Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Review: Hostel (2005)


“I am the king of the swing!”

Director: Eli Roth
Starring: Jay Hernandez, Derek Richardson and Eythor Gudjonsson
Writer: Eli Roth

I’ve seen Hostel before and I thought I would revisit it, especially considering the bad name it has built for itself. However going back through this movie I found that it holds up well and that there is a lot of talent behind the camera. There is a subtleness to be found hidden behind all the torture and gore.

In many peoples minds it was Hostel that started the whole torture porn genre, and for that a lot of people give it a hard time. Of course I can understand the back lash against the type of movies that glorify torture. Yet there will always be movies that attempt to do more, and Hostel is one of those movies.

First off the movie is really hurt by the modern age we live in. If you can somehow manage to see this film without any possible spoilers (including rating advice, dvd cover, knowledge of who the director is), you could be fooled into thinking that this is a coming of age story set in Europe or perhaps a crass teen road trip movie. Listen to the music, the dialogue, what the characters are attempting to do. Eli Roth is able to tap into this genre and it makes the decent into horror all that more disturbing.

The gore is full on, and the effects are very realistic, at least realistic enough to get the audience wincing. But the blood doesn’t really flow until the final third of the movie, in fact there is some restraint used with only a quick glimpse here and there. It further creates a difference between the beginning and end of the movie, and therefore the horror is more horrific because we aren’t immediately thrown into the horrific scenario.

Perhaps one of the strengths of Hostel is the three main characters. Paxton (Jay Hernandez), Josh (Derek Richardson) and Oli (Eythor Gudjonsson) are all drawn with clichés directly from teenage road trip movies, yet as the movie progresses there are bits and pieces of the characters life that come through making them well rounded. Paxton in particular comes of as a Stifler light sort of character, but by the end I actually cared about him. Other than these three, most of the other characters are just asked to be odd, and in that respect they do a good enough job.

The first part of the movie also sets up the running theme of the perversity of pleasure. Paxton, Josh and Oli are all on this trip to get laid and smoke pot because that’s what they get pleasure from; the killers are torturing backpackers because that’s how they derive pleasure. There are also scenes that seem similar in set up, if not location and further enforce this dichotomy.

Hostel is really smarter than its given credit for, and is often just thrown into the horror torture genre in disdain. Still there is meat there, Eli Roth gives us a movie that slowly descends into the horror and therefore is far more successful in disturbing the audience. Having said all that this movie is still not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you are a horror fan and have avoided Hostel because of the negativity directed at it, you should do your self a favour and watch it.

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