*** (out of 5)
January 6, 2006
Jay Hernandez as PAXTON
Derek Richardson as JOSH
Eythor Gudjonsson as OLI
Barbara Nedeljakova as NATALYA
Jana Kaderabkova as SVETLANA
Studio: Lion’s Gate Films
Directed by: Eli Roth
BY KEVIN CARR
I have to admit that I was somewhat anxious to see “Hostel.” Two years ago, I gave Eli Roth’s directorial debut “Cabin Fever” a stellar rating. As a fan of horror movies, I was excited to see what he was bound to come up with next.
I was a little disappointed. Not completely disappointed, but a little.
Overall, “Hostel” wasn’t a huge accomplishment compared to “Cabin Fever.” In fact, it felt like Roth was trying to live up to his first movie rather than making a brand new one. I’ve also seen some buzz on the Internet where this film has been compared to “Saw.” It’s not an unjust comparison, considering the set design.
What made “Cabin Fever” so great was how unique it was. It took an old concept and turned it on its ear. “Hostel,” on the other hand, falls more in line with a standard torture/psycho film like “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” or “House of 1000 Corpses.”
“Hostel” opens in Amsterdam with three friends backpacking across Europe. They’re having the time of their lives, smoking dope and getting laid. However, they meet another kid who points them towards Slovakia where he claims there’s a youth hostel with the hottest girls around who loves American boys.
Okay, I know it sounds like the plot of a porno movie. In fact, the first third of the film seems to be a rehash of some teenage road comedy like “EuroTrip” without all the comedy. There’s a lot of partying with the kids, and a fair amount of sex. The film actually takes its sweet old time to get to the “good stuff.”
Eventually, we’re given a taste of the sinister side of “Hostel.” People start disappearing, only to end up in a mysterious place of torture and murder. The characters start dropping like flies, and at one point, I thought the film was going to burn itself out before the one-hour mark.
The first half of the film isn’t anything to write home about. Sure, it’s disturbing at times – very disturbing at times – but otherwise just a run-of-the-mill horror flick. However, the second half really does get interesting. At first, I thought we were just going to have the last half of the film filled with torture scenes with no real explanation. At least Roth held back some interesting backstory to fuel the fire of the story.
The horror behind “Hostel” seems to be based on a non-existent urban legend. Apparently Roth heard of a similar torture/murder operation in Thailand through some web site, but never discovered if it was true. He did say that the fact someone had thought of it and that people were debating whether or not it was true was creepy enough.
I may not get the DVD for the sake of the film, but rather to show my kids and dissuade them from ever backpacking across Europe.
While the second half was better than the first, things did seem to fizzle out at the end. There’s a lot more that could have been done, and there were plenty more story that could have been wrapped up. Maybe this was just Roth’s way of priming the pump for a sequel. I hear that “Hostel 2” is already in the works.