For the last decade, the horror genre's been inundated with copycat slasher films and more recently, long-haired Asian ghost stories. Just as we were about to give up hope of seeing anything original, along came Saw, which though flawed, was original and now we have Hostel...
Two American College students (Paxton and Josh) hook up with an Icelandic drifter (Oli) and embark on a hedonistic trip across Europe. They take a room at a youth hostel in Amsterdam and set about getting laid. Oli manages to score immediately while the shy, fanny-pack wearing Josh fails miserably with one Dutch girl after another. One night after missing curfew, they get locked out of their room and are taken in for the night by a friend of Oli's. This friend (Alex), tells them about a hostel in a city east of Bratislava where the women are gorgeous, horny for American men and free for the asking. That's all they need to hear and they are on the next train to the Slovakian paradise.
Once they arrive at the hostel, they meet up with Natayla and Svetlana, two beautiful locals who like to flash their tits and have a good time. After a night of heavy drinking, Oli goes missing and his friends are concerned, though not enough to keep them from clubbing with the girls again. But, when Josh disappears, a worried Paxton begins a frantic and deadly search that will lead him to a bloody chamber of horrors.
I've developed quite a bit of respect for Eli Roth in the last couple of years. He listened to his critics, admitted his mistakes and moved on to making, in my opinion, better films. When Cabin Fever was released in 2002, a lot of people were really looking forward to it. I mean, a flesh-eating virus and young people trapped in the woods - how cool did that sound? But it was met with a mixed bag of praise and panning. I was in the latter camp. It was supposed to be an affectionate homage to Peter Jackson's brand of horror-comedies, but I guess I didn't 'get' it. I found it genre-confused with too may in-jokes that only Eli got. Unlike Cabin Fever, Hostel knows what it is and where it wants to go. The first act begins like your standard teen comedy with its cartoon-ish depiction of the trio's sexual exploits (or lack thereof) in Amsterdam, then radically switches gears into torture and excessive gore when they arrive in Bratislava. It's a startling transition, but it works. The special effects and make-up are first rate and the Czech locales were an inspired choice giving the film just the right combination of beauty, creepiness and a sense of doom.
The acting is surprisingly good, considering most of the cast (bar Hernandez and Richardson (Dumb and Dumberer) are relatively unknown and the two lead females do most of their emoting with their naked bodies. Paxton's anti-hero runs the gamut from Ugly American to vengeful victim and Hernandez (Ladder 49) has a particularly affecting torture scene that's more gut-wrenching than any of the gore. Rick Hoffman and director Takashi Miike are onboard for cameo appearances and Jennifer Lim gives an eye-popping performance as Kana.
What started out as a really excellent, creepy idea of Roth's (and apparently Harry Knowles), makes a fairly successful translation to film. It's a gorefest that borrows elements from Euro Trip and Saw with a lot of T & A thrown in for good measure. That said, it's a good film. It's also full of surprises. Just when you think Roth's run out of creative steam half way through the film, he redeems himself and the last 15 minutes had the audience cheering, though the big reveal is a bit anti-climactic. Hostel is most definitely not for everyone and will probably only garner a narrow, hardcore fanbase. It isn't cerebral, jump-in-your seat horror, but more a sick and twisted 95 minutes with lots of sex, nudity and gore. I really liked it and unlike Cabin Fever, I 'got' it.
Last updated: 24/06/2018 06:07:35