—2. Cast and Crew
—3. Photo Pages
—4. Trailers, Clips, DVDs, Books, Soundtrack
—5. Posters (Horror Films)
—6. Production Notes (pdf)
—7. Spiritual Connections
—8. Presentation Downloads
There are times I am glad that a movie isn’t long; Hostel is a perfect example. While it may not be the most grisly movie ever made, it is grisly and, truth is, hard to watch. Eli Roth has written and directed a thought-provoking screenplay that truly evokes repulsion. It is no great surprise that the film is classified as “horror.”
Hostel in many ways is an example of how some stories can be told in a unique way using the horror genre. This movie exemplifies a theme that many in the religious community thrive on—Romans 6:23, which reads, “Sin pays off with death. But God's gift is eternal life given by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Contemporary English Version). Unfortunately, I do not expect that many within the religious community will see this movie.
The story, without giving away too much, revolves around three men backpacking through Europe. Paxton and Josh are spending time together enjoying the sights, trying to live life to the fullest, when they meet up with Oli, a friend from Iceland. For the most part, it seems as if their only purpose is to do what they perceive is “fun,” which largely consists of everything from hanging out in hash bars in Amsterdam to seeking the cheapest and sleaziest sex they can find along the way. Ultimately they discover a place where they can have it all—with beautiful women, and for free. Their quest for pleasure results in a vivid illustration that indeed, sin pays off with death.
As would be expected from Quentin Tarantino, who helped produce this movie, this story is multi-layered and told in a convincing way. There are ample examples of foreshadowing and allegory, for those who are looking. To say that the movie is only about violence, sex, and gore would be a sad mistake. The illustrations in the film include much more.
Hostel is definitely a horror film, yet as with any good horror film, its monsters are extremely symbolic. The monsters in this film don’t have the makeup or the special effects of “traditional” monsters; instead, they are the monsters of psychological and psychotic thrillers. The monsters in this movie are people, just like you and me—but people who find pleasure in death.
There is some fabulous commentary here, both spoken and not, regarding the monsters in Hostel. For example (and a spoiler here): the monsters are basically regular people with a lot of money who essentially have everything they want—except power. Consequently, they buy victims to murder in the most sadistic of ways. This is as much a commentary on social elitism as anything George Romero may put out—vividly exposing that people obtain many things without ever getting what they want. They don’t have the pleasure of feeling like they are in ultimate control, they may discover that their fulfillment may have been in a different career, and they certainly don’t have control over life and death. These faces of horror have families, with children whom they love, yet they still don’t have a true understanding of what love is. They are ultimately not fulfilled in the things they have.
There is also some commentary in the movie regarding national powers and the global perspectives of them. For example, it costs more to kill an American than it does anyone else. Why? People are willing to pay more because they hate Americans more than people from other countries. There is resentment and hatred for the symbols of success and power.
I may be dead wrong here, but in some ways I also believe this movie is about love. Ultimately, the primary characters think they will find complete joy and pleasure in sex. While there are moments of pleasure and joy for them, that pleasure and joy ultimately lead to death. The one thing the characters have in the end is each other. Eventually, they come to the realization that they love life, and that the value of life doesn’t come from the things that they anticipated early on; rather, that value comes from greater elements such as family, hopes and ambitions—and they have missed out on that love with others.
Technically, this movie is not up to par with other films that Tarantino has either produced or directed. I don’t even think it holds up to Cabin Fever, Eli Roth’s last effort in the genre, but it is better than some more recent contributions such as Saw or Saw II. The storyline, combined with the quality components of story-telling, show that not only can Roth direct a good movie, he can write one as well. I personally look forward to his future efforts where he will be allowed to explore his talents even more.
While it may appear that I liked this movie, the truth is that I had trouble and wasn’t especially pleased with it. I left the theater thinking about the symbolism but wondering whether it was truly necessary to tell it in the way it was told. Jay Hernandez does a good job as Paxton, and I do appreciate the intent of the story and the symbolism of the movie. But the acting as a whole wasn’t great, the direction wasn’t up to par, and the story, while thought-provoking, left me wanting more in terms of character development, sympathy, concern, and understanding of myself. I guess one of the things that bothered me is that I didn’t buy the symbolism that was used. The purpose was obvious, but little was done to help me relate to any of the characters. As a result, I think more could have—and should have—been done here in addressing societal issues. The truth is, I didn’t really care that much for any of the characters: the monsters, victims, or any one else for that matter. From that perspective, the movie failed for me.
Would I recommend seeing this? Even if you can handle the intensity of the horror, I would recommend waiting for the DVD release. Hopefully the director’s commentary in the special features will clarify or augment what they were trying to say through the film. Until then, I personally wouldn’t spend my money on it and am personally glad I saw it as a matinee rather than a regular feature.
On a scale of 1-10, our of deference for the friends who seemed to have some concern at least for each other, I’ll give a rather disappointing 3.