Three backpackers head to a Slovak city that promises to meet their hedonistic expectations, with no idea of the hell that awaits them. (IMDB synopsis)
Enough slasher films – now we move on to the Splatter Films, which should translate to *slightly* more blood and gore. (Don’t you just love British understatement?) Hostel is probably one of the better-known examples of its genre, although I have no idea what the plot is myself. Should be good.
Yeah, I enjoyed that! Just because I’m desensitised to violence doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a splatter film! It was good, coherent, and it even had a semi-satisfying resolution. The version of the DVD I got was the ‘Ultimate Edition’, apparently. Based on my dictionary’s definition of ‘ultimate’, I find this hard to believe.
We’re greeted in the opening scene by a bunch of bros – Paxton, Josh and Oli – who have come to Amsterdam to smoke pot and score chicks (is the nicest way I can think of putting it). This is the sort of thing that is engineered to make the audience despise them and want them to die.
Anyway, a man named Alexei lets them into his home after they are locked out of their hostel. He promises them more ‘shneepur’ (look it up) in a hostel in Slovakia, so off they go to this new place. Pulp Fiction is playing in the lobby, because Quentin Tarantino is this film’s producer, and the bros turn out to be sharing a room with some very friendly girls, with whom they relax at the spa, dance, take drugs and partake in sexy shenanigans. Indeed, all seems to be going well until Oli disappears.
I like a few of the subtle touches leading up to the moment the remaining bros realise they’re in trouble. For example, when Paxton and Josh leave a note at reception for their missing friend, the receptionist puts it on the room key hook on the wall. There are several other notes stuck to the other hooks, which should have been their first clue – besides all the other obvious ones, I mean.
I had assumed that Josh was our ‘hero’, given that he’s the nice and virginal member of the group. However, he’s tortured to death in the following scene bya member of the Elite Hunting Group who has paid for the privilege. Again, I like the way this scene is executed. Straight away, his torturer just drills into Josh’s leg without a word, then replaces the drill on the table and ohhh God there’s bits of flesh stuck to it aaargh. It’s a shock for the audience, as the guy drills first and exposits afterwards, not the other way around. It catches us off guard a bit, and that’s fine when it’s done once in a while.
I’d say the term ‘torture porn’ applies to this film, based on what I saw. The torture carried out by members is pretty much confined to the second half of the film, as so much time is spent ramping up suspense. But it is there, and it is intense and realistic. Sometimes the camera lingers on these horrific scenes, and sometimes it spares the audience, although you could argue that the mere promise of horrific scenes is bad enough. I still think there are more disturbing torture porns out there, like Salo, which isn’t even a horror film (again, look it up).
There are a few times when a character’s scream is muted at the point of pain being inflicted – at first, I thought my disc was faulty, but the second time it happened, I chalked it up to stylistic choice. It works because it almost distances us from the truly unreal horror the character experiences.
Another chilling sequence is after Paxton, the true protagonist, escapes his torture chamber, disguising himself as a client. In walks another sadist who proceeds to engage him in conversation. It’s disturbing because it forces Paxton to speak from one position, when he’s just been forced to experience everything from the other, far worse position. Nasty business – especially when you consider that people like this sadist character actually exist. Some of them are even family men. Shudder.
This is a good film that stands up on its own, although I’m sure the sequel has something to offer. Maybe this Elite Hunting group will improve their security. It does have its problems – the ending tries too hard to tie things up by letting Paxton exact revenge in the same brutal manner as his torturers, clouding the message. And I’m sure the people of Slovakia aren’t too fond of their country’s depiction in this film. Still, I’d say it’s worth a look.
6 1/2 jam sandwiches.