There was a time when graphic violence was forbidden in films. While I am not a fan of any form of censorship these restrictions did force directors and script writers to be more imaginative, having to scare people in their minds instead of parading gory scene after scene before our eyes. The master director Alfred Hitchcock was the best with this. In Psycho you never really see the knife penetrating flesh in the famous shower scene, your mind just pictures it from the clues provided. On the other end of the spectrum is the more recent trend where gallons of stage blood are employed, various devices used to emulate in horrific detail the evisceration of a living human being. He last few years has seen this escalated to a point where you would think it could go no further, that may have been somewhat true until the release of Hostel. The film begins in a fashion more typical of any one of many teenage party films. Americans Paxton (Jay Hernandez) and Josh (Derek Richardson) are on an extended vacation in Europe looking for every hedonistic endeavor possible. While in Paris they met an Icelandic youth, Oli (Eythor Gudjonsson) who informs the lad that there is a hostel in the Eastern European country of Bratislava. The three decide to check it out before leaving for their scheduled destination of Barcelona, Spain. Once in the country they check into the hostel where among the host of hardly dressed females they meet two other residents, Miss Slovakia, Natalya (Barbara Nedeljakova) and the first runner-up, Svetlana (Jana Kaderabkova). The girls are beautiful, nubile and more than willing to succumb to the hormonally driven boys. Apparently the young ladies are so desperate because most of the men in their country have been killed in some nebulous war leaving a nation of unsatisfied young women just looking for a good time. Sex, drugs and eighties Bavarian rock and roll abound and the guys think they have died and gone to heaven. Well they are sort of half right. Shortly after the young men fulfill their wildest sexual fantasies things start to go horribly wrong. First Oli disappears. The two Americans are initially sure he is just off getting a little more libation when Josh also goes missing. Left on his own Paxton does try to do the right thing and goes to the authorities but the police are of no use. Paxton discovers all too late that the girls where just bait for an exclusive torture club. There men of wealth, means and a very large sadistic streak could pay a good sum of money to experience what it is like to torture a human being to death. The methods these sick individuals use would make Freddy Kruger and Michael Myers envious.
The main problem here is the break from one traditional aspect of the horror film; the audience has to care about the plight of at least some of the victims. Josh and Paxton are the poster boys for the stereotypical ‘ugly American’. They are self-important, self righteous little brats that feel the world owes them everything. Instead of feeling pity or horror at the fate that awaits them there is a nagging little voice that tells the audience that they are only getting what they deserve. Personally I was glad to see that these guys have been removed from the gene pool. Thankfully people like Paxton and Josh will not be able to procreate their self centered ways. The film does have a little more than just violence for the sake of shock value. If you look past the flowing blood and gleaming instruments of mutilation there is an indictment on the growing trend of consumerism. If you watch VH1 any given Saturday morning you are sure to see a program at the wonderful things the rich and famous can buy. If they want a solid gold collar for their yappy little dog, money can get it. Does your daughter desire a sweet sixteen party that could fund a third world nation for a decade it only takes enough money from daddy. Here any sadistic fantasy can be played out with real people for the right sum. It has been said that life is cheap. Thanks to a favorable exchange rate in Bratislava it is down right a barging.
The cast here is a cut (no pun intended) about the rest of the genre. Jay Hernandez has some smaller roles behind in such flicks as Crazy/Beautiful, Ladder 49 and the direct to video Carlito’s Way: Rise to Power. Both demonstrated that he has acting abilities. Here he is given little to work with as Paxton. The path before his character is too predicable. Considering his other work I have to consider the possibility that the one dimensional nature of Paxton was by design. For Derek Richardson the role of Josh was a step up from his tragic portrayal in Dumb and Dumber. Eythor Gudjonsson appears to have been added to mix as an initial victim and also to show the audience that horny post college boys are the same all around the world. Barbara Nedeljakova) and Jana Kaderabkova do well as the luscious bait. They met the fundamental criteria for their involvement in this film. No, not acting, they have the two qualities that the director was looking for here; they have breasts and they are willing to show them off with little justification.
When the providers of gruesome special effects hear that Eli Roth is planning a new film they must run home to tell their wives to plan that new in ground pool. Roth gained a lot of notice with his Cabin Fever, a flick about a group of twenty-somethings with a nasty case of flesh eating bacteria. Apparently Hostel used three times the amount of fake blood than its predecessor. There is also something that differentiates the two works by Roth, Hostel actual was paced properly. The film may be predictability but it flows correctly. The boys are too obnoxious; something horrible has to happen to them. The final act of the film has an almost documentary feel to it. It is sort of like a serial killer training film and as promised it will revolt many in the audience.
Sony brings this controversial film to DVD in all of its gory glory. The anamorphic video is presented in 2.35:1 ratio. The color balance is slick and well done. The contrast is fantastic. The Dolby 5.1 audio is well executed with a good use of all the speakers. The rear speakers provide not only a reasonable ambience but are also used for some of the creepier sound effects. The extras are nicely done. There is a technical commentary by director Eli Roth that goes into some of his major influences in the genre and how he wanted to do this film. There is also a lively commentary by executive producer Quentin Tarantino. Here is a man that does not have an inhibition circuit in his brain. His comments come out rapid fire but are always enjoyable for the true fan. There is also a three part featurette called ‘Hostel Dissected’ a rather pedantic look at the production. This film is definitely not for the whole family unless you just happen to belong to the Manson family. It is real produced and directed and will be a main stay of the genre for a long time to come.