Eli Roth had definitely made a name for himself in the horror community back in 2002 when he directed the minor hit, Cabin Fever. I remember reading about that film in Fangoria Magazine while it was being filmed and enjoyed seeing the set photos, thinking the film was going to be pretty awesome. However, after watching it—and I’ll admit that I had liked the movie—it left me feeling a little unsatisfied. I guess the main reason was that the movie was basically about a group of friends at a remote cabin who all fall victim to a flesh-eating virus instead of some maniacal villain terrorizing them. The movie, as a whole, seemed to be just a gross-out-fest where all the characters were doomed from the start, leaving just one survivor. It didn’t do much for me and I thought Eli Roth was a mediocre writer and director at best. But three years later, Hostelwas released and it turned the horror world on its head…for a little while anyway.
All were warned when this film hit theaters, saying that it was the most intense horror film one would ever see. Most horror buffs commended it, but there’s always the average critic that will bash a new thing. Anyway, I always tend to listen to the critics who are enthusiasts in the horror genre because most streamlined critics will always bash a horror movie seeing that they just don’t get it. So when I heard about how hardcore this film was, how it even garnered a new subgenre description, I just knew I had to see it.
Written and directed by Roth, the film will probably make you want to avoid ever travelling abroad and gave the word “hostel”—which is just a description of a bed & breakfast type of hotel—a new evil meaning. But before getting too much further into this, let’s synopsize the film.
Good friends, Paxton (Jay Hernandez) and Josh (Derek Richardson), along with Icelander, Oli
Now, if you’re one to enjoy a film that captures the life of hedonism and debauchery, you’ll love the beginning of this film and the strategy of giving us some background development of the main characters, which we see them as three guys just looking to get laid. As the film moves on, the actions of the main characters are sort of questionable and don’t seem logical at times, seeing that they’re just following their dicks. However, as the story moves on and things get serious, you’ll understand their reasoning for doing what they do.
First off, as an example of the main characters acting illogical, seeing that they trust Alexei when they first meet him raised a red flag right away. Like any movie, I sort of live vicariously through the main characters and think about what I would do in their place. As the scene played on with Paxton, Josh and Oli interacting with this guy, how he tells them they should go to the hostel in Slovakia, it made me cringe. The guy seemed like such a seedy character and you’ll have to wonder why the protagonists would take a liking to him.
On the other hand, when the characters of Paxton and Josh meet the two beautiful girls, Natalya (Barbara Nedeljakova) and Svetlana (Jana Kaderabkova), you can understand how they’d be thinking—with the little brain between their legs. But the girls’ overall demeanor doesn’t give much away until later in the film, so the guys’ trust in them is reasonable.
If there’s one thing that I can complain about is the inclusion of the gang of little kids who go around terrorizing everybody until they get some candy. I suppose a group of malicious children can overpower you and maybe even kill you, but these kids appeared to be under 10 years old each. They’re presence in the film kind of make you laugh, and I know they’re an integral part of the climax, but I can’t help but think that maybe the scenes they’re involved in could’ve been changed. Perhaps Roth could’ve written their parts as…I don’t know…a teenaged group of Slovak gangbangers. With the kids, it kind of takes you out of the movie a bit and seems kind of silly.
As a whole, you get a sense of dread right away when the friends make their way into the small Slovak town and know they’re going to be in a world of hurt. It gets even worse when the movie’s plot moves to the industrial building, but I won’t give that portion of the film away. Just understand, you’ll need to have a strong stomach because the things that go on after that point will make you wince and squirm.
Before I get to my final bit, this movie coined the phrase “torture porn,” which stuck and became the naming convention of this subgenre Eli Roth had created. I mentioned it was short-lived and that was mainly because of two things: overly judicious critics and the multiple copycat films that were made soon after this. Just the fact that these critics reiterated the description of “torture porn,” over and over, gave the movie a bad light to begin with and scared a lot of moviegoers away from the get-go. Regardless of how successful Hostel had been, after countless imitations that were made to capture the success Eli Roth had had, it just saturated the film world and made everyone sick of these types of movies by the time this movie had its sequel released.
Speaking of sequels, Hostel has garnered two of them. Part two is pretty decent with an excellent beginning, but it just explains way too much about the organization involved in the story. Part three was a straight-to-home-media deal. Both sequels didn’t have the impact the original did so I’d skip them unless you really love this franchise.
Which brings me to my final “bit” about Hostel.
It’s hard to say that you’ll love this film and I can’t say with conviction that you’ll enjoy or appreciate this movie. What I can say is that it’s worth a look, but just know what you’re getting into before you watch it—it’s not for the faint of heart or queasy stomach. The movie contains some scenes of violence that some of you may not be able to handle. But the film includes a simple story, as interesting as any, and has a pretty satisfying ending.
Well, that’s it for now…thanks for reading and have a Happy Halloween!