Saturday, January 14, 2006

"Hostel" review

Hostel (2005)

Directed by Eli Roth
Writing credits Eli Roth

Jay Hernandez.... Paxton
Derek Richardson.... Josh
Eythor Gudjonsson.... Oli
Barbara Nedeljakova.... Natalya

Three guys head to Slovakia to party. Nothing says good times like Slovakia. They get a tip that the women there will do anything they want. Next stop Slovakia! It turns out that they were misinformed. Actually, it's the sadists there who will do whatever they want to them. The hostel they're staying at is running a special on torturing horny backpackers. For a reasonable price, the local freaks can have their way with the lousy tourists.

"Hostel" is a fine horror flick. I was pleased. There is plenty of blood, gore and general sickness here to please any horror fan. The first half of the movie has the guys partying down in Europe with various topless women. Once they get their hot tip on the compliant Slovakian ladies, the movie clearly illustrates the danger of taking travel advice from someone you just met. The hostel in Slovakia turns out to be a slaughterhouse for wayward tourists. The last half of the movie has many fine gore scenes as the sadists go to work.

Besides its large amount of gore effects, "Hostel" also has an abundance of female nudity. I was very happy to see so many unnecessary naked breasts in a mainstream horror flick. This movie does not skimp on the exploitation. It's got blood, guts, breasts, and psychos in doctor outfits torturing people. Yeah, "Hostel" delivers the goods. It's worth a look.

SCORE: 4 out of 4 sickos at work


Anonymous said...

This movie was really really bad. You must be really boring to think this was good.

Dr. Gore ( said...

Thanks for writing.

Not too boring unless watching a lot of B-movies is boring. Watching the wrong one can be. "Hostel" delivered the gore and sleaze. I was quite happy.

Michael Whiteacre said...

Hey Doc,

I'm a bit late to this party, but wanted to share my thoughts on Hostel.

There's plenty of genre goodies to enjoy here, and a genuine worldview is coming into focus after this filmmaker's last two pictures, BUT, even though I'm probably more conscious of such things than viewers who haven't struggled and obsessed with a "look" or lens/film-stock/lighting/color timing scheme to aid in the representational aspects of storytelling (and by the way, I am conscious of how funny this may seem coming from a so-called Skinemax director, but I actually do concern myself with cinema vs. a bunch of slates cut together), but at every turn, the lens choices are completely at odds with the story as played out in that shot. Now, it's like that throughout, so it was obviously a chosen plan, and likely based upon a philosophy that I've embraced, best seen in Lumet's work (think Prince of the City) where, in order to subliminally suggest that thngs are not what they seem, and/or to differentiate between more or less hospitable environments, the lenses use are a little too wide or too long. Distorting space -- depth mostly -- in a manner that doesn't match the way the eye sees it has this effect. But note, they sould be a LITTLE variant, not REALLY varant, and further, they probably shouldn't be the counter-intuitive choice most of the time. Shots of the guys reaching their destination, and feeling eager to join or be absorbed into the city, lose that effect, and in fact tip the audience off big-time that things are amiss and people and events are probably not as they seem. The audience gets way ahead of the characters, and loses interest, even ceases paying attention to the dialogue -- Hitchcock would start bleeding from his eyes and ears if he saw this movie. In my opinion, such schemes should -- no, must -- be subtle. If one can see the technique above the performances, you're doomed to fail (at least in the goal of your scheme, if not in the film's entirety).

On the other hand, let me say that Jay Hernandez was spectacular -- he really, really carried the movie, was likeable, interesting, volatile, charismatic, complex . . . . he's a star, and he dominates every shot he's in.

And then there's the terrific gallows humor, in a genuinely good story, well constructed but shot so that it was (to me) more challenging to stick with than need-be.


Dr. Gore ( said...


Your attention to detail is as sharp as ever. Have you ever considered being a film critic?

But this brings up a good point, one that goes beyond "Hostel". The point is, how technically polished does a B-movie have to be in order to be successful? I consider "Hostel" to be a B-movie all the way that somehow was able to get into movie theaters.

I have no doubt that you take movie making seriously. You are clearly a movie fan who likes all of the various genres. But if you hold B-movies to the standard that Hitchcock would hold them to, you're not going to have a lot of fun watching them.

In the horror genre, part of the fun is it's predicatbility. When going to see "Hostel", it is already established that something nasty is going to befall these lunkheaded tourists. We know this from the coming attraction, the poster and/or the video box. So in my mind, the camera techniques are not giving much away. It's actually building up to the payoff which is blood and guts. That's where "Hostel" shines. Delivering what you promise is my benchmark for success and "Hostel" did not disappoint me.

Incidentally, this was the first movie I saw in L.A. It was at the Chinese theater and I had a blast. The crowd was screaming for blood and I was right there with them. Good times.

Michael Whiteacre said...

Of course, you're correct, because ultimatey there can be no dispute regarding taste. I am reminded of the sentment that, if a group of viewers/listeners are put-off by a particular offering, there's no criteria by which you can say they're wrong, and the obverse is also true.

I don't fault predictability in a genre -- God, nearly every story I do relies on it to some degree, but I use it to toy with, or defy the expectations of the viewer. I don't say "Hostel" fails here as an enertaining, profitable product, because, as you comment, that outcome is why you're there to see it in the first place. Instead, I say that, "Hostel" relies too much on the very fact that you're there, having bought a ticket, and waiting until the offings begin -- it succeeds as an enterprise but does not succeed so well as cinema.

And I don't think it's a big B-movie; that's Grindhouse. It's a big product (one with lots to recommentd it for sure) that utilizes B-movie lures, and beats. And certainly it is high-concept, which I think is great.

I don't hold filmmakers to Hitchcock's standard as the ultimate helmer who demonstrates his command through the extraordinary sense of control over every shot, every frame. I do hope, not vainly, that they, however, learn from his mastery, and that of others. These guys -- Hitch, Hawks, Lang, Lumet -- even Russ Meyer -- were experts in a field that has very, very few. Flying in the face of these lessons, or counting too heavily on promotion, or high-concept's base audience predictions, while these may allow room for experimentation and, hopefully, expanding the tastes of he viewer (and concurrently growing the audience base for certain themes) may lead to lazy or sloppy filmmaking. At my budget level, if a scene or sequence doesn't really come off (and sometimes they don't) I believe it's never because of laziness or sloppiness, but usually because of over-optimism. LOL. I try to avoid playing around too much in spots where the elements of production are already scarce. Sometimes I just have to do a Hail Mary and hope the viewer will buy it (not in the commerce sense) when it's cut together. I may be kidding myself, but as long as I know we did our best with what was accorded us, bearing in mind the lessons of the past as well as commercial realities, following prodction I can go for a nice, long lie down in a cool, dark room with a clear conscience!