Reviewed by GREG KING.
Eli Roth has a penchant for killing curious teenagers in a variety of nasty, gruesome and unpleasant ways. Roth’s previous film was Cabin Fever, a clichéd, largely by-the-numbers, but effectively gory and bloody teen slasher film. His follow up film is Hostel, which has been produced under the auspices of Quentin Tarantino’s imprimatur, which means it is certainly twisted and decidedly bloody. With Hostel he seems to have deliberately set out to push the envelope regarding the depiction of cinematic gore and unpleasantly nasty violence. While many moments are gut wrenching and stomach churning, the film has an undeniable fascination. Like witnessing the aftermath of a car-crash – you can’t look away, and it’s somehow compelling despite the initial feeling of revulsion.
Paxton (Jay Hernandez, from Friday Night Lights and Crazy/Beautiful, etc) and his buddy Josh (Derek Richardson, from the dire Dumber And Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd, etc) are two young Americans backpacking through Europe before heading off to college. They are the typical “ugly Americans”, working their way through the seamier sights of Amsterdam with Oli (Eythor Gudjonsson), a fellow traveller from Iceland.
After one drunken evening too many, the boys hear about a fantastic hostel somewhere in Bratislavia that offers all manner of hedonistic and carnal pleasures. They immediately postpone their intended visit to Barcelona and head off instead for the wilds of Slovenia. What they find is something far more twisted and nasty than they expected – a subterranean torture palace for a group of wealthy sadists who prey on vulnerable backpackers, indulging in torture and murder. As Paxton flees this charnel house, Roth ratchets up the suspense and gore to almost unbearable levels.
Hostel will do for backpacking through Bratislavia what Jaws did for swimming at the beach and Wolf Creek did for tourism in the Australian outback. Like the recent Saw, Saw II, etc, Hostel revels in its depiction of gory and unpleasant violence. The film is certainly not for the queasy or faint-hearted as Roth’s sick killers employ a variety of power tools in ways not intended.
Roth has filmed in Czechoslovakia, where he has been able to turn his meagre $4.5 million budget into something grander. The unusual but picturesque locations also add another element to the increasing air of dread and unease. Roth has also been served well by his no name cast, who endure the physically punishing and demanding roles with admirable Stoicism.