Fuck it. Who says horror has to wait for October 31st? Why not watch a horror in the height of spring? Who ever decided that horror was for night time? I watched this movie on April 30th and in the middle of the day. Look how rAnDoM I am. (In all seriousness though, why the fuck not?)
Hostel is the first in a trilogy of films based on characters by Eli Roth. Roth directs the first and second movies in the franchise to mixed reviews. What everyone can agree on though is that they’re disturbing, gory, and not for the faint of heart.
It’s a basic tale: some backpacking friends go on vacation to Europe and end up in Slovakia, where they hear the girls are ripe for the picking. Sexually, not in a brutal murder kind of way. Or so they think. They head to the country bright eyed and bushy tailed, eager to explore the landscape that awaits them, only to find themselves at the heart of a hellish nightmare.
Wait… am I supposed to want these dickheads to be brutally murdered? Because goal achieved if so! Even the “nice guy” is mildly racist and homophobic at best, which is not a good look. I’m gonna have to go ahead and assume that the point was to make the audience not care who lived and who died?
I actually kind of appreciate low budget cult horror films like this one, because the aim is literally to make a mindless, gory mess with no real meaning behind the façade. In that respect, I’d say Hostel pretty much hits the nail on the head. However, it’s so undeniably a “horror movie for dudes” with all the unnecessarily naked women and the obsession with the male gaze that it ends up just making me wonder if Eli Roth is mentally okay. (Spoiler: the answer is probably no.)
A film that focuses less on jump scares and more on blood and gore, Hostel actually achieves a decent sense of tension and some wince-inducing visuals. It’s downfall? The pacing is super erratic, with the first thirty minutes being relatively slow whilst playing into every stereotype about Europeans and their distaste for Americans. By the time anything untoward happened, I found myself not really caring about what was going on and started thinking about what I was going to make for dinner instead.
As I’ve already mentioned, maybe the point of this movie is in its irony; it forces you to dislike the main characters to the point where you questionably find yourself siding with the people who are committing the torturous acts. Despite that hypothesis, it just became a pointless instance of torture porn that often entertained too insubstantiality. What it gets right though is the amount of blood and guts that it contains, even if they’re saved mostly for the latter stages of the film. The horror elements themselves are generally well done, which is more than can be said for a lot of other movies like this one.
If you’re looking for that mind-numbing, gruesome horror movie thing, be my guest. But at least the Saw movies are rooted in life-affirming questions of ethics that give you something to think about afterwards. For such a low budget, this movie is fine and the performances are good, (and the choice of survivor was great and unexpected) but are there better instances of gore in film? Absolutely.
Hostel is available to stream on Netflix in the UK.
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Costume & Set Design:
Overall Rating: ½