DIRECTED BYEli Roth
STARRINGJay Hernandez - Paxton
Derek Richardson - Josh
Eythor Gudjonsson - Oli
Barbara Nedeljakova - Natalya
Jana Kaderabkova - Svetlana
Jan Vlasak - The Dutch Businessman
Year - 2006
Score - 3 Howls Outta 4
When it comes to the horror genre, there have been many so-called sub-genres that have changed how horror is done and presented to the audience. From the era of Universal and its monsters, to Alfred Hitchcock's psychological terror, to the birth of the slasher, to psuedo-horror parodies like SCREAM, and to this wave of Americanized Japanese horror, horror films have changed along with the times and its audience. Recently, we are in an era that involves excessive gore and body parts being dismembered right in front of our eyes. Splatter films, or torture porn, is now the coolest thing in horror. Films like SAW, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, CABIN FEVER, THE DEVIL'S REJECTS, and WOLF CREEK have really upped the ante as to what's now considered to be scary. CABIN FEVER director Eli Roth brought his own horror series into the mainstream - HOSTEL. Taking place in a foreign land where people are killed for profit, the film made a decent killing at the box office and in DVD sales, creating a new franchise and a new star director in Mr. Roth. And while the film isn't really that scary, the scary part is how many people this film actually appealed.
PLOTTwo American college students, Paxton and Josh (Jay Hernandez and Derek Richardson), and a foreign friend Oli (Eythor Gudjonsson) travel through Europe looking for fun times with drugs and women. Tired of staying in Amsterdam, they accidentally meet up with someone who claims to know where the hot, easy women are. This place is called Slovakia, where the women are beautiful and horny enough to do whatever with foreigners, especially Americans. The trio, seeing this as an opportunity of a lifetime, decide to head there and stay at a hostel, where they all room with hot females. The three have their fun, but suddenly, weird things start to happen. Oli ends up missing, and then Josh, leaving Paxton all alone to figure out what's going on in the decaying country of Slovakia and why no one seems to care. We learn that there's a market for foreigners in Slovakia, where the highest bidder is able to torture and kill them however they please. Paxton gets caught up in this mess, desperate to escape this torture chamber alive.
REVIEWWhile I like other splatter films better [SAW, THE DEVIL'S REJECTS, and CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST come to mind], HOSTEL isn't a bad one at all. You get enough blood, gore, and maimed body parts to please those who have a fetish with watching people get mutilated on screen. HOSTEL was the second full-length film directed by Eli Roth and he does really well here. I felt his previous film, CABIN FEVER, was all over the place and the story had some plot holes that were dying to be fixed [even though I did enjoy it]. HOSTEL is a better made film technical-wise, as Roth seems more serious in making a horror film that will invite fear into the audience. While it doesn't really succeed in doing that, the film is a bit creepy.
HOSTEL is really an exercise of hate and pain. We get really despicable characters who do really despicable things verbally and physically - all for cold, hard cash. I take HOSTEL as Roth's message on the state of capitalism and how money controls our actions and our morals. It seems even the most normal of people will do anything for money, even if we have to hurt and kill people to do it. It's very unsettling to see these "doctors" do what they do to these naive, yet innocent, people just for pleasure and profit. That God-complex is an extremely strong feeling that many of us don't seem to want to give up for whatever reason. Power corrupts indeed.
Eli Roth really directs this film well and his screenplay [with help from Quentin Tarantino] isn't that bad. We get enough character development to understand who we should root for and who we should despise. I almost found it hard to root for the main three victims because they really came off as juvenile, insensitive, and really ignorant to the world around them. But the thing is that there are people like that in this world. Hell, I know a few of these guys in my own life. And as misogynistic and naive as they are, you feel sorry for them when they end up being tortured by sadists. And the beautiful foreign women are truly ugly on the inside, making us realize that we should NEVER judge a book by its cover. And Roth never turns away from showing us cringe-worthy shots of these victims getting massacred nice and slowly. This is an R-rated film of the highest level, as Roth gives us the gore right in our faces and never lets up on it until the end credits.
I also appreciated that Roth added suspense to these scenes, teasing us for a while until the inevitable would happen. I really enjoyed that. Roth was obviously influenced by directors like George A. Romero, Dario Argento, and even Takashi Miike, who directed the Japanese film AUDITION [which I would recommend to anyone]. The man even makes a cameo in the film to show how honored he was by Roth's work. I wouldn't really call this an exploitation film [I've seen films from the 70s and 80s that had worse gory moments that made me cover my eyes], but it's as close as they come in this modern era. I wish he had really gone all out though, because it really seemed like he was holding alot back from the audience. But Roth succeeds enough as a director to make this film worth watching.
The acting is decent for the film. Jay Hernandez is the star name of the film and he does really well as Paxton. While he does say the word "gay" alot [I think even Isiah Washington would feel uncomfortable saying the word as much as Paxton does in 90 minutes], he's probably the character most people would relate to. He's kind of a jerk at the beginning, treating women like objects and bullying his best pal Josh into proving his manhood. But as the weird stuff starts going down, we see how much Josh means to him and how far he's willing to go to find him and save him. Plus when he's lured into the torture chamber, we want him to escape because none of us want to be in that sort of position. Hernandez sure does know how to scream and cry in pain. Plus he wasn't that bad of a guy anyway. Hernandez would return in the sequel, which is my next review.
Derek Richardson as Josh was probably the most normal character in the film. He just wanted to have fun like his pal Paxton, yet something was holding him back. It was implied that Josh was fighting homosexual desires, making him the character with most depth. It was never really fully explored, making the whole thing kind of tacked on, but it's as good as it gets in a 90 minute horror flick. And when he's tortured [and believe me, he's tortured], we feel bad for him. I thought Richardson did a good job with the role.
Eythor Gudjonsson as Oli was the comic relief and the less developed character. He must have had the words "Cannon Fodder" tattooed on his forehead because that's what I thought about his character. At least he was pretty humorous with his frat boy personality.
The two bad girls [Barbara Nedeljakova's Natalya and Jana Kaderabkova's Svetlana] were well done. The two actresses played these characters to perfection, going from seductive to soulless in the span of an hour. I thought it was kind of ironic how the guys treated the women as objects in the beginning, but THEY were really the objects due to these terrible women. Some ladies might find their roles empowering, but I just teach these bitches a lesson while having my way with them at the same time.
And a mention must go to Jan Vlasak as the shaky-hand surgeon who pretty much orchestrated all this. He's the reason why I have a fear of doctors. Surgeons in particular. What a creepy dude.
And I can't finish this review without giving credit to the cinematographer who really did a great job with the look of the film. Slovakia looked so gloomy and vacant that it's not a place I'd want to travel to anytime soon. And the dark browns inside the torture chamber really set a mood of terror and evil. Good job.
THE FINAL HOWL
HOSTEL is a good offering in our era of so-called "torture porn". This is either a "love it or hate it" film. It doesn't bring anything new or original to the horror genre, but it's still an entertaining horror film that is worth any horror fan's time. Just don't watch this in a hostel. This might be the last film you ever see if you do.