(This review was originally published in 2006)
This evening I was surprised to see the local news covering what went on during the release of “Hostel”, a film that graphically demonstrates what happens when you give Eli Roth a large budget and a pen.
"People were passing out in the rows..." the reporter exclaimed, describing some of the audience reactions to the film. The report went on to interview film-goers, most of whom hadn’t actually seen the film but were quick to express that it shouldn’t have been made in the first place.
I’ll admit, when I saw the film I spent the entire time literally on the floor, but that was only because there weren’t any seats left in the theatre. I was a bit disappointed about that since one of the main reasons I still occasionally drag myself out to the movie theatres is to watch the audience reactions during horror films. From where I was sitting all I could see were knees.
But I did pick up on something strange… the audience was deathly quiet during most of the show. This is something I’d never experienced in a packed theatre showing a horror flick before, which I found more unsettling than many of them likely found the movie to be.
Scratch that, I did hear some reaction coming from right beside me. Trust my husband to let me know I’m not the only one who laughs at inappropriate moments during a movie.
As for the film itself, I don’t see what the big deal is. For the first 30 minutes or so I was beginning to wonder if we’d stumbled into the wrong theatre and were watching a typical teen movie. We’re basically watching three young guys drinking, smoking pot, and chasing after anything with breasts while backpacking through Europe. At one point (when one of them falls into a drunken stupor) I leaned over to my companion and said "If he wakes up and still has all his limbs intact, we’re leaving!"
Yes, I’m sick. But I came to see a brutal film. If I want to see drunken young people trying to get laid, I need only take a stroll around my neighborhood on a Friday night.
Fortunately I was spared the long walk back to my car when the film started picking up the body count shortly thereafter. And I suppose the violence was pretty graphic to a lot of people, but I was neither shocked nor appalled by any of it. Call me jaded, but I can think of several films that had more blood in them.
For me, I’m well past the graphic blood-n-guts pony show in films. I like creativity and psychological toying (aka "mind fucks") in horror film plots nowadays. And unfortunately, a beautiful opportunity for that was missed in this film. I think Mr. Roth could have really tipped his fragile patrons right over the edge if he would have taken out ten minutes of tits & ass and put in ten minutes of intensity of the relationship between paying customer and victim… preferably in English.
Another thing I would have loved to have seen was a little more insight into why people were paying for the special service. If you want to really mess with an audience, you give them an opportunity to relate to the villains in a way they don’t want to admit they could relate to them. In that respect, I think a ball was dropped somewhere.
Of course, these are just my first thoughts on the subject, inspired by seeing the reactions of the "man on the street" on the 10 o'clock news. I’m left thinking that either I’m entirely too jaded on these types of films that I can no longer see how terrifying they really are, or perhaps I really am in serious need of therapy.
Overall, I thought it was a good story, and fun to watch once things started getting interesting after all the partying. I do think it is over-hyped though, all things considered. But I don’t regret spending 95 minutes sitting on the cinema floor to watch it.
Film information: Hostel