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Overall Rating
2.91

Awesome: 22.22%
Worth A Look: 25.56%
Average: 6.11%
Pretty Bad: 13.33%
Total Crap32.78%

9 reviews, 126 user ratings


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Hostel
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Disturbing and effective."
5 stars

The ads for 'Hostel' sold it all wrong. They sold it as a sadistic tour de force that the youth of America would have to dare each other to sit through. Maybe the marketing was effective in the short term -- 'Hostel' made $20 million its opening weekend.

But the movie I saw, rather than being the callow gross-out I'd expected, is actually genuinely frightening and not terribly explicit (though it does have its share of grisly moments). Premises don't get much more basic -- three guys in search of thrills in a strange land confront stark raving evil -- but what writer/director Eli Roth does with it stands as a stern moralistic rebuke to ugly-Americanism. The movie is in-your-face but not pointlessly so.

Paxton (Jay Hernandez) and Josh (Derek Richardson), two typical college guys out for as much sex and drugs as they can grab during their European tour, and Oli (Eythor Gudjonsson), a hedonistic Icelandic guy who's maybe ten years older, begin the movie in weed-friendly Amsterdam. For these guys, ancient and many-tongued Europe exists only to satiate their wolvish whims. Like the party-boy Victor in The Rules of Attraction, whose Euro-trip streaked by in flashes of nudity and hallucinogens, Paxton and Josh treat their surroundings as their playpen. They're hated pretty much everywhere they go, but they hear about a place in Slovakia where the women are hot for American accents. The trio are on the next train there.

Roth takes his time. We're maybe forty minutes into Hostel (not counting the ominous opening credits) before we catch the first glimpse of carnage. The guys, it turns out, are being steered towards a dank and dingy dungeon of torture, where businessmen pay top dollar to mutilate captives. (In a good joke, the most expensive objects of torture are Americans.) Before that, though, Roth plausibly sets up a disorienting atmosphere in which three hungover guys who aren't necessarily thinking with the thinking parts of their anatomy could be so easily herded to the slaughter. Paxton and Josh are cannily drawn as surrogates for the young males who'll be most attracted to Hostel and would be most attracted to the same comely diversions that tempt the protagonists. In other words, they're obnoxious.

Then again, so were the young victims in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and that horror classic certainly didn't suffer for lacking "nice" protagonists. Once Paxton and Josh are separated and helpless in the face of masked, heavily-accented evil, we realize how much of their xenophobic, homophobic façade is a cover for just plain phobia; they are fearful, overcompensating young males, and now they really have a reason to be afraid. The torture scenes are certainly unpleasant, though Roth knows that what scares us is not clinical repulsiveness but the dread of shadows and the barely-glimpsed. When Paxton is dragged to the cell where pain awaits him, we catch corner-of-the-eye images of horrific things going on in other cells. Far more disturbing than what we actually see is the ghastly economics of this place, where anguish is well-paid for, the cops are in on it, and ruined body parts are casually chopped up, probably for dog meat. And the film's most clearly seen disgusting moment is actually, perversely, an act of mercy.

Roth probes another level of American darkness when we meet a businessman from the States (Rick Hoffman) who's absolutely giddy at the prospect of torturing a young Japanese woman. He's done it all, he says, and he wants the rush of having ultimate power over life and death. The European and Asian torturers we see, while certainly sick and depraved, do seem to have some sense of gravity, some strange sense of respect for the import of what they're doing. Not the American torturer, who can't decide whether he wants to "make it quick" or get more bang out of his buck by making the agony last. He is, perhaps, meant to be Paxton or Josh twenty years later, an American male who never grew out of the pursuit of decadence and followed it down the rabbit hole to madness. He is probably the most repellent thing on view in the movie, and Roth very much intends him to be repellent and pathetic, not someone whose mind is to be enjoyed or emulated. The strategic placement of his scene, after we've already endured torture from the point of view of the protagonists, tells us that Roth is not simply after mayhem for kicks.

Some of Hostel -- okay, a lot of it -- strains credibility. (Are the people of Slovakia so blasé that they don't notice someone with a blowtorched eye socket wobbling around a train station?) But the atmosphere, sin giving way to darker sin, is the important thing. It carries you through the mild cheesiness of the vengeful finale (as bracing as it is to see the pale, masked torturers get their comeuppance), which quotes directly from the moment in Pulp Fiction where Bruce Willis, about to escape his tormentors, stops and decides that he just can't leave Ving Rhames like that. It's perhaps no coincidence that Quentin Tarantino is "presenting" Hostel -- it shares his aesthetic and his pet theme (actions have consequences). Roth, whose 2003 Cabin Fever was a fun throwback to backwoods horror, has made a movie that criticizes its self-consciously grotesque peers (recent movies like Saw II and Wolf Creek that seem to glory in nihilistic bloodletting for its own sake), criticizes its own audience, and even criticizes its own advertising.

If you go to 'Hostel' hoping for sadistic jollies, Roth puts you in that chair and makes you feel what it must be like to wait for God knows who to do God knows what to you. And it's interesting that such a cinematic reminder of the hideousness of torture comes at a time when torture has been, shall we say, in the newspapers.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=12912&reviewer=416
originally posted: 02/02/07 11:56:27
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/28/10 daniel vermillion Wow! Breathtaking thrills! Chilling suspense! And that dialogue: "I won't tell anybody, let 3 stars
3/09/10 PAUL SHORTT UNPLEASANT AND PAINFUL TO WATCH 1 stars
2/21/10 Josie Cotton is a goddess Much better than I thought it would be 4 stars
1/18/09 action movie fan an actually engrossing torture porn flick with a good stoyr and suspense 4 stars
1/15/09 FrankNFurter Deeply unpleasant, misanthropic excrement on cellulloid.Absolutely horrid! 1 stars
11/24/08 action fucking sick dude 1 stars
10/28/08 Sugarfoot Too repetitive and predictable to be scary, though the gore factor is there. 2 stars
9/10/08 Borat Eli Roth talked up this movie way to much.it didnt deserve the hype. 3 stars
7/24/08 Shaun Wallner Bloody Awesome!!! 5 stars
3/01/08 Ivana Mann Promising, creepy set-up turns into overly gory house-of-horrors shit. Roth goes too far! 2 stars
2/11/08 Mark Great Horror movie, this is the new benchmark 5 stars
10/28/07 Jest Eli Roth and Uwe Boll need to kill themselves to save cinema 1 stars
10/04/07 Flesh-GTA I noticed all the bad coments are antigore. Yeah Gore!!PS I Love this Film, Keep it up Eli! 5 stars
9/26/07 dude unwatchable 1 stars
7/19/07 Alice The Scary movies, american pie lovers, will prob love this also, so: A NO BRAINER 1 stars
5/06/07 Dan Lipian A surprisingly intelligent, albeit excessively gory, take on seeking pleasures of the flesh 5 stars
4/18/07 Sally SUCKED! 1 stars
4/02/07 Dark Enchantress i have shit better things out of my ass 1 stars
3/31/07 fools♫gold Pointless nudity and Hitchcock-style could-be-true horror story that everyone hates?! 3 stars
2/08/07 Raph Branca Sexy, scary, bloody. Everything a horror film should be. 5 stars
2/02/07 Shobert Piss poor filmmaking, nonexistant script, laughable acting, stupid movie for idiots. 1 stars
1/18/07 del ME LIKEY GORE AND HAVE NO BRAIN!!!!!!!!!! 1 stars
12/21/06 David Pollastrini brilliant, great gore 5 stars
12/03/06 seonaid Hideously brilliant. Good, senseless gore, but, surprisingly, with a fairly original plot. 5 stars
11/14/06 millersxing Miike fan disappointed both by that brief cameo and by dull storytelling. 2 stars
11/10/06 American Slasher Goddess Decent enough and much better then the horribly goofy Cabin Fever. 3 stars
11/02/06 Roy R. Pryor Those who vilify me for watchin "too gross" AMERICAN PIE should be forced to watch THIS! 1 stars
11/02/06 bobby Made me feel dirty just watching it. Set back Eatern European tourism 10 years! 4 stars
10/31/06 pete.chesworth very creepy film with a sense of dread pervading the screen 4 stars
10/29/06 Tara this movie was quite pointless, and the effects looked pretty fake 2 stars
10/29/06 Pritchett Not scary, not stylish, pointless gore. Total yawn-inducing garbage. 1 stars
10/22/06 Dillon Uneven and a little dull, but it might work for you if you like this kind of thing. 3 stars
10/19/06 David Pollastrini good gore. 5 stars
10/18/06 AJ Muller Eli Roth is here to stay, and we horror freaks should be MIGHTY thankful 5 stars
9/22/06 Pimp It kicked heaps of arse best thing I've seen tits and violence what a great combo 5 stars
9/11/06 truth eli roth redeems himself after the horrible cabin fever 4 stars
8/28/06 anthonyuk lacked any tension, overhyped garbage, almost laughable, lets hope eli roth retires soon! 1 stars
8/23/06 chris f best horror movie ive seen!!! 5 stars
8/19/06 Beau Good, woodnt see it twice. the producer/director 'quentin' is full of sick plots, worth 2 c 4 stars
8/18/06 Vince Good idea nicely executed 4 stars
8/17/06 Senoa It's bloody, it's gory. It's well done, but watch it twice and you need help. 4 stars
8/14/06 Me I love this movie it does not suck and jay hernandez is SEXY!! 5 stars
8/05/06 Sumixam great idea poorly executed (pardon the pun) 3 stars
7/22/06 Agent Sands Really quite a good movie, just poorly misadvertised. 4 stars
7/19/06 Steve Has to be the darkest horror film I've seen. Extremely hardcore horror! It was great! 5 stars
7/15/06 Anthony G Worth seeing one time just to say you've seen it, after that you should hang yourself. 1 stars
6/23/06 TempLoop Better than I thought it would be 4 stars
6/15/06 Indrid Cold Like Cabin Fever, it's relatively good for its genre. Worth seeing once. 3 stars
6/13/06 Tasia I liked this movie, but I think it was way too hyped up. I don't think it's worth owning 3 stars
6/04/06 William Goss Extremely entertaining exploitation. However, post-screening shower sold separately. 4 stars
5/25/06 Jon How can you guys say this was ok!?!?? You people are sick. WORST. MOVIE. EVER. 1 stars
5/20/06 JeromeBosch Christine, what did you dislike? 4 stars
5/20/06 Christine Wilbik It wasn't worth watching. One of the worst movies ever made. 1 stars
5/15/06 Monday Morning Very tasteful, compared to Kill Bill. 1 stars
5/11/06 Jerome Bosch see it for the babes! 4 stars
5/11/06 Agent Sands Misadvertised. It's actually a good movie. 4 stars
5/05/06 Vince Pretty good gore-fest actually 4 stars
5/04/06 ES The 'I'm American I have to get vengence on all who have wronged me" ending killed the film 1 stars
5/01/06 Leslie My interest to see it /"based on true events" is it possible? No trip to Europe for me! 3 stars
4/27/06 Sheldon This is a sign that good horror movies are endangered 1 stars
4/27/06 Bill This movie was horrible and it sucked! 1 stars
4/24/06 Annie From all the hype, I expected more, big letdown... 3 stars
4/23/06 Mick I enjoyed the last 30 minutes of the film the best. 5 stars
4/23/06 Josh Standlee Fuck you, Mike D! This movie kicked hella ass!! 5 stars
4/23/06 Danny I do believe this is the most repulsive movie ever. Total waste of time. 1 stars
4/21/06 Nicko What the fuck are you talking about Laffy 5 stars
4/20/06 Laffy Taffy Disgusting and it sucked 1 stars
4/20/06 tatum Terrible letdown from Cabin Fever, lifeless and a bore 1 stars
4/18/06 Kevin experience This movie was total crap, plotless pointless and pathetic 1 stars
4/18/06 does what it is supposed to do b-movie horror at it's finest. at least better than DEVIL'S REJECTS 5 stars
4/10/06 Rub Molesto Why isn't there a "no star" rating? I wouldn't but this movie to scrape the shit off my ass 1 stars
4/04/06 Mike D Total shit...only losers like this crap. 1 stars
3/15/06 sandra lopez hey! well i saw the movie hostel and it's verry good i liked it. jay i love you. 5 stars
3/13/06 chris f very sick and gory i enjoyed it 5 stars
3/12/06 Frenzy Dumb movie 2 stars
3/12/06 Reklc If this is what americans think about Europe we're lucky not to be ocupied. Sucks!!!!!!!!!! 1 stars
3/11/06 Dillon Slow in the beginning, but once it gets going it doesn't stop 3 stars
3/09/06 Marcia Lartz OMG, EricDSnider! Where's fart humor when we need it Svetlana&Natalia, please blast one! 1 stars
3/08/06 Jane Austen's Enema WRONG TURN made me sure to visit West Virginia. Too bad Slovakia's so far away! 2 stars
3/08/06 Allison Lafferty Does such shit really happen in Bratislava? Ugh! Almost coulda made me a Lesbian (LMAO). 2 stars
3/03/06 Bleak Brilliant!!! anyone who hated this doesnt have a clue 5 stars
3/02/06 ronald total rubbish.Fuck you roth 1 stars
2/26/06 Dannothemoviemanno Liked Cabin Fever.. bored with this. 2 stars
2/17/06 BoondockTwat This was such a stupid movie...if you liked it, you're stupid, too. Eli Roth stupid. 1 stars
1/31/06 Agent Sands What the fuck?! This was really really really good! 5 stars
1/30/06 Amy I have never puked after a movie, but this movie made me!!! 2 stars
1/21/06 Flyboy A total piece of shit with absolutely no style and a nonexistant script. A complete waste. 1 stars
1/21/06 SoHo Defend it as you may wish, in the end you're defending a pile of turds in drag. 1 stars
1/20/06 ChappyX Not for people who like story structure, characters, or any resembling an actual script. 1 stars
1/19/06 kat Dropped to #5 in second week...ha! People DO have taste! Wow! 1 stars
1/18/06 ShadowFace5 I enjoyed the movie. Good concept. 4 stars
1/18/06 Jon Gory, but not scary. 4 stars
1/18/06 Larry The people who liked this are the same who liked DEVIL'S REJECTS - RETARDS!!!!! 1 stars
1/17/06 KevinG "wtf is wrong with yall???" We have taste...and you do not. 1 stars
1/16/06 Jai Alai I have to say that I like it far more than I thought I would 5 stars
1/16/06 Jesus This movie ROCKED! wtf is wrong with yall??? 5 stars
1/16/06 gerald If Eli Roth is the future, we should all repent right now... 1 stars
1/15/06 Gerald Sherfy Roth should go back to film school: shades of Pulp Fiction anyone? 1 stars
1/15/06 Sam Justus Eli Roth is definitely the future of horror! 5 stars
1/15/06 Larrold Not scary, not really that gory, no suspense, no style...totally pointless and BAD. 1 stars
1/14/06 Jennifer this was one of the best horror movies I have seen in a long time 4 stars
1/14/06 Gummo Like a 12-year-old retard attempting to be profound...pathetic. 1 stars
1/13/06 Perry Mason About as scary and disturbing as getting a tooth pulled. 1 stars
1/13/06 Mumba If I heard the word "Dude" one more time! What a S-T-U-P-I-D movie!! 1 stars
1/12/06 TriggerHappy A complete waste of time...I'd say talent, too, but Eli Roth doesn't have any. 1 stars
1/11/06 Simon Some of the violence was disturbing enough, so it does its job there. but oh so pointless! 2 stars
1/11/06 Blobby One of the DUMBEST, worst pieces of SHIT I've ever seen in a theater!!! 1 stars
1/10/06 kmdewitt Doesnt EVEN compare to Saw. Hostel is a bloody, limb-cutting porn. 2 stars
1/10/06 Nekro Badly written and directed. Zero suspense and overrated gore. Pass. 1 stars
1/09/06 lapis A big load of horse manure posing as some kind of bad movie. 1 stars
1/09/06 Flounder One of the most entertaining horror flicks to come down the pike in quite some time. 5 stars
1/09/06 lee Not enough blood, but still entertaining. 4 stars
1/09/06 Kali Gore - big whoop...total crap (and boring) storyline, acting, script, plot, characters. 1 stars
1/09/06 wrob Disturbing and completely plausable. Well done. 5 stars
1/09/06 Agent Sands OK, so it wasn't as shocking as everyone thought it would be, but it's still great. 4 stars
1/09/06 lumpy This movie was dung...and the gore wasn't even that great! Fuck this crap... 1 stars
1/08/06 me pseudo snuff films suck 1 stars
1/08/06 y2mckay Fuck SAW and dumbass PG-13 horror. Plenty of titties, gore, suspense, and humor. 4 stars
1/08/06 Bitchum Very badly-written and badly-made...the gore doesn't save it. 1 stars
1/08/06 aimless Eurotrip meets Toolbox Murders but it could use Michelle Tractenberg 2 stars
1/07/06 SlappytheFrog 'Sorry, Mr. Roth, but you're just no Takashi Miike... 1 stars
1/07/06 rory bore fest 1 stars
12/16/05 Groth Piss poor attempt at grindhouse Miike 1 stars
9/22/05 marajade29sm Finally, a horror film that truly doesn't back down from its subject matter! 5 stars
9/18/05 pierre bonhomme Just saw it at Toronto Fest - 2 Thumbs Up!! The best horror ride In years! 5 stars
9/18/05 L. Anderson Only for those who LOVE gore... 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  06-Jan-2006 (R)
  DVD: 18-Apr-2006

UK
  21-Apr-2006

Australia
  23-Feb-2006




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