The Sunday Review: Hostel

Sunday 2 April (2006)

 hostel - very gory, pretty disturbing

I have to admit, I was looking forward to this movie. I grew up in a world where the 'best' movies were for adults – Schwarzenegger bloodbaths, 18 rated for all the violence, blood and breasts. When you're a young teenager that's all you really want to see, I think, and the 80's were full of movies like that. But, with the advent of Total Recall (more or less) that kind of movie died out. Sure, Stallone and Schwarzenegger were still making films, but they were… softer – Cliffhanger was a 15 and so was Terminator 2, and by the 21st century action films were either low-budget B-movies or toned-down star vehicles. PG-13 was the order of the day, and here in the UK they invented 12-A so that kids could see Spiderman without getting into trouble.

But recently, Hollywood has rediscovered the horror genre and things have all changed. Saw came along and became the must-see at Sundance, and studios suddenly didn't mind releasing old fashioned 'adults only' NC17 / 18 rated movies because they only cost $5 million to make and were selling out the theatres. Hostel seemed to be the culmination of this change in fortune for midnight movies, and with a truly scary concept and nasty-looking, name dropping (Tarantino) trailer it all looked good.


The concept at least is good. It's simple enough, and so bizarre-yet-eerily-realistic that you won't be either unconvinced by it or able to anticipate what happens next. Basically, three hedonistic backpackers (two Americans and an Icelander) are in Amsterdam looking to get stoned and laid, when they hear about a seeming paradise over in Bratislava (such irony.) Here, they are told, the girls are hotter than hot and go wild for foreigners, especially Americans. Predictably they hop on the next train and before they know it they're sharing a room with three party-girls and generally having lots of naked fun. It's a horror movie so you know that it's not happening without an ulterior motive, and sure enough the girls end up drugging the trio and selling them to a very, very shady organisation who make their money from… well, I won't spoil it for you, but the phrase I heard was 'human hunting.' Think very rich people with disturbed minds going on an illegal holiday to act out sick fantasies and you're there.

Anyway, I won't bore you with any more of the gory details (ho ho!) because it's really not worth it. If you like to see gore, then this is the movie for you. If, however, you like to be scared – well, look elsewhere. The movie makes you cringe, that's for sure, but in the same way you'd cringe if you accidentally went to or saw graphic news footage of a terrorist bomb or something – it's just not pleasant to look at. This isn't going to give you nightmares for weeks like The Thing did, and the sad part is that the gore is literally all the movie is about. It's split into two halves – forty minutes or so of hedonism and breasts, and an hour of stomach-churning blood and guts. That's it. No morals to be learnt here – except maybe 'don't go backpacking in Eastern Europe' which is kind of obvious to me anyway.

It's just that the movie doesn't have a point to it. It claims to be based on 'true events' but in reality this is just a website that fatso gingerman Harry Knowles came across and told Eli Roth about, which offered people the chance to pay to kill someone, basically. The website probably wasn't even real, but on the strength of the theme they crafted this movie and in their glee and enthusiasm to make it as sick as possible, they forgot to come up with a point to it all. What do I learn from this movie? Where are the character arcs? Granted these things aren't necessary per se, but there needs to be some redeeming features.

Really, I think this movie is a way for people to watch really sick things happen to other people and not feel bad about it because they know that no-one is really getting hurt. It had real potential too – the core idea of this place where you can pay to kill people is chilling; it's the kind of thing you read about on BBC news and can't comprehend. So yeah, watch Hostel if you like seeing graphic torture. If you want to see a good movie (or even just a scary movie) watch something else.


4 Responses to “The Sunday Review: Hostel”

  1. sallymae Says:

    Thank God you agree with me about the whole ‘this movie has no point’ thing. I thought you were gonna go on a ‘gory violence is back, YEAH!’ tirade. Really I don’t see how anyone could watch this and argue its case as a good movie in the horror genre. It was disappointing to me in more ways than one.
    (By the way, “violence, blood and breasts. When you’re a young teenager that’s all you really want to see”? I think you mean when you’re a pubescent male teenager with only primal urges to turn to. Certainly wasn’t me :P)

  2. Dave Says:

    I saw crash2 cruise control last night….. abismal, totally unrealistic with regards to marine engineering and auto pilot systems. Eltees opinion?

  3. stan Says:

    Perhaps you could get a job in the movies as a technical consultant? But then again, if movies were completely realistic we wouldn't have classics like No Escape and Hannibal Brooks, would we?

  4. mr skin Says:

    Hey, when’s Arnie going to make another movie? I’d love to see a sci-fi Arnold flick right about now.

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