Saturday, March 19, 2011

Hostel (2005)

Two Americans and their Icelandic traveling partner take a trip through Eastern Europe to party it up in a remote hostel in Slovakia, where they are drugged and kidnapped only to be sold off to an elite hunting organization that specialized in human torture. After a mediocre debut with CABIN FEVER, Eli Roth burst onto the scene in his sophomore effort HOSTEL, a filthy throwback to the Exploitation films of the 1970's that solidified his name in Horror.

HOSTEL, along with other so-called 'torture porn' titles like SAW or THE DEVIL'S REJECTS, has uniformly split Horror audiences based on its use of torture as a main form of entertainment. To say that Roth simply looks to shock and disgust is to grossly misread the entire film in the same way that many critics have dismissed TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE for being too violent. HOSTEL is far more reserved than any of the films that it is most often compared to, and Roth uses implied violence and terror much more often than he does gratuitous gore. Most of the torture sequences are shot off-camera or in cut-aways, leaving the viewer with the victim's twisted facial expressions or screams of anguish. That isn't to say that there isn't gore, because there is, but the gore is only used to accentuate the scenes, and not to define them. True horror always falls secondary to terror in HOSTEL, though this fact is commonly overlooked.

The characters of HOSTEL are another brilliant selling point. These are teens that anyone can relate to, and by working outside of the studio system, Roth is able to write his own fluid and naturalistic dialog without the fear of self-censoring himself for political-correctness. This may lead to some questionable vocabulary, but it lends credibility to his characters. In an interesting twist, Roth has given his male leads distinctly effeminate qualities while he victimizes them in the same ways that most female characters are typically treated in this type of picture. People who appear on the side seem inconspicuous and harmless, which allows the audience to let their guard down along with Paxton, Josh, and Oli as they are lured deeper into the lion's den. Jay Hernandez and Derek Richardson are two fun, energetic, and utterly believable characters that draw out a purely empathetic response from viewers that have fully invested in them from early on in the film.

Perhaps its greatest strength lies in the mystery behind the sinister organization, itself. Virtually no information is ever revealed about the group or the men that support it, which makes the entire situation that much more intriguing and terrifying. In a genius move, Roth would go back and fully expose the Elite Hunting Group in the film's sequel, even if the attempt was unable to recapture the success of the original.

On top of everything else, HOSTEL is a huge crowd-pleasure. Roth caters to a very specific audience, one that revels in gorgeous naked girls and bloody set-pieces. He delivers on every intended level, with a script that is both hilarious at times and painfully excruciating at others. The greatest payoff comes during the revenge sequences, where Roth creates genuinely out-of-your-seat excitement as his characters get their payback against the people that betrayed them.

Eli Roth is a Horror fan at heart, and it shows. Though he may have trouble topping this second film, it is obvious that he has a clear control over the genre, and that he has the potential to become one of the next generation Masters of Horror.

Rating: 9/10.
Entertainment: 10/10.
Gore: 7/10.

If you liked HOSTEL, check out:
THE DEVIL'S REJECTS, WOLF CREEK, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE.


16 comments:

  1. This is one of the most disturbing movies I have ever seen and had a hard time sitting through ...almost too realistic, which is the sign of great script, acting a the characters and movie direction.

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  2. It's interesting that there's a subgenre of films (Hostel, Martyrs comes to mind) that imagine shadowy groups of people who, in a twist on conventional conspiracy theories, eschew accumulating power and money for wanting to gouge young girls' eyes out.

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  3. call me a killjoy but IMO Hostel is one of the most overrated movies of all time from one of the most overrated directors of all time

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  4. Kathryn I agree here for sure, some of the villains are obvious exaggerations, but I feel like I could have gone to school with Pax and Josh. It does feel frightfully realistic!

    Scared, I also fully buy into the fact that there are subversive groups that will pay to do any number of things, girl eye gouging definitely included lol..

    MM, someone was bound to burst the HOSTEL bubble in the same way as all of the HATCHET haters do. I don't disagree that Eli is overrated, because CABIN FEVER and HOSTEL 2 are just barely passable as entertainment, but I think he reached his own pinnacle of achievement with HOSTEL, and one that he likely wont be able to top. I love this damn film, and every time I watch it I am reminded of not only how much fun it is, but how much crap it receives when I think Eli has gone the high road and implied almost (that is a big almost) everything in the film =D

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  5. well said, Carl -
    though I have to mention that I belong to the rare species that
    a) dislikes Hostel
    b) totally hates Hostel 2
    and
    c) prefers Cabin Fever 2 over Part 1

    Things can only get better with Thanksgiving :-)

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  6. We can agree on two of those points at least, I hate HOSTEL 2 and CABIN FEVER 2 is a total blast! CABIN FEVER is only passable because of its goofy tone and mild gore, plus I like James DeBello and Guisseppe Andrews from DETROIT ROCK CITY =D

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  7. No. Just no.

    You can spend six paragraphs telling me that the sky is red. It's not.

    'Hostel' is not subtle. It's a film that is just about douchebags being tortured by foreigners. The whole point: to bring up the specter of the evil foreigner.

    This movie is 'torture porn.' There's no 'it is, but there's more to it...' argument to use. The film is about torture and lingers on it. It's not about 'terror.' I'm 'overlooking' nothing. If there is nothing to see, you can't 'overlook' it.

    People have popped out of nowhere in the last couple of years to defend 'Hostel.' They say stuff that basically implies 'all the haters just don't get it.' Speaking as one of them, let me just say this for the record: We do get it. We just don't like it.

    If Eli Roth makes a good movie, I'll like it. As it stands now, he makes shitty movies, but appears in better ones. That makes him an actor who can pick good scripts, as opposed to a guy who can write them.

    Thank you. I feel better now.

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  8. what? you like Cabin Fever 2?? Thank god, I'm not alone! :)

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  9. My question then is why do we consider TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE a classic and not as part of the Torture Porn sub-genre? It is essentially the same as HOSTEL, where a group of kids looking to bone head out to a remote location and are tortured and killed by a group of weirdos. Is Sally not tied to a chair and tormented in the same way? HOSTEL could have included sooo much more gore, but it really doesn't. I would have been chainsawing people in half and really doing damage if I was making the same movie.

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  10. I don't really consider 'TCM' to be a classic, to be quite honest. It's lasting appeal is creating a movie that feels visceral and gritty. It's in the same boat as 'The Hills Have Eyes.'

    Another thing: 'Hostel' was designed to work off of people's fear of foreigners. Movies like 'TCM' and 'Deliverance' created a fear of rednecks. Exploiting a fear is always inferior to creating one.

    As far as 'Hostel' not having a lot of gore, I think you have to really try hard to reach that idea. The film has an extended scene where a woman has her barely-attached eye sawed off- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEAV8lAJltk !

    Does it have less gore than 'Tokyo Gore Police?' Yes. Is it a film that's all about terror and suspense? No. That's 'The Haunting.'

    Side-note: if you want to see the film where Roth stole most of 'Hostel' and it's love of torture from, check out 'The Night Train Murders.'

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  11. I didn't hate HOSTEL, but didn't see what the big fuss over it was all about. Definitely a middle of the road movie for me and nothing overly memorable.

    The NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS significance is in the second movie and the whole done to death 'Torture Porn' shtick was already explored as early as 1968 in Teruo Ishii's JOY OF TORTURE series--anthology movies detailing slow death, torture and sexual mutilation in the most gruesome ways imaginable. If you've seen Miike's IMPRINT, that's a close glimpse at what Ishii was doing back then.

    Also, I couldn't put HILLS HAVE EYES anywhere near the same place much less sharing a boat together with TCM. HILLS is a follower, not a leader--it's an amalgamation of both LAST HOUSE and TEXAS CHAINSAW.

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  12. If we're going to be super-picky, one of the most iconic films in horror history- 'Nosferatu'- is an unlicensed film version of 'Dracula.' For historical purposes, it's an Asylum film.

    Nobody is pretending that 'Hostel' started the whole 'torture-porn' thing. It's just the most mainstream film to hit the market and make people aware of it. Were most people aware of the 'Guinea Pig' series or 'Men Behind the Sun'- no.

    To be quite honest, I don't hate 'Hostel.' My emotions towards the film are solely-targeted at the idea that we all have to suddenly think that it's great. I barely care about the film itself, really.

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  13. well, actually "most" people were aware of the GUINEA PIG movies when Charlie Sheen got one of the titles some widespread notoriety after he thought he had just witnessed a snuff movie.

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  14. Yeah, but do you really think that they went and tracked the movie down en masse? No.

    Plus, how do you think that I heard about the 'Guinea Pig' film, Venom? :-)

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  15. This is what happens if you let adults with the collective mental age of a 14yr old make a movie. And that is exactly the sort of person such a movie appeals to as well.

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  16. Whats Horror without a little guilty pleasure and gore now and again though, Shaun? =D

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