Directed by Eli Roth, 2006
Because this site was originally bought with the intention of turning it into an Eli Roth shrine, I think it is only fitting that the first review on it be for Hostel. Ever since the theatrical run of Cabin Fever I have relentlessly praised Roth and once he started making appearances on Bravo’s 100 Scarriest Movie Moments, my respect for the man was cemented. His knowledge of horror films is uncanny. He has a great sense of humor and is obsessively enthusiastic about seeing the genre return to glory. I will swallow my humility and admit that he was a beacon of inspiration for me.
Why and how he fucked up Hostel beyond recognition of anything that could ever possibly be considered even a passable film is beyond me.
Why does Hostel fail? There is no singular reason that I can think of. Everything is wrong about this movie. Everything.
Well, not everything since the film opens with a well cut title sequence. However, the first shot afterwards is of someone blowing pot smoke into the camera. All class from the get go! But it gets better, for then they speak:
Josh: Did we come all the way to Europe to get stoned?
Oli: Hey, I came all the way from Iceland.
Truly inspired dialogue that could only haven been dictated by God himself! But I’m kidding myself if I try to imply I watch horror films for their dialogue. I watch for the horror. I watch for a story so strong that it will alter, even if briefly, the way I think about the world. A story so brutal that it chisels at my imagination. And at the least, I want to see images that’ll stain themselves upon my retina.
Exagerrated sentences, yes, given that all of the above is fairly easy to do when it comes to me, but thats why I love horror. The story of Hostel isn’t bad. I actually really like the concept of a place that lures foreigners, imprisions them and then rents them out to the highest bidder for torture. It isn’t too far off from an idea I had for a movie, actually. But, Eli Roth’s ability on show here doesn’t go past that skeleton of a story.
The film is never scary. I could chalk this up to the fact that the characters, if you can call them that, are beyond dull and the actors portraying them shouldn’t even get hired for another direct-to-DVD American Pie movie, but it is still possible to make a movie scary even if the characters are worthless. And since Roth was already trying to corner the subgenre of exploitation cinema, it isn’t that hard to make a movie that does just that and exploits the audience via the extreme violation of the characters; yet all is for naught. There isn’t much else to say about it, it just isn’t scary.
It isn’t even gory! If you can’t make a movie scary and you’re just going to make it exploitive, just make it gory. It isn’t hard to do. This isn’t complicated and yet it comes off as if Roth had down syndrome and was trying to take the test for Mensa. Which is painfully sad since Greg Nicotero and co are unrivaled in the makeup business. I’ve never before thought so low of their work, including stuff they’ve done for “Masters of Horror” (some of which has been below their own standards).
But hey, at least it has a sense of humor, right? No, it doesn’t. It may think it is funny, but it just isn’t.
Well, at least it is laughably bad, right? No, it isn’t. It isn’t because everything is played perfectly straight. Even a scene involving a mob of unrulely children, who are less threatening than the Gingerdead Man, who crush several men to death with stones because they were given a bag of gum is so painfully bad that it is a straing to even muster a chuckle towards it. Scenes like this (which are abundant throughout the last reel) and ultimately the whole film can’t be laughed at or enjoyed because it is just completely ill-concieved tripe.