whatever they want.
"But what happens when you face someone for whom the dollar doesn't matter, someone for whom the violence is a sexual act and for whom the more scared you are the more they get off? These guys wind up like the hookers in the windows."
Roth's film has clearly tapped into something primal, delivering vicarious thrills at seeing the bad guys get what's coming to them but also offering a frightening window on a sickness in human nature. It is, he says, something he'd like to take further.
"There's a lot of horrible things going on in the world right now, mostly in America. The American army is piling people on top of one another and then posing for photos.
"Torture as entertainment has been around 2000 years and now we have museums you visit and laugh about what it might have been like. Are things are getting worse, is this Armageddon or is it just the way humans are? That's what interests me and that's what I want to explore in the movies I make."
* Hostel opens on Friday