According to Hostel, extremely wealthy and over privileged businessman can buy something they won't soon forget: another human being's life. Americans are expensive, but if you're open to the ethnicity of your purchase, you can get a human for a fairly reasonable price. But we are not talking about selling humans into slavery. These clients are purchasing "products" to torture and kill.
Apparently, Hostel is based on real events. There is (or was) a legal practice in Thailand in which victims volunteer to be murdered by a paying customers so that their families get insurance money. Naturally, Hostel takes some major creative liberties, but this movie has a unique idea, for sure, and that's hard to come by in a horror film.
Hostel follows young Americans Paxton (Jay Hernandez), Josh (Derek Richardson), and Icelander Oli (Eythor Gudjonsson) as they embark upon a backpacking trip through various European countries. They're vacationing to see the sights, smoke pot, party hardy, and screw some hot European chicks. As luck (or not) would have it, they strike girl gold... but soon they soon wish they would have picked a different pair of broads to mess around with.
The girls are really part of an elaborate (or plausibly elaborate) business -- called Elite Hunting -- designed to seduce young tourists into partaking in certain activities which lead to them getting drugged up, unconscious, and relocated to a desolate, abandoned warehouse where they are chained to a chair and tortured to death by clientele. These are some mighty sick businessmen.
Regarding the controversy about the extreme blood, gore, and graphic violence -- yes, it's true. A man taking an electric screwdriver to another man's body isn't even the tip of the iceberg. There is a scene in which a man takes a blow torch to a woman's eye, causing it to bulge out and rest on her cheek, hanging by some membrane thing. Later, the eyeball is sliced off (which we see in full detail) causing a yellow fluid to pour from the laceration. How the film avoided an NC-17 rating is beyond me, especially considering the startling amount of sexual content and nudity found in the first act. Note to parents: this is not a movie to take the family to on a Sunday afternoon after church.
But that's all the movie's got going for it -- shock value. Look -- boobs! Gasp -- brain matter! Oh hell -- that guy just got chopped in half with his own chainsaw! Wow -- I can't believe we're watching this! All this shock stuff is fine and dandy if you're a 17-year-old male hanging out with your guy friends on Saturday night. But for anyone -- and everyone -- else, a horror movie cannot run on shock value alone.
As usual, writer/director Eli Roth (Cabin Fever) is more concerned with shocking audiences than delivering genuine tension and suspense. He has an original and engaging premise, but fails to develop anything more than a blood-and-guts freak show. It's a shame that Hostel isn't scary -- in the least -- because if the gore relieved tension instead of replacing it, without a doubt, Roth would have had one hell of a horror flick.
How much for a triple?
Run time: 94 mins
In Theaters: Friday 6th January 2006
Box Office USA: $47.3M
Box Office Worldwide: $80.6M
Distributed by: Lions Gate Films
Production compaines: Hostel LLC, International Production Company, Next Entertainment, Raw Nerve
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 61%
Fresh: 63 Rotten: 41
IMDB: 5.8 / 10
Director: Eli Roth
Screenwriter: Eli Roth
Starring: Jay Hernandez as Paxton, Derek Richardson as Josh, Eythor Gudjonsson as Oli, Barbara Nedeljakova as Natalya, Jana Kaderabkova as Svetlana, Jan Vlasák as The Dutch Businessman, Lubomir Bukovy as Alex, Takashi Miike as Miike Takashi, Jennifer Lim as Kana, Keiko Seiko as Yuki, Jana Havlickova as Vala, Rick Hoffman as The American Client, Petr Janis as The German Surgeon