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Creative advances in the use of gore, a plethora of perky breasts and entrepreneurial spirit gone horribly wrong all intermesh to form “Hostel”, the backpacking sophomore effort from writer/director Eli Roth (“Cabin Fever”). In an attempt to nudge ticket sales in the upward direction, Quentin Tarantino is acknowledged front and center as “presenting” the film. Tarantino’s influence can be felt in the film’s overabundance of blood, unique violence, truly memorable characters and sex, but Roth lacks the other director’s strength for catchy dialogue and innovation. Roth does explore his own distinctive set of themes in “Hostel”, many of which were also present in “Cabin Fever”, though here the ideas are better connected and the plot much tighter and more coherent.
Warning: if you are a single male and planning to take a trip to Europe any time soon, specifically with the design of looking for easy women, backpacking, taking illicit drugs and staying in cheap lodgings, you may want to think twice before seeing “Hostel”, which is supposedly based on true events. My advice would be to sit in for the first half, as Roth’s film is the closest thing to porn I have seen in a movie rated R. It could serve as some inspiration that the average guy can go to another country, sleep with women out of his league, and not have to pay for it; except just walk out of the theatre before the sketchy shit starts happening.
The beginning of “Hostel” is so clich’ that the only thing you retain from watching it is the beautiful and willing female cast. The smooth, even wake in this sea of breasts and nipples carries us through thirty minutes or so of goofy masculine college grads in Amsterdam talking about chicks, paying for them, and smoking weed with a fellow sex crazed backpacker from Iceland named Oli (Eyther Gudjonsson). Paxton (Jay Hernandez) and Josh (Derek Richardson) are on their last binge of irresponsibility before entering the real world, and their hedonistic journey leads them right into an extraordinarily sadistic trap.
“Hostel” slowly begins to earn its horror badge after the friends make a fateful encounter on returning from a night of debauchery. The trio meets a herpes laden back alley type tourist guide who entices them to visit Bratislava , a small area within Slovakia where sexy women are plentiful and love to do American guys. Take notice as Photoshop is used comically throughout the movie, especially in this sequence as the creepy “pimp” shows pictures of himself cut and pasted next to hot models while giving a thumbs up. Of course they follow the pimp’s advice, though the hesitant Josh has to be convinced with a hokey cost/benefit analysis by Paxton.
On the train to Bratislava , we get the most Tarantino-esque line of the film from a sinister businessman who, when asked why he eats with his hands, tells the boys, “I feel that people have lost touch with their food”. “Hostel” offers more youth horror standbys as the three adventurers check into the hostel aforementioned by their Amsterdam guide. The staff is suspiciously over-friendly, and flirtatious naked women are everywhere. But people soon start disappearing, and it’s revealed that the girls and the hostel are just a front to lure in tourists for something much darker.
“Hostel’s” second act is partially salvaged by outlandish characters like the reappearing blood thirsty gang of small children, acute suspense, last second getaways and a frightening plot revelation that is hauntingly possible. When Josh cannot be found after a night of clubbing, Paxton is left to the devices of Bratislava and comes upon a hell on par with a facility for Nazi doctors and their experiments. The culminating visuals are extremely gruesome, and if you are a fan of torture or novel ways to inflict pain on people, “Hostel” offers up some truly sick alternatives to the everyday hum drum of finger breaking, electrocutions and beatings.
The similarities between “Cabin Fever” and “Hostel” hopefully shows Roth trying to develop a style rather than just sticking with what works. This, combined with the overuse of standard horror tenets, makes Roth’s second foray into horror teeter on mediocrity. At the very least it is entertaining and a worthwhile see for horror fans or those that enjoyed “Cabin Fever”. In brief glimpses “Hostel” shows the potential of its creator, and its gore scenes are unparalleled. If the movie is indeed based on true events, then I’m sticking with prostitutes on my next sojourn in Europe .
Eli Roth (director) / Eli Roth (screenplay)
CAST: Jay Hernandez …. Paxton
Derek Richardson …. Josh
Eythor Gudjonsson …. Oli
Barbara Nedeljakova …. Natalya
Jennifer Lim …. Kana
Keiko Seiko …. Yuki
Lubomir Bukovy …. Alex
Jana Havlickova …. Vala