31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2017, Night #29 – Hostel (2005)

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Director: Eli Roth

Writer(s): Eli Roth

Studio/Distributor: Lionsgate/Screen Gems

Budget: $4.8m

Box Office: $80.6m

Release Date: 6 January, 2006

IMDb Rating: 5.9/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 61%

UK Blu Ray release? Yes

Cast

Jay Hernandez – Paxton

Derek Richardson – Josh

Eythor Gudjonsson – Oli

Barbara Nedeljakova – Natalya

Jan Vlasak – The Dutch Businessman

Jana Kaderabkova – Svetlana

Jennifer Lim – Kana

Keiko Seiko – Yuki

Trailer

Plot According to IMDb

Three backpackers head to a Slovak city that promises to meet their hedonistic expectations, with no idea of the hell that awaits them.

Inertia’s Insight

Like Tarantino, Eli Roth knows his shit when it comes to films. Unlike Tarantino, Roth did attend film school, his focus on the claret of cinema genres.  Exec produced by Tarantino, Hostel is only Roth’s second feature film and yet here, in his favoured genre (also forming part of a movement that coined a deplorable phrase for a sub-genre), he crafts an impeccable feature that quite literally twists and turns.

Backpackers Josh and Paxton are experiencing the cultures of Europe before settling down for the serious life. Bypassing the Sagrada Familia or Wencelas Square, they opt for the Red Light District and hash brownie cafes. In search of the next exciting venture, they are told of a place you can go where you can fulfill your wildest dreams…

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Hostel is such a frightening concept because of its reality. There’s a belief that this is possible, that somewhere in the world an elite club is operating in this mad, macabre way. Indeed, the gestation of the film came from a website that Harry Knowles told Roth about. Some of the best horror films are those grounded in reality, and Hostel plays on this to perfection. We’re embedded with Paxton, Josh and their European comrade Oli for some time, growing close to them, making their demise that harder to swallow.

The Dutch Businessman is a great highlight early on. His theory on our connection with food and the way in which he studies Josh gives you goosebumps. It’s not until I watched it recently for about the 12th time that I noticed something quite obvious: Josh is gay. His sexuality has no relevance on the events that are to come, but it’s an interesting take on the backpacker adventure. His reaction to the businessman’s advances are a little OTT; when he sees him again later, he tries to repeat the advance. His hesitation in having sex with Natalya and then his yearning for Oli are the final indicators. It makes for a sad story in that he is never going to be his true self, damned forever to that dark, dingy hell hole.

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It takes a good portion of time for the proverbial Hostel to lead them to their fate. Roth establishes credence with the hunting club, allowing us to believe their ability to kill hundreds of backpackers, leaving their fate unknown to their family’s. When we do get in the basement, this film gets dark. On the surface of it, you can see why the torture porn title was gifted to Hostel and other such mid-2000’s entries. There’s no less-is-more here; no hint of suggestion to allow the rest to be formed in our minds. We see everything –  blood, bile and all. In one sense it is effective, giving you the feelings that a first class horror film should. On the other hand, this style of filmmaking can tire quite quickly if overused. Fortunately for us, Roth demonstrates his skill, emphasising brutal detail whilst cutting (forgive the pun) when necessary.

Once Paxton is tied to the chair, things move at a hectic pace. His would-be killer is batshit crazy; I love the way that the focus is on the victims as opposed to the killer, though the killers actions and mannerisms make you feel like you want to know more about them. Though we do glimpse the psychology behind of the men in the leather overalls when Paxton escapes, it leaves a lot to be desired. Thankfully, Part II takes us further in to that mindset.

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Paxton’s actions in the final act echo how we would all be in that situation. It is harrowing, but his escape from the basement gives us hope. The final scene in the train station is superb. It leaves the door open for more whilst rounding off Paxton’s story nicely. His determination for justice sees him pushed to the same level of the antagonists, the horror mantra ringing true: no-one ever really wins.

Inertia’s Ideal Score ( out of 5)

★★★★

Trivia

  • The interior of the slaughterhouse was filmed at a functioning mental hospital in Prague
  • The three backpackers stay in room 237. This is a reference to the film The Shining
  • Over 150 gallons of blood were used in the making of the film
  • In the unrated DVD version, the word ‘fuck’ is said 128 times
  • The character of Natalyia was deliberately shown to get uglier throughout the film, to reflect her true personality

Quotes

MAN (Takashi Miike): Be careful. You could spend ALL your money in there.


Tomorrow: Night #30 – Get Out (2017)

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