The first time you watch "Hostel" you leave remembering two things: an insane amount of sex and nudity, and some truly brutal torture sequences. The media ignoranty dubbed it a new genre, "torture porn". This film is actually rather tame when compared to some of Italy's 70's horror, grindhouse flicks like "Cannibal Holocaust", and some of Asia's current horror masters. Nontheless, horror fans drooled, sqeamish movie-goers and media watchdogs were offended, then everybody moved on. The truth is this: "Hostel" is the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" of our generation. After taking this so-called "director's cut" re-release as an opportunity to revisit a recent horror film I remembered fondly -if mostly for the two reasons stated above- I came to realize why so many people (not the least of which is Quentin Tarantino) believe in Eli Roth as a horror savior.
"Hostel" is a film layered with subtle humor that builds suspense beautifully and gives the audience exactly what they want to see while making them feel as though they've seen worse things than they actually have; all TCM hallmarks. The characters, obnoxiously American protagonists and European antagonists alike, are all both likeable, depraved, and almost feel like people you may know or have met somewhere before. You laugh with them, you scream with them, and you wonder what your own friends and family are truly capable of. Also reminiscent of TCM is the slaughterhouse feel one gets from the entire process of this torture industry where angry Europeans can take out their frustration with Americans and other tourists for a fee, thus comparing the suffering of the victims to that of animals harvested for slaughter. Be it simply for irony's sake, vegetarian propaganda, or both; it is nicely done. Had I reviewed this flick after one veiwing, I'd have given it 4 stars, tops, but having spent a little more time with "Hostel", I've found that there really is much more than meets the eye here. It really is a damn near flawless horror film with lots of little jokes I missed the first time around (keychain anybody?) and a final act that is so delightfully insane you can't help but smile as Roth intentionally pushes the limits of implausibility to comical levels while giving the audience bloody satisfaction. I love it.
While these DVD's are packed with extras that the studio apparently wouldn't allow Roth to include in the intitial release, as a director's cut this release fails miserably. The film itself is entirely unchanged except for an alternate ending. And that ending is awful, nonsensical, confounding, out of character, and pretty much inferior to the original cut in every possible way. So why the 5 stars? Because Roth was wise enough to include both versions so that you can choose to watch the original unrated version with the good ending intact. No harm, no foul. There are no less than four commentaries, tons of lengthy featurettes, around 20 minutes of deleted scenes, and an interview with the most hardcore director in the business, Japan's twisted and talented Takashi Miike (who has a cameo in the film) among other extras. Many of these special features were on the first DVD so this release is really only for those who have put off buying this movie. And if you haven't yet, now is the time.
on February 27, 2006
I may be one of the few people who actually enjoyed Eli Roth's first film, Cabin Fever, despite the many inherent flaws to the story, direction and all-over-the-place feel. I never bought into the tagline for that film as once of the most horrific films this generation. I've been watching horror films for as long as I can remember and Cabin Fever doesn't even scratch the surface of what constitutes a great horror film. But it did show me that Eli Roth was serious about genre and acknowledges and honors his roots and influences.
Hostel is Roth's sophomore effort, and just like Rob Zombie with his second film (The Devil's Rejects) he shows improvement as a filmmaker and continues to show that he respects the genre he's chosen to be in. Hostel is an exercise in hate, pain and nihilism. There really are no sympathetic characters in the film. Roth instead shows just how debased, cruel and inhumane people can be towards each other. Whether its through verbal, physical and intellectual means. I must point out that this film is not the torture-porn that alot of media-types call it. The gore and torture really doesn't start until fully halfway into the film. Everything before the second half begins can be summed us as soft-core porn. There's alot of nudity and sex in this first half and sets-up the three characters played by Jay Hernandez, Derek Richardson and Eythor Gudjonsson.
These three college students are shown as boorish, misogynistic, insensitive louts who wish nothing more from their European vacation than sex, drugs, sex, drugs and more sex. It's this behavior that lures them to a town in Slovakia. An Eastern European, Soviet Bloc-era town where the women are stunning and horny to do whatever with foreign men. So, the trio takes off for this haven of horny, easy, beautiful women and the soft-core porn sequences continues once they arrive. But intermixed within these sequences are small bits and hints of dread and uneasiness. There's a certain sense of decay to the town and its inhabitants despite the normal scenery.
The second half promptly begins once they arrive in town and check into the hsotel. The gore mentioned by most reviewers are pretty graphic for what was finally given an R-rating. For people like myself and other horror aficionados the gore in Hostel is something we haven't seen before. The gore and torture scenes are in-your-face and Roth owes alot of thanks to Takashi Miike's Audition in how the scenes are presented. Roth's style of directing Hostel really brings to mind Miike's cult favorite. Takashi Miike even makes a brief appearance in the film.
One thing that I wanted Roth to do which he seemed to have pulled back from was going all-out in presenting Hostel as a horror exploitation film. This film tries to emulate the gory exploitation Italian and American films of the mid-70's to early 80's. Maybe the MPAA had forced Roth to trim certain scenes to get an R-rating. In certain scenes one could almost feel and sense that something was left out. Maybe the DVD release with an unrated, director's cut will shed some light to this. Roth's influences are plain to see, but he falls slightly short of reaching the lofty heights that Romero, Miike, Fulci, Craven (early), Hooper, Gordon and Argento established with their grand guignol works.
Hostel is a very good second offering from Eli Roth who really seem to like the horror genre and is constantly trying to pay it homage. His direction is much better and gone are the campy, almost comedic sequences from Cabin Fever. The film does fail to convey anything original to the genre, but succeeds enough in honoring its bloody past. Roth went from a genre-hack to very promising horror auteur with Hostel. I am hoping his next project is less of an homage to horror's past and he actually adds to its future legacy. I'm happy to give this film a grade of 7/10.
on January 23, 2016
Eli Roth’s “Hostel” is an agonizing experience to sit through – disheartening, unpleasant, bursting with torture, detached and harsh, and unrelenting in its passion for the horrific. To call it a challenge in the visual sense does not begin to explain its ability to completely rob you of the comfort of artifice; it so fully indulges in its reality that every cut, every bloodcurdling moment in which pain is inflicted on a number of unsuspecting victims, is felt rather than seen. Here is a movie that elicits a powerful reaction not simply because it goes for the hardcore, but because it has plausible justification for doing so.
The most remarkable quality of the picture lies in its ability to find the razor’s edge of hope, and dangle us across it long enough to get a sense that, at some point, there may be a moment of relief for at least one of the movie’s poor sufferers. And indeed there is one: narrow and off at a great distance with many hurdles in between, some semblance of closure does exist for a particular player in this maddening game of slaughter and screams. But the movie would not warrant positive marks merely on the basis of its ability to spare one soul in a conclusion, either. The journey he and countless others endure fragment them from the comforts of a civilized reality, but it does so gradually, establishing distinct rules (however harsh) in the process, and undertaking the trek with certain pace and discipline. And even when the movie does release the hounds of horror, Roth’s direction is so on-target that it’s impossible not to admire the meticulous ferocity of it. Whereas most modern slasher films cut straight to the flesh-ripping for no purpose of art or psychological stimulation, “Hostel” marries them with skillful execution and, somehow, a relevant subtext.
The premise is formulated from a long-standing tradition in horror films in which characters are caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, usually resulting in unspeakable pain and suffering. Sometimes their fate is brought on by the curse of curiosity. A world exists all around them where shadows and soundtrack chords seemingly give birth to monstrous entities capable of harming simple people to grave lengths, and sometimes beyond the measure of imagination. The three male protagonists in this film are adventurers back-packing across Europe, and the next destination on their trip is Amsterdam: a place that, as a minor character explains early on, will be a great source of fun and booze (and beautiful women) for any group of young agile men. Unfortunately for them, there is also a world of horrible gratuity resting in its trenches, and each of them will participate unwillingly in a game in which they are lured, sold and victimized in an elaborate human slaughterhouse that even most horror movie villains would find overzealous.
The movie progresses to that reality gradually rather than forcefully – a good half hour of the movie plays out without so much as a scream, and the characters enjoy endless nights out on the town, heavy drinking, sex with big-breasted ladies with thick accents, and carefree demeanors that are unburdened by thoughts of a tomorrow. Too bad for them. Foreshadowing begins to creep over their journey early on when an older man sits next to them aboard a train, and reveals traces of psychotic tendencies through conversations that are awkward and suggestive (one of the guys perceives it as a homosexual come-on, when a van of teenagers picks up a creepy hitchhiker and set the stage for all sorts of impending violence. Later still, after their first romp with a group of ladies has boosted their egos, one of the guys disappears without a trace. While the hostel registry shows him checking out that morning, his friends doubt its validity, even after they get a text message from his phone indicating that he has decided to return home (which is in turn leads to a quiet but shocking reveal in the following scene). That night, the two friends hang around the hostel as if waiting for their lost comrade to show up somewhere, and pass out after having a few drinks. A second friend disappears the next morning, except this time takes us directly to the place he has been moved to: a dark underground corridor where shadowy figures whistle happy little tunes while horrible screams carry over from nearby rooms. I will not dare reveal what he is subjected to over the following five minutes.
None of this material is remotely original even for a genre determined to push every button in modern times, but “Hostel” has an intriguing benefit: it portrays these details through a pragmatic lens, and holds back on urges to undercut the effect with deafening soundtrack cues or actors mugging for screen time. Ironically, the performances are actually more legit than a movie like this probably deserves: in particular, Jay Hernandez as the backpacker Paxton, and Jan Vlasák as the mysterious Dutch businessman from aboard the train to Amsterdam. Hernandez plays the material straight and never amps up the drama to excessive levels, even in the one scene that would warrant it: he is chained to a chair and taunted with a hand rake, and then pleads with his German captor in his native tongue as a way of appealing to any possible humanity left in him. Vlasák, meanwhile, finds the right note of disturbing when an earlier victim in the film listens unwillingly to a diatribe about always wanting to be a surgeon, and then becomes a guinea pig for all kinds of sharp surgical instruments. What inspired Eli Roth, an understudy of the great Quentin Tarrantino, to make a movie as lurid as this with an air of seriousness? But regardless of the intention, the movie discovers a mood that never diminishes the visuals to simple exercises in blood and gore, and his script even marries them to an intriguing political argument: the idea that, in a Europe seeped in anti-American sentiment, English-speaking victims go for top dollar in the seller’s circle. Yet there are even more alarming qualities. The dialogue is pointed and believable. The horror seems to sneak up on characters that emerge as more than disposable flesh. The cinematography has precision, and the film isn’t overly edited as if to create a greater sense of anxiety in audiences; it simply finds its tension through situations, and plays them out succinctly. To call “Hostel” a good film is inaccurate because that would imply it has any basis of entertainment value, which it does not. But it is very well made and realized, and never backs down from the audacity to unleash unspeakable horrors in a world that, alarmingly enough, seems like it has always functioned under the influence of horrendous rules.
on August 16, 2006
I picked this movie up while on an extreme gore binge with a friend of mine. When we saw this, we figured "Awesome, that's supposed to be disgusting!" Although this is marketed as "The scariest movie of the decade", it is nothing of the sort. It is NEVER scary. Ever. Disgusting? Yeah, in a few parts I guess. But if the entire movie is riding on gore and violence, and there are only a few minutes of the saids content, then the movie has failed. Yeah, the achilles tendon scene was a definite flincher, but nothing else really got me. The eye was wicked fake looking. It was obviously a cheap prosthetic slapped over her eye.
Another serious issue was the VERY slow buildup. At least an hour was spent showing as many breasts as they could fit on the reel. It was meant to lull the viewer into a false sense of security, but it was so long that the viewer was CONSTANTLY dragged into thinking about what the trailer promised. A 30 minute buildup, reasonable. 60? That's just bad editing. Sorry.
Another thing that really got me is that sometimes the main character wouldn't take the action the viewer really wanted him to. It would have been great if he went on a murderous rampage, killing his captors. He did take out four or five guards, but that was not enough.
Overall, this movie was not even halfway as good as the trailer made it seem, and the fact that it was marketed as a horror movie is just pathetic.
Paxton and Josh are college students backpacking through Europe looking for drugs, women, and good times. Oli, an goofy Icelandic drifter, joins their crew along the way. They pause in Amsterdam for prostitutes and pot, but are locked out of their hostel after curfew. Alexi gives them a place to stay and directs them to a hostel in Slovakia filled with desperate women. Slovakia seems a bit weird, but the promise of beautiful women turns out to be true. Everyone has fun until the next day Oli and few other hostel residents are unexpectedly gone. Paxton and Josh try to still have a good time because Oli was really a stranger. Then Josh disappears as well, leaving Paxton to run around frantically trying to find them. Then he ends up just like his friends: in the clutches of Elite Hunting, an organization where the rich kill people for ungodly sums of money.
Hostel has an interesting concept: a secret Elite Hunting organization has members who pay large sums of money to kill tourists in the manner of their choosing in Eastern Europe. I enjoy the second half of the film where Paxton has to find his way out of the murder facility. The mood is very tense and suspenseful, which is pretty rare in the torture porn genre. The torture scenes are well done where not everything is in your face. The blood and gore flow freely, but Eli Roth knows when to use extreme closeups and when to leave it to the imagination. Too many other films just show everything, but it frankly gets boring after a while. Hostel is also the first film to be dubbed torture porn and one of the first in the resurgence of ultra gory films in the 2000s. These are really the only positives about Hostel.
While the audience is supposed to sympathize with the American tourists, Paxton and Josh are the two of the most obnoxious and insufferable douchebags ever to grace the screen. They go through Europe chasing drugs and sex without regard to anything else. They complain about people not speaking English and mock each other for acting like anything other than the most masculine of men. The audience is supposed to identify with and root for them, but I have trouble even remotely liking them. When he is disguised and trying to escape the Elite Hunting facility, Paxton gets a glimpse of what he and Josh could have been in about 15 or 20 years. He meets a brash, ubermasculine American client who has done all the whoring and drugs there are until it's just boring to him. Elite Hunting is a way for him to feel alive and virile again. Paxton is on the road to turn into this man if he can afford Elite Hunting's rates. Why should the audience sympathize with someone who would eventually be on the other side? By the time the carnage starts, they have barely enough humanizing characteristics that I don't really want to see them die. Their portrayal may be based on the assumption that the viewers would be more like them: male, 18-25, and hypermasculine bros. It could be argued that it's a commentary on the typically American tourist attitude, but the ending of the film and the two dimensional portrayals of the foreign characters seem to be supporting that xenophobic mentality rather than dispelling it.
Hostel is a misogynistic film, but not for the reasons you might think. The first half of the film is a blur of breasts and sex that frankly drags on for too long. Breasts and sex on their own are not misogynistic in and of themselves, but the fact that no female characters have any sort of dimension does. All women in the film fall into these categories: sexual objects, evil temptresses, and damsels in distress. These characters are flatly good, evil, or just sexy. None of them really have their own opinions or will, but are just a cog in the machine of the sex industry or the murder for pay industry. The prostitutes at the beginning of the film are only there because of their ability to titillate the audience and the male leads. They barely even speak. There's one line comparing the sex industry with paying to torture and kill people, but it's another message only paid lip service with no real support. Natalya and Svetlana are the exotic and beautiful women who turn out to be the evil temptresses who lure and drug Paxton and Josh to their deaths. They are simply and flatly evil and want to earn money, like evil prostitutes who use their bodies and looks to lure hapless tourists. Of course they aren't evil enough to have any real authority in Elite Hunting, which is exclusively used and run by men. The last woman is Kana, a Japanese woman who is midtorture when Paxton saves her. She ends up throwing herself in front of a train after seeing her ruined eye in her reflection. It seems the character only exists for Paxton to look like less of a douchebag before dying and providing a distraction for Paxton to evade the Elite Hunting people. It's also pretty offensive that she seems to kill herself over her ruined looks.
No one in the film really fares well in either the way they are portrayed or their fate in the film. While I like parts of it and I think it's a very influential film in the horror genre, Hostel simply isn't constructed well and wants you to think that it's against xenophobia and misogyny when it ends up affirming these ideas throughout the course of the film.
on January 30, 2006
Damn, what a waste of money. I was so disappointed by this movie. It didn't live up to a fraction of all the hype that they were promoting for it in the beginning of the year. All I can say is that I hope Tarantino is taking this Eli Roth under his tutelage and training the guy tofinally produce something of half decent worth. I will spare the readers here the already mentioned reasons but fuffice to say that this movie was not in the horro genre but some really bad cut and paste job from a theme here and a variation there from other movies from the past and done with no real seamless connection. Some of the scenes were truly horrible in terms of the acting and dialogue and cheesy sex scenes. As for the "horror," showing how a chainsaw works on a human body really isn't a horror scene but just a bit gross. And it's been done already so many times and cannot emulate the classic Chainsaw Massacre, which first introduced the genre. Hostel is just a sad 90 minute long exercise in a total lack of imagination on the part of its writer and producer, Eli Roth.
on October 16, 2015
A movie which is dumb and bad. I'd rather watch Saw, which at least attempts to be clever. The acting in Hostel is god awful, the horror scenes are silly, and there are SO MANY MINUTES of terrible "story" between horror scenes, consisting mostly of some bros being bros.
on October 26, 2012
Even though I'm a big horror buff, I resisted watching this movie for years because I'm not keen on torture. I finally gave in last night, though, and figured I could just turn it off if it got to be too much. I ended up watching the whole thing because it was nowhere near as bad as I had it built up in my head to be and was relieved it contains less torture than I was expecting. It's still definitely brutal and cringe worthy to be sure, though. As many other reviewers have noted, the build up is slow, presumably to get you to care about the doomed characters before all the slicing and dicing breaks loose. While that did work for me, I would have preferred a little less of it and a little more focus on the people who were paying big bucks to butcher people in the first place. Other than being obviously soulless, I would have been interested in finding out back stories of more of the sadists and what would compel them to do such horrific acts. But then again, not knowing does make it more disturbing. Although I always feel great glee when those tormented get revenge and it was satisfying to see certain people get their comeuppance here, if Roth had made a complete descent into this nightmare world and not gratified viewers with vengeance, this might have been an unforgettable shocker.
on March 17, 2008
overall, i feel like it has a pretty standard formula. the first half of the film is spent getting to know the characters. many party scenes scattered about with lots of gratuitous nudity. about 45 minutes in, the real "meat" of the film kicks in. i dont want to spoil too much in the overall story. there are very sinister things at work here, and you get bits and pieces of that throughout the movie.
basically its the story of three backpackers, and a trip they'll wish they would have never taken, if they can survive till the credits..
to most, this is no more than an exploitation film, but theres a lot more to it than that. its a film about exploitation. you see the main characters not only exploiting women throughout the first half of the film, but an entire nation, if not an entire continent. you see them exploiting the womens' bodies, laws of amsterdam, and the simple fact that they're americans. as time goes on, they become the exploited. they are now the exploited. imagination is the only limit on what can be done to them. for a price. [ironic.. although nothing can justify what happens to them]
the social commentary can probably be noticed by anyone other than a five year old. in our internet ruled, ebay enriched society, nearly anything we want can be obtained for a price. the movie also plays on many americans feelings of foreigners and vice versa.
theres a lot here past all the gore and nudity most people wont be able to realize, and thats fine. first, the camera work. in the opening scenes theres a lot of ambient camera runs with bright colors. as time goes on the color fads and the camera work has a much more frantic feel, perfectly complimenting the events onscreen.
Eli Roth hired an orchestra to perform a lot of the music for the film. there is a simple tri-note riff with a deliciously sinister vibe you hear it throughout the film on different instruments from time to time. a very epic score overall. i especially like the work in the later sequences-intense.
the voilence is extremely graphic, featuring some the most realistic and disturbing torture sequences you'll probably ever see.
for the faint of heart- do not watch this. you've been warned.
opening night-2 ambulances at the site. one woman left early and ended up passing out and falling on the ground. another woman thought she was having a heart attack and called 911. she wasnt really, but still. thats one crazy opening. this isnt for everyone.
this is a horror film in the truest form of the word. its disturbing and horrific. it will stay with you for days-if not weeks-after seeing it. anyone with a strong stomach and even a remote interest in horror should deffinitely check this out.
there's loads of great special features in this 2 disk director's cut. multiple commentaries, deleted scenes, alternate ending, 4 featurettes, interview with Takasha Miike, and more.
on July 12, 2007
Hostel is about three young men; Americans Paxton and Josh and their Icelandic friend Oli, who travel to Amsterdam in search of drugs and hookers. In the long run they take their party to a quasi-Slovakia. Oli goes missing and so does some Japanese girl. No big deal right? So Paxton and Josh decide to party with some Russian girls and get a little bit too hammered. So much so that Paxton ends up passing out in a storage room. Josh wakes up in a dungeon and some Dutch guy starts to torture him, using a power drill and cutting his Achilles tendons. By the time Paxton gets back to the hostel, everyone is missing, well almost everyone. Josh finds those Russian girls again and starts pressing them for answers. He ends up finding an abandoned warehouse where people pay to torture prisoners and he gets snatched up and tortured himself. I'll stop there as things unfold in a fairly fun, albeit predictable manner.
If that kind of story interests you and you're the kind of person that likes to watch excruciating torture scenes, then Hostel is the film for you. But don't worry, it doesn't desensitize because Hostel's director is so amateur in handling his actors you will not see Josh, Paxton, Oli and their international congregation of half-nude nymphs as real people. They are like dolls and the fake setting is their dollhouse. You see, the Slovakia we see in Hostel is not real. That's right Eli Roth has said "Americans do not even know that this country exists. My film is not a geographical work but aims to show Americans' ignorance of the world around them." You've got to be kidding me? Isn't he just as ignorant as his audience? And why isn't his audience offended by these comments anyway? With comments like that it makes me wonder, is Hostel not supposed to be convincing? I'm not supposed to take this movie seriously? What is the point then? Anyway, Roth has yet to show that he can make a movie with real acting and a convincing screenplay. So far, that places Hostel squarely in the great tradition of crappy slasher movies. Roth is not John Carpenter. He is not even Steve Miner. He is simply a guy who capitalizes on a young blood thirsty audience that wants to test itself.
I feel like I really just ripped into Hostel. Something about it bothered me deeply. On the other hand, something about it also impressed me. I was provoked in two different directions. The accuracy and compelling elements that I all too often take for granted in films I think are quality, were absent in Hostel, but that doesn't mean that Hostel isn't a unique and terrifying experience. I cringed more here than in many films. I thought Takashi Miike's Audition (Miike makes a brief cameo here, kudos to Roth for respecting his influence) was a classic in the horror genre and had Hostel been any bit as compelling as Audition was, it would've gained great praise from this viewer.
There is something hopeless about Roth's films. Like many good horror filmmakers, Roth will not turn away and will dispatch of a traditional hero-type in a gruesome way without even thinking twice. No one is safe in a Roth film and his unflinching murders scenes are as intense as any, and they work. Some people critically call his films "torture porn" and I'm not so sure I disagree with that label. Then again as a deterrent, I'm not so sure that is such disparaging classification in terms of horror films either. Hostel and Hostel II made $105 million worldwide combined, and together they cost about one tenth that amount. "Torture porn" sounds like a market brand more than a criticism. But that does not make Hostel a great movie.