**** Out of 5
Tagline- Inspired By True Events.
Release Date- January 6th, 2006
Running Time- 93-Minutes
Writer/Director- Eli Roth
Starring- Jay Hernandez, Derek Richardson, Eythor Gudjonsson, Barbara Nedeljakova, Jane Kaderabkova and Rick Hoffman
When Cabin Fever was released theatrically in 2003, Eli Roth quickly started to get some attention as one of the new and upcoming horror filmmakers, but it was his follow up film Hostel that really got attention. Hostel was released on the festival scene in 2005 and than theatrically in 2006. Hostel quickly had a buzz around it both positive negative and the word torture porn, which I hate was quickly applied. The thing that makes me laugh is in reality, Roth wasn’t really doing anything different than a lot of filmmakers in the 70s and 80s. People knock Hostel for its sex and violence, but when compared to such filmmakers as Jean Rollin and Jess Franco what you see in Hostel is quite tame in terms of sexuality. As for the violence, well people its a horror film not a Disney film. Hostel has plenty of graphic violence, but really no more than tons of genre flicks from past eras. I don’t think people realize just how smart of a filmmaker Eli Roth actually is. With Hostel he took a film that is sort of in the style of an exploitation film and made it for not only people like myself into those films, but for the mass audience. I suppose its easy to hate Hostel since the mainstream audience never really saw anything like this. Those of us into cult cinema we’ve seen films that might even make Hostel look a little tame. However despite all the heat Hostel was still a box office success and if people would stop being such prudes and actually pay attention they might see Hostel has more to offer than given credit for. I enjoyed the film and while no it wouldn’t make my top 50 or anything it does actually feature fairly well developed characters. If you don’t like them that’s fine, but don’t knock the film for having faceless victims because that would be incorrect. A lot of people wanna come across as being smarter and having stronger morals so they just knock Hostel, Eli Roth and his fans.
Two friends are backpacking through Europe having the time of their lives. When one of the backpackers they met along the way while worried they chalk it up to not really knowing him and accept it as him just leaving. But when Josh (Richardson) goes missing, Paxton (Hernandez) knows something isn’t right and soon learns the deadly truth.
The screenplay by Eli Roth is well plotted and despite what some might say the characters are quite strong with some depth as well. As I mentioned if you dislike the characters that’s fine, but they aren’t faceless victims as Roth spends much of the first half of the screenplay developing the characters. The first half the script plays out more along the lines of a comedy, but the 2nd half when the action kicks in, Roth than plays it straight and its quite a smooth transition. Even in the 2nd half, Roth continues strong character development as Paxton shows he’s quite brave and heroic as after he escapes he goes back to save the Japanese girl rather than hightail it out of there. Roth could have easily filled the script with the standard just there to die characters and just simply written a film with a death every few minutes, but instead he takes his time and develops the characters and plot and the script is actually quite strong with some really funny one liners.
As director Eli Roth crafts a well made and generally well paced film. Even though the first half is played light and fun, Roth also manages to create a sinister tone that’s sort of lurking underneath. Like how as a writer the transition from comedy to dark was smooth he also handles that well with the direction. More often than not Hostel is knocked for its graphic violence, but the first onscreen torture doesn’t happen until roughly midway through the film and while from that part on, Roth does deliver some carnage its also a little restrained and never gets absurdly gory. Eli Roth crafts some solid suspense and tension and this isn’t the boogeyman jumping out from the dark and people have become used to cheap scares anything else goes over their heads. Hostel is scary in a much different way than that of a slasher film. There’s no supernatural killer, but instead regular people who do terrible things to other people. Its actually not unheard of for someone to get abducted than tortured and killed. The only issue I have is around the final act, Hostel does get a little overly long, but Roth still keeps the film running at a solid pace.
I think part of the problem is for starters Hostel has Quentin Tarantino’s names on it, but he wasn’t that involved its just good marketing and Hostel had a lot of hype as did Eli Roth. When hype starts the cool thing to do is bash it and most complaints are absurd. The sexuality in the film while perhaps more than than the standard R-rated release to some degree is quite tame when compared to the films from the as mentioned Jess Franco and Jean Rollin and those are small samples. The violence draws complaints with people saying those who liked the film are sick and twisted as is Eli Roth. But yet these are the same people that love slasher films. In a good portion of slasher films the death scenes are meant to be fun, which I have no issue with, but Roth shows the violence in Hostel for what it is; something that’s truly terrible. So perhaps one can say about people who enjoy the deaths in slasher films are twisted since that makes light of death. I personally don’t feel that way, but that isn’t the point. The violence in Hostel is never meant to be fun and I’m willing to bet most of the films enjoyed by the people who knock Hostel the same can’t be said about the violence in the films they like. As much as I love Scream and the film had violence, but a lot of what followed even if R-rated were safer horror films (one can even make that claim about the 80s). Hostel very much goes back to a more 70s exploitation style only updated for a modern audience. The bulk of the mass audience simply cannot grasp a film like this so its easier to bash it, but seeing as the film turned a nice profit and while Cabin Fever got Eli Roth noticed it was Hostel that launched his career so he did something right and I think more people are fans of Hostel than they care to admit. Upon my first viewing I’ll admit I wasn’t really into Hostel, but seeing it again I’ve noticed a lot of things that made me realize its far better than given credit for. Perhaps it doesn’t go down as one of the genre greats, but that doesn’t take away from the excellence of Hostel. The highlight of the film is the cameo from cult Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike.