Thursday, May 4, 2006

Hostel (2005)

I had avoided Hostel it in theaters because it was touted as a torture flick, which seemed so boring to me! After a few people recommended it, though, I decided to Netflix it.

It begins with two Americans, Paxton (Jay Hernandez) and Josh (Derek Richardson) backpacking through Europe with their newfound Icelandic friend Oli (Eythor Gudjonsson). At the start of the movie they are in Amsterdam, enjoying the primo weed and trying to get laid. Josh is the more responsible one, while Paxton and Oli are all about letting loose. The boys treat Europe like their own personal playground, where the right amount of money can buy them anything. They visit a brothel in the red light district where for the right amount of money, they can pay to do anything to a prostitute in a locked room. Hmmm...foreshadowing much? In this instance they are much like their torturers, paying for flesh to use to their own devices.

After a night of debauchery, they find themselves locked out of their hostel, having not made curfew. The locals lambast these "stupid Americans" and start hurling bottles at them. A kindly local named Alex lets them into his apartment, but the boys are a little shocked to find Alex's roommate having sex with his girlfriend in plain view. Alex says not to mind them, as they are too high to notice anything else. This inclusion of the couple reinforces the boys idea that "anything goes" in Europe. Josh and Paxton soon relax, barely noticing the couple (they are desensitized and embrace the idea of "anything goes") while Oli enjoys watching the couple. After hearing the boys are looking for girls, Alex tells them of a hostel in Slovakia that boasts the most gorgeous women that are just waiting for a piece of American tail. At first, the boys aren't really interested, but Alex shows them some pictures from his last trip there and they are soon sold on the idea.

They take the train where they meet a strange Dutch businessman who enjoys the visceral feeling of eating food without utensils. He makes a move on Josh who freaks out while Oli and Paxton laugh at him. Josh is the more cautious, sensitive, and likable character. He is trying to get over a girl back home, and Paxton seems to think lots and lots of sex with European women will cure his melancholy. Paxton is just trying to have as much fun as possible before he enters med school and Josh begins his Master's program.

They finally arrive in picturesque Bratislava, Slovakia and head to their hostel. Unlike most hostels, the one in Bratislava is like a nice hotel. The boys still have to share a room with other roommates, but they perk up when they find out their roommates are two gorgeous women. They join them in the spa (which is an added luxury at a hostel) where all manner of flesh is displayed. This naked body smorgasbord gets you thinking about what will happen to all that flesh once the torture begins.

Later that night, they join their roommates Natalya (Barbara Nedeljakova) and Svetlana (Jana Kaderabkova) to party at a local bar. Oli shows up with the hostel's front desk girl and they all dance and drink the night away. Josh has an encounter with the local child gang, who demand some kind of payment from him. The kids, all holding pipes or some other kind of weapon, are surprisingly creepy and threatening. Back at the hostel, Josh hooks up with Natalya while Paxton hooks up with Svetlana. Since they all share a room at the hostel, we see the girls giving each other knowing looks during sex with the boys...we know now that they are up to no good.

What follows is a grisly and gruesome cautionary tale...

This movie was pretty good. I enjoyed the set-up, the plot, the characterization and the social commentary employed by this movie. It wasn't the gore-fest many people touted it to be, but I was okay with still had its moments. The tension in the movie was terrific; it really had me on the edge of my seat! It's terrifying to think that horrible things can happen to you while you're so far from home.

I believe that Eli Roth, the director, was commenting on the ugliness of the world with this movie. Specifically that we live in a world where if you have enough money, you can do anything. At the beginning of the film, when the protagonists visit the brothel, they comment on how if they pay enough money, they can do anything they want to a prostitute. This idea grows within the movie to if someone has enough money, they can pay to kill or torture someone. Roth points out that money comes first and human beings come second. Also, Roth tackles how we are desensitized to many experiences. One of the torturers speaks to Paxton and explains that he's been all over the world, done everything (and everyone), and that basically this is the only thing left that will give him a thrill. The nudity and brutality of the movie are there to test the audience, to see how much is too much. Are we as desensitized as the torturers in the film? Are we looking to put money before humanity? Roth cleverly weaves these questions and commentaries into the narrative.

First and foremost, though, this is a horror wants to entertain you. Oh and will you be entertained! Just don't expect excessive amounts of torture (even with the uncut version - I think all they added was more boobs). Either as a social commentary or as a blood 'n' guts movie (or a mix of the two!) this film is very well done.

Order it on Amazon!

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