I am not a horror geek. I don’t usually dig slasher or gore flicks unless they truly achieve some real originality. I just get bored with them. Even some that show promise, like 2004’s Saw, they end up too generic and stale.
Eli Roth’s Hostel never strays too far outside the rules of its genre. For example, in creepy corners of the earth, in this case, Slovokia, there are sick, sick people who like to murder and torture the youth. The chicks are just uber-hot and irresponsible sex seems to take place everywhere (except in my bedroom). Hope is murky. There’s at least one really annoying character you hope gets axed. And try to amp up the gore from the last big horror-hit, please.
There are only a few movies that truly scared me in my life. Some of them: The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre because of it’s documentary-like feel, The Excorcist because I grew up Catholic, The Shining because of those creepy fucking twins and Chariman of the Board (sorry, it’s very hard sometimes).
Hostel is not on that list, but it did make me squirm and cringe. If sick shit is your thing, Hostel has a seat reserved for you. Now that may sound like a back-handed compliment but the fact is I enjoyed Hostel. In fact, it’s the best horror flick I have seen in years, probably since the first Scream. While Hostel lacks that film’s originality, the trappings and cliches that Scream mocked are given more of a weight here.
The film focuses on two American friends and a drifter from Iceland all backpacking through Europe. Obviously, they are more interested in European girls than they are European monuments. When they get word that the hottest chicks in the universe are located in a small village in Slovokia, they can’t board a train quick enough. They arrive in a Slovokian hostel which, with its naked chicks, looks kind of like Heaven and Bosnia all mixed together. They get high. They fornicate. And then a friend goes missing. And then another. And this is where Jay Hernandez’s performance and the film’s violence really begin to take off.
The movie tricked me into thinking this was just going to be another dumb ride. It starts out in a typical enough fashion. But writer-director Eli Roth’s clever setup and sprinkled depth acts more like a morality play. The hostel is more like the first level of hell only the characters aren’t aware of the fire cooking under their feet. When things start to go bad, they begin slowly. The remaining characters do not overreact. They think logically. They ask the right questions. They begin to mistrust the right people.
In Hostel‘s increasingly medieval world, patrons arrive to pay top-dollar to torture and kill kidnapped men and woman, mostly tourists. There are basically three brackets of prices: Locals, Europeans and Americans. And the highest bracket? You got it… Americans. This elevating fact places Hostel as a genre film of its time. This fact, and the way the film plays its hands (and legs and toes and eyeballs) are a part of the reason it hits home so powerfully. It’s a demanding experience and even for a non-horror and gore aficionado, it’s worth it.