Many times horror movies have to tiptoe an imaginary line between horror and repulsiveness. Is there such thing as going too far? Many torture films look to shock and create a sense of hopelessness, but if the viewer can’t even look at the screen due to how graphic it is, what is it really achieving? While many new torture films go so far past that line you can’t even see the line, Hostel does a delicate dance right where the viewer wants it.
The story begins with a couple of college students, Paxton (Jay Hernandez) and Josh (Derek Richardson) backpacking through Europe. Along the way they meet an Icelandic friend, Óli (Eyþór Guðjónsson). The viewer is privy to the common hormonal issues of young college boys. This results in some stupid decisions by them, but who hasn’t made a stupid decision when intoxicated or “in love”? Everything in Europe is about drugs or sex for them, which is cliché, but it is also hilarious along the way. Quick one-liners and the exploits of Óli make the beginning of the film not only funny, but also emotionally engaging. You learn to love Paxton and especially Josh, who struggles with the concept of having sex with everything that moves. The trio is eventually roped into traveling to Slovakia, where the most beautiful women can be found. All hell breaks loose thanks to manipulation and well thought out plans.
Thank God the beginning of the film was engaging, because it has a very slow pace to start off. This is one of those films that builds up suspense until the last thirty minutes then slams it all on you. When you are in the horror of it all, it is that much more terrifying because you have learned to root for these characters. Not all is sunny in Hostel land though, mostly due to the outlandish villains and plot twists. There isn’t just one villain, there are literally hundreds, which always makes you think about believability. The film is set in Eastern Europe, which already has a reputation for sex and weird shit, so the viewer is forced to rule the plot twists off as something we just don’t get.
There are also moments where I just couldn’t believe how much bad luck the characters were having. This is mostly due to every single person around them attempting to torture and manipulate them. While it is over the top, it is also horrifying to think that when we are so far away from home we really don’t have anyone we truly know or understand. Ultimately, I wouldn’t suggest traveling to war-torn Europe after this film.
Does the torture go too far? I don’t think so. I think that it is gruesome and terrifying, but I didn’t think that it was pointless thanks to my love for the characters. Eli Roth didn’t create a pointless film, he created an intelligent film that ropes the viewer in with character development and interesting concepts. The vileness of sex, drugs, youth, Americans, Europeans, and children are all explored and intertwined. It almost felt like a parental lesson on what could go wrong in a foreign place, but it did it with artistry and grandiose.
This isn’t one of those films that makes you pop out of your seat. Instead it makes you grimace and shy away, but not enough for you to not truly watch and take in what you are seeing. The plot lines are a stretch and the characters have horrible luck along with a string of stupidity, but we love them for who they are. Horror island is receiving a torture film that is done right. There is a line you can cross in horror and this film approaches, but doesn’t cross it. For that I respect it and truly enjoyed watching it.
If you liked Hostel, you might also like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Texas Chainsaw Massacre.