Who knew I would actually like it? Maybe I shouldn't listen to non-genre filmgoers anymore.
It’s amazing that I have never seen Hostel until now. There are three main reasons I hadn’t seen this film. 1) Whenever I see “Quentin Tarantino Presents” before a trailer, it usually pisses me off. 2) Everything I’d heard about it left me with no interest to pursue it (i.e. that its torture mixed with porn, which subsequently became known as torture-porn). 3) Eli Roth bugged me in his interviews. Well as serendipity would have it, I received Hostel on Blu-Ray as a birthday gift. It took about a month for me to actually get around to watching and I must say, I was pleasantly surprised.
That is until they are kidnapped, thrown into a dark room, tied to a chair, and well…you know the rest. Once the torture begins, the film gets its legs. Typically during this type of horror film (survival or torture), I am usually happier during the first part of the film if the characters are well-drawn and I get anxious watching the terror unfold in the second half. The opposite occurs with Hostel, which may or may not be a bad thing. It’s not like I necessarily wanted to see these guys get mutilated, but Roth is just so much better at relaying dark humor and gritty debasement than he is at creating interesting protagonists to stroll around with. Where the film succeeds is the fabrication of bizarre antagonists—real human beings behind the masks of these masochistic murderers.
Strike a pose.
I also appreciated the method in which the cast is killed off. We don’t even see the Icelander murdered, which is kind of unexpected. Instead, the dismal sight of his severed head lets us imagine what occurs inside the dismal chambers. The next death surprised me. The whiny boy was next; we don’t even get a long chase sequence. This stock character is usually our Final Boy, so it was refreshing to see the sex-crazed brat take charge as the lead. This is especially true because he is a better actor, more interesting to watch, and frankly he is better looking.
The gore was not what I expected. After hearing so much about the movie’s brutality, I was surprised at how little gore was actually on screen. Roth employs the more classical technique of letting us envision the horror for ourselves through implied sounds and camera angles. But yes, occasionally we do get to see the KNB EFX at their best with some great gags involving ankles, eyeballs, and chest cavities.
The ending was also greatly appreciated. In fact, it is what finally convinced me that I really did like Hostel because I think I may have still been on the fence about it. Our pretty boy takes his revenge in a public bathroom—how fantastic. It’s brutal and epic. Often times, horror characters will choose to keep running and we end the movie, hoping that they will call the police and the bad guys will be caught. Other times, the person does kill them but it’s usually a result of self-defense in the heat of a climactic battle. Here we are treated to the unbridled anger of a victim that’s not afraid to do something about it, even though he had the opportunity to just walk away. For the record, I did watch the alternate ending and it’s not nearly as good. He takes the man’s little girl away instead of killing him.
Hostel was and wasn’t what I expected. It was a very masculine, crude film for the testosterone junkie. It wasn’t a shabby, overly explicit torture flick. I can’t say that I’m a fan of Roth quite yet, but I will be looking forward to seeing the sequel, especially since it is supposedly from a more female perspective.