American student pals Paxton and Josh are backpacking their
way across Europe in the holidays. With them is fellow traveller
Oli from Iceland. Enjoying themselves far too much in the
red light district of Amsterdam, the three get thrown out
of a nightclub and are locked out of their hostel. A Dutch
student comes to their rescue and later advises them to visit
Slovakia where the girls are willing and plentiful. A Dutch
businessman points them to a region where a hostel houses
girls who will do anything for money. When they get there
it is like a dream come true: open spars, shared rooms, drink,
puff, partying and sex. When Oli goes missing Josh is concerned,
but Paxton is having too much fun to worry. But when Josh
becomes a victim of a deranged failed surgeon torturer, Paxton
is landed right in the middle of an illicit death and debauchery
for money scam...
I'd managed to miss the cinematic release of this film, but
I couldn't exactly avoid hearing about the reputation it garnered.
"Sick" and "depraved" were commonly associated words, so when
I sat down to watch this DVD I had already pretty much decided
to hate it. It's not because I'm squeamish; as I've mentioned
before in reviews, I dislike violence or gore for its own
sake - it has to be conducive to the plot. The addition of
Quentin Tarantino's name to the mix as Executive Producer
(who's generally known for uncompromising violence) didn't
assuage my preconception. So it came as quite a pleasant surprise
to be proved wrong.
Before we get to those notorious scenes let's take one step
backwards. Hostel is written and directed by Eli Roth,
not to be confused with Ulrich Roth who flew to the rainbow
with the early line-up of The Scorpions - although enough
drugs pop up in this film to fly anyone to the rainbow and
back again. Roth creates easily likeable characters in credible
settings, who are simply led astray by the prospect of getting
laid (or as we say in good old Blighty, getting their leg
over) as many times as possible between college studies. They
are plunged into a culture completely alien to them, where
they come across obstacles such as the cold locals or the
group of threatening youngsters (listed in the credits as
the Bubblegum Gang) who periodically appear from nowhere to
block progress until they are given something (they are used
to good device later in the film). Only the hostel is a safe
haven, but even that seems too good to be true.
The first scenes of torture appear entirely gratuitous, but
the plot thankfully produces the saving grace of the Good
Hunting organisation, where people can pay to torture and
kill an innocent victim. The story releases layers throughout.
What seems to be one man's obsession materialises into a conspiracy
which nearly everyone in the town (including the authorities)
is party to.
Hostel is very much a film about survival, so the structure
is somewhat similar to the remake of The
Hills Have Eyes, whilst existing in a completely
different setting. The scenes of violence may disgust some
people, but are no more sickening than those portrayed in
a multitude of other horror movies, like the aforementioned
Hills, and Saw. In fact, I found Fear
Dot Com more disturbing.
So, a nice surprise and a well-constructed film, with the
only drawback being that a sequel has already materialised
to almost universal condemnation. Not a good idea. Roth should
have left well alone, but you can't blame him for accepting
the commission in the first place.
Extras for the Dungeon Deluxe version include on disc
1: four commentaries (Eli Roth is in each, with other participants);
a 3-part featurette (Hostel Dissected); Kill the
Car! (multi-angle scene in which the Bubblegum Gang destroy
a car); and six unrelated trailers. These were all on the
original DVD release. Disc 2 includes: Hostel Dismembered
(a TV special on the film); a Photo Gallery; Set
Design Featurette; Music & Sound Featurette; An
Icelandic Meal (3 minute interview with Eythor Gudjonsson);
Interview with Japanese director Takashi Miike (this
is quite interesting but strangely out of context); and a
Special Effects Featurette. This last extra is easily
the most enjoyable, with the enthusiasm of the two experts
clearly prominent as they discuss and demonstrate gory effects.
you are a true devotee of this film, the meagre added special
features on disc 2 are not enough to warrant purchasing this
film a second time. However, if you're coming to it fresh,
it's more than worth a look, but you're unlikely to want to
endure four separate commentaries.