Directed by: Eli Roth
Premise: Three hedonistic travelers (Jay Hernandez, Derek Richardson, Eythor Gudjonsson) backpacking across Europe find themselves involved in a gruesome situation when they check into a Slovakian hostel.
What Works: In the second half of Hostel, as Jay Hernandez’s character begins his search for his friends, the film gets much better. Aside from a few moments, the mystery unfolds well in the tradition of the Gothic terrible discovery. There is a great irony in the story that pays off very well if the viewer is paying attention; the themes of exploitation and objectification are central to the film and it explores these issues with extreme sexuality and violence. The scenes of violence are some of the most gruesome seen in recent horror films and will please gore hounds but for the most part they do serve a larger purpose and are not merely appealing to the prurient interest.
What Doesn’t: The first half of Hostel is a chore to get through. It is a rehash of gags that were done much better in films like EuroTrip. In places it comes across as a late night cable soft-core porn film and as that it is not very well done. When the film switches gears into horror, things are revealed too quickly which kills the atmosphere. As a result, the film can only be gory, not scary, and that diminishes the film’s ability to deliver on its promise.
Bottom Line: Ultimately, Hostel is a mixed bag. It desires to be The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and with that goal it falls short; its themes are too muddled and its first and third act are too clumsy. It does succeed more than similarly intentioned films such as Blood Sucking Freaks or even Pier Pasolini’s Salo: 120 Days of Sodom. There is a daring about Hostel that makes it worthwhile for hardcore horror aficionados but mainstream audiences will struggle with it.
Episode: #81 (January 15, 2006)