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Rob Reviews ‘Hostel’

Rob here, to provide my first review for tdaxp. I regret the film I must review, but it’s the latest thing I’ve seen theatrically since ‘King Kong’. The film in question today (Friday the 13th, I might add) is ‘Hostel’ from Eli Roth, of ‘Cabin Fever’ fame. Quentin Tarantino put some money up for the film, but it’s Eli Roth’s piece. Disclaimer: I did not see ‘Cabin Fever’ and I have a general distaste for horror films in general. ‘Signs’ is probably my favorite horror/thriller style film. For me, it’s believable and sophisticated. Oh, and many people can’t figure out why ‘Hostel’ is spelled wrong. The audience that’s attracted to this film probably doesn’t know what a hostel is, so it’s an odd choice for the film’s title. Even though it’s a nice play on words.

I didn’t know anything about this film going into it other than it was supposed to be gory. One of my friends convinced me to go and actually paid my way, so I didn’t mind seeing it. The budget for this film was around $5 million, which is dirt-cheap. Opening weekend pulled just under $20 million. The biggest problem I have with films like this is that people actually want to see them. What about this film draws an audience? Why do people want to see it? A strong ‘R’ rating goes a long way today. The promise of over-the-top gore is becoming the strategy for a successful horror film. And this film has wall-to-wall tits and blood. I’m 24, with a beard, and got carded. That’s good to see because I don’t want anybody seeing this film, let alone underage kids. An example of the violence: a man takes a blow torch to a woman’s face, melting away the face so an eye dangles by it’s nerves. Our ‘hero’ clips the eye from the socket to help the woman escape. Puss ensues. So it goes.

I’m generally a pretty technical guy when it comes to reviewing films. I am able to pay attention to everything a normal person watches, but also the camerawork, lighting, and editing. All of that stuff was par for course in this film, it’s not interesting enough to mention when I have so many other things to say about it. Moving along.

The story is slow in building. I’m more than happy to give a few minor spoilers because I don’t want you to see this film. It follows a few college kids on a drug and sex induced trip across Europe. They stumble across a secret group of rich people that pays big bucks to torture/kill people. Different races cost different amounts to kill. Obviously Americans being the most expensive since, as we all know, everyone hates Americans (?). I am quite sure this film wasn’t written with a message in mind, but I took several disturbing things from it. They are as follows.

The characters are immediately shown getting high and looking for as much random sex as possible, even if they have to pay for it. There is mention of being able to ‘do whatever you want to these women.’ The red light district they enter is a tamer version of what they’ll be seeing later. They are paying for exploitation, just at a different level. The juxtaposition is interesting. Much of the film contains gratuitous nudity, which is disturbing. There are way too many ties between sexuality and brutal violence in this film, even though the two are never fully united. As for the characters, we immediately like them just because they are funny and fairly innocent, but they partake in ‘sin’ so later we are a little okay with them being tortured or killed. Had the writer made these people saints from the get-go, audiences wouldn’t tolerate them being punished.

The audience doesn’t want to see these characters tortured, but when the tables are turned on the villains, the audience loses innocence. We end up cheering on the hero as he chops fingers off. We have become the rich people paying to torture and kill. Is it okay because the people being killed are ‘bad?’ One of the villains punished even has some latent homosexuality. I won’t even go into how this seems to have been put in to make him seem more ‘evil.’ The ‘sexual deviants’ are the ones who need bloodshed to get off and so on. That would be an entirely different review. The movie ends up being about itself. Audiences are paying to see this movie for the same reasons these people are paying to maim. The men paying to torture/kill in the film are doing the same thing. And yes, it’s all men getting off at the prospect of this activity. Perhaps this film is more socially conscious than I give it credit for. Sadly, the people that really wanted to see this film probably aren’t going to come out feeling like they are bad people. And that’s the whole point of the film for me.