How A Ghost Ruined My Life Turned Eli Roth Into A True Believer

Eli Roth burst onto the horror scene back in 2002 with the comedic gorefest "Cabin Fever," and followed that up with 2005's "Hostel," labeled gruesome torture porn. Roth was synonymous with carnage for a while. Still, his work on the PG-rated film "The House With A Clock In Its Walls” and "Fin," a documentary about the illegal finning of sharks, hints at a move away from the cheap thrills of gritty horror toward a more mature style and focus.

A quick look at the audience ratings for his gorefest films suggests that moviegoers would welcome a change from the filmmaker, but his latest decisions as a producer had quite a few people scratching their heads. In 2021, Eli Roth took a break from creating fictionalized horror and produced the T+E series "Eli Roth Presents: A Ghost Ruined My Life," which chronicles and dramatizes the traumatic experiences of ordinary people who stumbled onto paranormal phenomena.

Up to its release, audiences were divided over whether the series was even worth a watch, but curiosity must have gotten the better of a sizeable chunk of viewers because the series just premiered its second season. Taking a step into reality television hasn't separated Roth from his connection to horror. In an interview with ET Canada, Roth admitted that his time on the series has only reinforced his belief in things that go bump in the night.

What if it's real?

Pale hands reaching out from the darkness, shadows moving across a wall, and a sunken face looming over a child's bed, these are scenarios we love in movies, when we can sit on our couches and watch someone else face terror, but what happens when you become the target? That's the question that "Eli Roth Presents: A Ghost Ruined My Life" attempts to answer.

His jump from horror flicks to reality TV took some fans by surprise, but Roth has always accepted the possibility of paranormal activity in the real world. In an interview with Rue Morgue, he revealed that he's experienced the unexplainable:

"​​I've had strange moments, vivid dreams I swore were real, seen things that happened and have had fully formed complete creative ideas in my head that appear out of nowhere. You're tapping into something – if you're open to it."

With these life experiences and a love of horror, it makes sense that he would formulate an idea that involved both. In an interview with The Wrap, Roth recalled pitching his idea to Travel Channel General Manager Matt Butler:

"I said I wanted to know, do people have supernatural stalkers? Like, what if you're on a date and your stalker shows up and your stalker is a ghost? And they knock the candles over and they spill the drinks. I said, 'Does that happen? He said that's a really interesting premise, and we started looking into it."

According to Roth, they received "hundreds of submissions, and some of the entries included actual videos and photos the victims took of their supernatural stalkers." The stories and accompanying documents "only strengthened [his] belief in some form of life after death."

But some things, like paranormal reality shows, should be allowed to rest peacefully.

Nothing new under the bed

Roth's idea to interview victims of paranormal phenomena and create reenactments of their stories is hardly a revolutionary idea. "Celebrity Ghost Stories" featured interviews and dramatizations of paranormal claims by celebrities in 2009 and "Paranormal Witness" followed precisely the same format in 2011, except that the claimants were average citizens. Both shows were popular enough to last for a few seasons, but audiences were more inclined to watch reality shows like "Ghost Adventures" and "Ghost Hunters," which followed real-life ghostbusters as they investigated haunted places. Both of those shows ran for over a decade and even inspired spin-offs.

Certainly, there must be some new angle for "Eli Roth Presents: A Ghost Ruined My Life," right? Well, not really. The victims supply all the exposition and set up the dramatizations, and then the creepiest parts of their experiences are brought to life with effects make-up, simple tricks and amateur actors. As far as I can tell, the only difference between Roth's show and its predecessors is that the horror director is attached to it. This might lead you to believe the reenactments are at least worth watching. Still, they're not all that different from the creepy recreations that "Paranormal Witness" or "Celebrity Ghost Stories" pulled off over a decade ago.

Unfortunately, Roth's show, like many of his horror flicks, is derivative and lacks imagination. This fact is only exacerbated in the series as he can't rely on graphic sex and gore for cheap shock and awe. To be fair, the series was renewed for a second season, so it's keeping enough people tuned in to hang on, but it's only a matter of time before boredom sets in and they go looking for some more self-proclaimed ghostbusters to follow around.