No way in hell HOSTEL is the landmark horror movie that at least one of my online buddies will tell you it is. Also, it’s not the worthless piece of shit some other people will tell you it is. This may seem weird, you probaly have never heard an opinion like this on the internet before, but HOSTEL falls somewhere in between GREAT AMERICAN HORROR CLASSIC MASTERPIECE and COMPLETE SUCKING OF ANIMAL SEX ORGANS. I call this condition “okay.”
As the ads will tell you, HOSTEL is “FROM DIRECTOR ELI ROTH” – in other words, the guy whose only other movie is CABIN FEVER. I liked that one. The hero-victims were dumb teenagers, but they had funny dialogue that made you like them anyway. In HOSTEL we get a trio of dumbass pussy fiends straight out of an ’80s fraternity movie, and they’re not as funny as those cabin kids. The first half of the movie is mostly about trying to get laid, smoking pot and drinking at a dance club. If you like to watch stupid dipshits get all excited about hot chicks taking their shirts off, you will enjoy this. I can’t remember if they keep high-fiving each other or not, but that is the basic vibe we’re talking here. The high fives are implied. Also, there is not a wet t-shirt contest at any point, but maybe on the DVD. Of the three characters, one is so obnoxious as to be kind of humorous, one is halfway sympathetic in comparison to the other two, and the third one is just a completely bland frat boy with few distinguishing characteristics except that he is the guy who plays Carlito Brigante in the CARLITO’S WAY straight to video prequel that I haven’t watched yet. So of course they die in that order, leaving you trying to root for the least interesting of three unlikable pricks.
One thing they didn’t have in the ’80s is cell phones, so that makes this pretty different from FRATERNITY VACATION or some stupid shit like that. These dipshits go around and take pictures with their cell phones and keep leaving each other voice mails and crap. So if your interests are talking about pussy with other guys, high fiving other guys to congratulate them for the size of their bongs, and going around annoying people by playing with your stupid fucking cell phone, you will relate to these characters. But if you are one of those guys you probaly won’t be reading this review unless it’s edited down to one paragraph and reprinted in Maxim. So confidentially between me and you, fuck those guys.
Remember in the ’80s they had all those horror movies where a girl takes her shirt off, then either Jason kills her or she turns into Freddy? Well, at least this time all the boob scenes are separated from the mutilation, so it’s more convenient for teens to jerk off to. But they have the internet now, what do they need these R-rated boob movies for? Aren’t they obsolete now? You hear that Entertainment Weekly? THE INTERNET killed the r-rated comedy. Not Hollywood.
Through a series of overly elaborate moves (why don’t they just throw bags over their heads and throw them in the back of a pickup truck?) the boys end up in a filthy warehouse where rich sadists pay money to torture and kill people. At this point I was thinking okay great, Eli Roth is one of these guys who enjoys CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and GUINEA PIG and crap like that, we get to watch people get drilled and cut up for the rest of the movie. Fortunately there’s not too much of that. The last survivor turns the tables and then it turns into a chase and a fight and that’s when the movie somewhat redeems itself. It gets more energy and you can always relate to a character trying to survive. This is where it seems to create its own identity, doing things a little different from what you usually see in a horror movie.
My buddy Harry Knowles says it’s some kind of allegory about ugly Americans exploiting foreign cultures, or something like that, but I don’t see it. I talked about that classic tourist tension technique in my WOLF CREEK review, but I don’t think this one really fits into that subgenre. Yes, they’re asshole tourists, but the villains are perverted rich guys, hot girls and bulky euro-trash dudes in black leather jackets. Imagine the bad guys from MONEY TALKS, but the size of bouncers. Maybe that’s a little too obscure. Anyway, it’s not so much class or cultural tensions as it is some dipshits getting cut up by some weirdos. I could be wrong, but I don’t think Eli Roth thinks these characters are dipshits. I think they’re his type of dudes.
There’s a subplot about a gang of little kids tormenting people on the streets. I think that’s the most unique “Eli Roth” aspect of the movie. If you saw CABIN FEVER you might remember the goofy subplot about the albino kid who does karate and loves pancakes or whatever it was. This isn’t quite as weird but it’s another thing you wouldn’t expect to see in somebody else’s horror movie. Also, Roth seems to be good at clever, mood-setting opening credits.
Unfortunately, characters like this are a weakness that just can’t be overcome, but it’s still a pretty fun horror ride. The guy goes through some serious shit. And it’s not all confined to the grimy dark place that is quickly becoming the “haunted house” type cliche of modern horror. By the way, is it even legal anymore to advertise a horror movie without fake dirt smudges and crap on the poster? I think maybe it’s time to take a break on that one for a while.
And speaking of posters, if you’ve seen the ones for this movie, they’re not a literal depiction of what happens in the movie. They just give you an idea of the mood. For example, one picture shows a dude wearing some kind of super hero goggles, holding a chainsaw at his crotch like a giant boner. That guy is not in the movie at all. There is no chainsaw boner. But the chainsaw boner is the general mood of the movie, I guess. There is a guy with a chainsaw but not that particular guy and not with those type of goggles. Proper respect is shown to the original TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, actually maybe too much because the guy falls and cuts his leg and wiggles around exactly like Leatherface does in that classic scene. spoilers. If you haven’t seen TEXAS CHAIN SAW I apologize if I gave something away but for god’s sake why are you reading about HOSTEL, you should be out renting TEXAS CHAIN SAW.
So here’s a quick guide to translating the advertising.
GUY WITH CHAINSAW BONER = don’t worry, no chainsaw boner in this movie
“QUENTIN TARANTINO PRESENTS” = Quentin Tarantino hangs out with the director of this movie
“FROM DIRECTOR ELI ROTH” = this guy did CABIN FEVER
“INSPIRED BY ACTUAL EVENTS” = this movie does not take place in space and therefore is real.
I was just complaining about this with WOLF CREEK, but man, HOSTEL takes the “actual events” bullshit to a new level. Apparently the actual event it is referring to is that Harry Knowles told Eli Roth there was a web sight where you pay $10,000 to shoot somebody. Holy shit, now that I know that I feel like this could happen to me at any moment.
I should mention, by the way, that this is probaly not a movie for women. I don’t mean that in some asshole “women are delicate” kind of way, I mean it in the sense that there is really nothing in this movie most women could possibly identify with, unless at some point in their life they were a semi-retarded 15 year old boy who lived inside a locker room. Most women I know, including horror fans, probaly wouldn’t enjoy watching a movie about some pricks talking about pussy, then getting mutilated and escaping. Slasher movies got a reputation for hating women, but I agree with that old book MEN WOMEN AND CHAINSAWS that pointed out how the final survivor, the one who outsmarts the killer, is almost always a girl, and that’s who you’re supposed to identify with. Think HALLOWEEN, NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. All the way up to SCREAM and its ten thousand babies. It’s tradition. The last year or two of slasher movies though it seems like everybody is trying to piss on that tradition. (spoilers for other movies coming up.) WOLF CREEK – last survivor is a dude. HIGH TENSION – it seems like it’s about a badass lesbian hero but then she turns out to be the killer. The other girl spends the whole movie gagged and crying. And now we got this one where not only are the protagonists male, they actually are penises. They are walking, bong hitting penises shaped like humans. Along the way they do pick up a female friend, but she is a painful stereotype of a passive Asian woman. So there’s nothing.
On the positive side, you ladies have that one channel only for women, where they show all the Cybill Shepard movies. If it’s any consolation. Sorry about this.
Anyway, if you’re a heterosexual male, and if you like this sort of shit, and if your standards aren’t really high, I say it’s worth watching. But don’t get your hopes up.
TRIVIAL POSTSCRIPT CRITICIZING ONE LINE OF WHAT SOME GUY WROTE ABOUT THIS MOVIE:
Before I go I can’t help but take a swipe at David Poland, the guy who does the “Hot Button” column and shows up on TV and radio sometimes to talk about box office. I don’t read the guy’s stuff usually because he’s one of those guys that’s fascinated by the business aspect of the movies, and always brings up box office and heads of studios and all that kind of crap. Anyway a buddy of mine pointed me to Poland’s recent “blog” posting on HOSTEL because my bud Moriarty had set off a big flameup in the comments section. (Poland and Ain’t It Cool News have some kind of ongoing east coast/west coast type feud.)
Anyway who gives a shit about that but I could not let this one line in his post go without comment. After a bunch of exaggerated bullshit about the movie being “horror porn” and having “no humor, no horror” and etc., he says that,”My joke about the film was that it should be called Hostile.”
Motherfucker, that’s not “your joke.” It’s the fucking TITLE of the movie. It’s a double meaning. A pun. I should warn you, there’s another movie out right now called THE FAMILY STONE. It’s about a family with the last name “Stone.” Also, it’s about the family wedding ring, or “stone.” (It’s not about Sly and the Family Stone. I found that out the hard way.) Anyway just wanted to let you know that although there are two meanings to the title, YOU DID NOT MAKE UP THE DOUBLE MEANING. They actually chose that title on purpose because, get it, it means two things.
If you’re confused enough to believe that you cleverly MADE UP the obvious double meaning of the title HOSTEL, how are we supposed to trust you to understand the type of horror and humor that is in the movie? I guess I shouldn’t waste my energy defending the honor of a movie I only kind of liked, but it seems to me that horror is the only genre that really has to put up with this type of shit. Romantic comedies, costume dramas and civil war epics don’t have to be subjected to all these writers who have little or no interest in the genre, or who even think the genre is immoral, trying to put their opinions out there like they are relevant to anybody. I mean come on, nobody should listen to me if I reviewed a Broadway musical and talked about how Broadway musicals suck and I don’t watch them but this one is the worst Broadway musical of 2006. Also take away points if I said that about two days into 2006, which happens to be the case here. And no, if I like one Broadway musical every 30 years that doesn’t count as me being a Broadway musical fan. I should probaly just leave it at, “Man, I always hate this shit, why do I keep going?”
Part of Moriarty’s argument was that Poland liked the remake of TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE and therefore couldn’t be trusted on horror matters. It’s a good argument because 1. fuck that fucking movie, motherfucker and 2. Poland calls movies like WOLF CREEK “horror porn” but then makes an exception for a movie that does the same damn thing but with less humanity and skill (not to mention defiling the sacred ground that is the original TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE).
It’s a good point, that’s a pretty big blow to the credibility there, but to me the “hostel/hostile” thing is even more unforgivable. Because even a person who doesn’t know jack shit about horror should be expected to have a basic understanding of puns. Shit, you give me 48 hours I bet you I could find an Amish guy who’s never watched a movie in his life, and this guy is gonna understand that a horror movie called “HOSTEL” is a play off of the word “HOSTILE.” I mean for fuck’s sake dude. For crying out loud. For the love of Jesus. For the love of the game. In the name of the father. On deadly ground.
DAVID POLAND, YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND PUNS AND ARE NOT QUALIFIED TO MAKE THEM.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.