Hostel - Review
Review by Jack Foley
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES FOR 2-DISC SPECIAL EDITION: Disc 1 – 4 Commentaries; ‘Kill the Car’ multi-angle feature; ‘Hostel Dissected’ Multi-part making of documentary.
Disc 2 – Takashi Miike Interview; ‘Hostel Dismembered’ featurette; ‘An Icelandic Meal’ featurette; Music and Sound featurette; Set Design featurette; Special Effects featurette.
ELI Roth claims that he was inspired to make Hostel after hearing about a website in Thailand that provided people with the opportunity of shooting another human being for a fee of $10,000.
“The concept instantly made me nauseous but it also felt real,” comments the director, who then set about writing the ‘sickest’ film possible to scare the living daylights out of cinema audiences.
The result will definitely have those of a nervous disposition reaching for the sick bag, yet it curiously lacks the chill factor they may have been anticipating.
Hostel works best as an adrenaline rush. It is a movie so jacked up on its own hedonistic excess that it’ll sweep viewers along on its wild ride without really providing much to chew on.
Whereas Cabin Fever, Roth’s first movie, looked to classic ’70s horror movies for inspiration, this pays homage to Japanese horror masters such as Hideo (The Ring) Nakata and Takashi (Audition) Miike, the latter of whom even cameos in Hostel.
Yet having been executive produced by Quentin Tarantino, there is also something very hip and American about it that means it comes packed with in-joke references (Pulp Fiction is playing on a TV screen) and clever directorial flourishes.
The film begins more like a deviant version of the Road Trip/Eurotrip movies as three backpackers – two American (Jay Hernandez and Derek Richardson) and one Icelandic (Eythor Gudjonsson) – journey around Europe hoping to get off on the sex-tourism trade.
Hence, a whistle-stop tour of Amsterdam provides viewers with titilation of a different kind – beautiful, naked women all keen to satisfy the horny males.
When the trio hear of a remote hostel in deepest, darkest Slovakia that offers the prettiest girls who are willing to do anything and everything they quickly pack their bags and head for this living wet dream, keen to get away from the rat-run of the mainstream.
Once there, however, the dream turns into a nightmare. For while the girls are as pretty as promised, they merely serve as bait for a sinister form of human trafficking that sees hapless young tourists becoming the victims of rich millionaires who wish to indugle their darkest, sickest fantasies.
The remainder of the film feels as though Roth is indulging his.
As sexually voyeuristic as the first half of the film undoubtedly is, the second half is savagely so as Roth subjects his young cast to some unspeakable acts of brutality – from chainsaw mutilation to blow-torched faces.
Once one of the trio is given the opportunity to escape, the end of the film becomes an extended chase sequence with a little revenge thrown in.
Yet while morbidly exciting, events spiral out of control amid the director’s need to turn things into a complete splatterfest.
Roth might have benefitted from a little more restraint to keep things more disturbing, yet instead adopts a gung-ho approach that ultimately negates the overall effect.
Not that Hostel isn’t effective. Hardened horror hounds have plenty to satisfy their blood-lust and it does succeed in creeping viewers out.
Roth also avoids the pitfall of reducing his characters to standard horror movie cliché, so that they behave more believably than most stalk-and-slash victims.
His use of location is also effective, evoking memories of classic horror movie settings, while the film even pays attention to the wealth of anti-American feeling that is rife throughout the world.
It’s just that the film, as a whole, seems to take such a perverse delight in excess that it seems to be begging the audience to cheer along with it.
It means that in seeking to make torture, mutilation and dismemberment the new horror ‘cool’ Roth has inadvertently created a concept that’s even more disturbing than what unfolds on-screen.
Running time: 95mins