Published Dec 01, 2005When Eli Roth appeared out of nowhere in 2002 with Cabin Fever, a fresh fright flick that substituted flesh-eating bacteria for the typical zombie or axe murderer, he impressed and energised many horror fanatics with a zealous approach to filmmaking.
Since then, a lot has gone on, like making friends with Takashi Miike and Quentin Tarantino, who lend a face and name (as in: "Quentin Tarantino presents "), respectively, to Roth's second film, Hostel.
Cabin Fever began with the familiar, but somehow not tired (yet), tale of kids travelling to a cottage in the woods to meet their deaths, and Hostel doesn't fare any better in the originality department, using American backpackers in Europe, à la An American Werewolf in London, or you know, it's weaker Parisian sequel.
Unfortunately, in the end, Hostel finds itself struggling to top Julie Delpy's disastrously hairy lycanthropic nightmare in the latter werewolf flick. It's a shame too, because in the original teaser trailer the film raised hairs on the arm with its merciless potential, but alas, what we have here is another American filmmaker trying to rip off the works that inspired him.
Paxton and Josh are two horny, cocky Americans backpacking throughout Europe with the equally cocky and even hornier Icelander Oli. They meet a stranger who tells the threesome of some extra fine brothel/hostel in his home country and upon the word of this complete stranger the trio head out to Bratislava in search of hookers. And they find them and they screw them in full "boobs a flying" detail, but not without a price. Little do they know they're the target for a game that allows wealthy sadists to live out their bloody, murderous fantasies and torture chosen prey in whatever manner they please.
Written by Roth as well, Hostel's paper-thin plot is as messy as the abundant gore in the second half of the film. He's given us three nasty, unlovable characters most can't relate to, and in the end forces the audience to either join in on the sadism or cheer for the brash, misogynistic stoners. Deciding to join team sadist, in the most brutal scenes Roth has done a fine job mastering the art of gore, delivering some of the finest looking makeup and believable effects. But a simple gore flick without any substance is not what this movie with such a ruthless premise should be aspiring to be. I'll take the torture of watching the opening scene in Saw II, with its "will he or won't he?" scenario or that infamously foul pit o' needles moment any day, which are both equally visceral and spine-chillingly engaging without spilling more than a few drops of blood.
Hostel will do big business, like both Saws, because people love filling their bloodlust quota, but next time Roth should take into account what goes into making a good movie instead of getting all keyed up just to use a power drill and a chainsaw as torture tools in a blatantly plagiarised way. It's obvious the man has the talent to become a great horror filmmaker, one day. (Maple)