Film Review: Hostel

Hostel

I think this started up again with the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  This return to the style of 70�s horror cinema, where things were less about suspense and more about making viewers uncomfortable.  Where things are more about grossing us out than holding us in fear.  I�m not a big fan, typically.  It�s easy to gross people out.  I�ll do it right now: how would it feel if I cut your optic nerve with rusty shears?

Hostel stars Jay Hernandez and Derek Richardson as two Americans who are backpacking across Europe before they go back to college.  While in Amsterdam, inhaling certain legal substances, they learn that there�s some hardcore action in Slovakia (formally the Slovak Republic).  So, with money to blow, and women on their mind, Josh and Paxton head off with their new Icelandic buddy, Oli (the scene-stealing Eythor Gudjonsson).

They end up sharing a hostel room with some very scrumptious ladies, which leads to a disco, which leads to ecstasy, which leads to sex, which leads to, surprise, more sex.  And after that, things start to get deprived.

I�m sure you know that there are scenes of torture and brutality.  Eli Roth takes his time leading us to the disgusting scenes, building up the characters as college dopes with little going on their heads except how to score more chicks.  Paxton (Hernandez) is never afraid to grab more ass, but Josh (Richardson) doesn�t feel too comfortable around all the easy women.  This leads to a lot of �fag� and �homo� jokes, which have many people upset.  You would think the whole �torturing and killing innocent people� undercurrent would be more offensive, but I guess that�s where we are right now.

Thank God that all that torturing and killing serves a purpose.

The entire movie is set up as two distinct halves: a mild teen comedy and a dark walk through the best of gore makeup.  What Roth does � and this is interesting � is show how those two halves relate to each other, and how easy it could be to slip into the grotesquerie of the Hostel, where the rich pay for the privilege to kill by any means, in complete safety.  There are even scenes that directly echo each other.  In one, Josh walks through the hallway of a whorehouse, sneaking peeks at all the dirty action.  In its funhouse mirror image, Paxton is dragged through a hallway, seeing glimpses of hell.

 

In a stunning monologue, an obnoxious businessman (Rick Hoffman) breaks it all down.  When the rich have done everything, from owning the biggest house to getting the best women to doing the most amazing drugs, what’s left?  Well, there�s the Hostel, the place that promises the one thing they haven�t yet done.  Whether or not it�s morally right is meaningless.  They have money, and money kills morality.  Especially when there�s lots of it.

 

Eli Roth has really done something here.  I thought his Cabin Fever had some glimpses of talent, but it was too scattershot.  Here, he finds a real focus, and he exploits it.  Once the film veers into dark territory, he goes with it, and he never tries to ignore those implications.  It also helps that the gore effects are astounding, not to mention the overall look of the film.  It�s gotten to the point where any horror director can slap some filters on a movie, make it look grainy, and then feel like they�ve got a winner.

 

No, here, things are visually haunting.  The film is bathed in grimy greens and reds, and the costuming makes the torturers look like visions out of Bosch.  There are other subtler tricks.  Two girls look attractive and alluring before the film switches gears.  Afterwards, they wear the same clothes and hairstyles, but they look like the whores they were all along.

 

Hostel is not a film to be enjoyed.  No one will come out of this movie feeling energized and relieved.  The film is a journey into depravity, and it questions the limits of human violence.  However, I respect it for not compromising, and for going somewhere with its plot, somewhere more than simple make-me-puke territory.  I think it�s worth a viewing.  Precisely one viewing.  Best if followed by a shower.

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