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Hostel (2005)

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Plot Summary:
"3 backpackers are in Amsterdam where they get locked out of their youth hostel. They are invited into a man's house where he tells them of a hostel somewhere in eastern Europe where the women are all incredibly hot and have a taste for American men. When they get there, everything is too good to be true - the hostel is "to die for"."

Review by
Ryan McDonald
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Review Date: 06 November 2007 My Rating: out of 5


Three buddies (Americans Jay Hernandez and Derek Richardson, and Icelandic Eythor Gudjonsson) venture through Europe and are told of a hostel near Bratislava, Slovakia that will provide them with lots of drugs and sexy, easy women keen to please foreigners. They indeed hook up with some sexy honeys, but before long, what started as a beautiful wet dream come true, turns into a horrifying, torturous nightmare, as the guys are hunted down and tortured for much of the remainder of the film.

Grisly 2005 Eli Roth film has a potentially interesting idea (and a few nice jabs at idiotic Americans travelling overseas) but squanders it by focusing on the wrong side of it (i.e. The ‘villains’ are far more interesting than the heroes/victims), with even less charismatic characters than the ones who helped sink Roth’s earlier “Cabin Fever”. Also, the film opens with about forty minutes devoted to sex-comedy antics that are neither titillating or funny.

Rick Hoffman’s hilarious and frightening cameo near the end is the only lively moment in this otherwise monotonous and frightfully dull (but not entirely brain-dead on a thematic level) film. I must admit that torture movies have never really been my thing anyway (they’re not my idea of ‘fun’ and neither are films set in the very un-scenic Slovakia), though this isn’t exactly the most gruesome one, but it’s pretty nasty, and it’s just not very well-told or interesting (outside of an obscure “Wicker Man” audio cue, there wasn’t much ‘enjoyment’ and a severe lack of humour).

A shame, at any rate, because there’s a miniscule amount of promise here. Screenplay by the director, who really doesn’t know a helluva lot about giving the audience characters for them to latch on to (not necessarily likeable ones, but at least give us some who are charismatic or 3-D. Character development shouldn’t even be used in a sentence describing anything in “Hostel” but it is important for a good motion picture, especially in the horror genre), a very crucial aspect of any good horror film.

Dull torture movie that might’ve worked better if the story was restructured to focus on the other side of the equation. As is, it’s a long, grubby slog through the underbelly of Eastern Europe.

Reviewer: Phil Davies Brown @horrorasylum
Location:Scotland, UK
Review Date: 24 March 2006 My Rating: out of 5

Hitting UK shores on the 24th of March (which is coincidentally my 24th birthday) Eli Roth brings us this sick and twisted tale of three friends backpacking through Europe who find themselves in Slovakia in search of sex, drugs and disco, only to regret their decision to hang around when they find that things are not quite what they seem amongst the friendly locals.

The film takes a while to get into the thick of things but the relationship between the three guys is entertaining enough to keep you interested in the first instance.

When things start to go wrong and other characters begin to get caught up in the grisly goings on, Hostel becomes something entirely different and it is here that the sickening torture sequences we had been promised by the marketing campaign are delivered.

Basically, without giving too much away for British viewers who have yet to see the film, Hostel in my opinion whilst perhaps not as ferocious as The Hills Have Eyes, is far more graphically violent without taking it too far.

To his credit, Roth does not take the easy option of throwing buckets of blood across the screen as he carefully creates a balance of show and tell unlike any other I have seen in recent years.

Blowtorches, hammers, chainsaws, scissors, bolt clippers, knives, guns and all manner of cold and steely grotty instruments are used to maim, mutilate and inflict pain on the likeable characters, in scenes so disgusting that I really did want to throw up afterwards to feel better.

The characters who appear one dimensional at first become real people as the film progresses, despite the fact that Roth does not use heavy amounts of exposition throughout the film, instead he uses action and subtle hints to give the characters layers, and it worked for me as I came away feeling so sorry for Josh, Paxton and Kana.

The film very cleverly adds subplots as well, which all add to the proceedings such as a debate on human nature with regards to meat eating, and the lack of subtitles and location shots of grotty winding back alleyways all help to disorientate the viewer to the point that we too feel scared in a strange place along with the characters, enough so that one police officer's words of 'so far from home' sent chills down my spine.

Another aspect which I thought worked really well was that Roth manages to get under our skin to the point where we support and applaud the chances given to the characters for revenge, something which ties up the vegetarian versus meat eating debate as one of our trio is forced to become the very thing he dislikes.

Hostel really does prove that Roth is someone to watch over the next few years as his twisted yet unique sense of humour and passion for the genre have helped create a sick piece of cinema that will forever act as a reason for me to never leave my country.

Like the masters of the genre before him, Roth uses societal fears to great use and this, coupled with his skills in marketing, should ensure the film does well here like it did in the US earlier this year.

Hostel does have flaws (what film doesn't?) but overall it's a dark, dirty, disgusting, scary and sick ride that put me off my birthday cake! There's something to stick on one of their advertising posters.

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