Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Film Review: Hostel (2005)

Hostel (Review)
United States/2005
Format Viewed For Review: Amazon Video
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: Yes

"...more than the typical 'torture porn' film."

Two college students traveling across Europe are targeted by a mysterious group that kidnaps and tortures people for money.

Hostel follows college students Paxton (Jay Hernandez) and Josh (Derek Richardson) as well as their Icelandic friend Óli as they travel across Europe in search of girls. During a night of debauchery, the friends meet a man who tells them about a magical hostel in Slovakia filled with the most beautiful—and easiest—women on the planet. And, when they arrive, they're pleased to see he wasn't lying. All goes well during the first night, but then Óli goes missing. Then, another woman at the hostel goes missing. The disappearances lead the students into the underground world of torture—pay-to-torture. It leads to an incredibly bloody final act and a solid ending, although some things are a little too convenient for my tastes.

If you haven't watched it, you may recognize Hostel as one of those burdened with the label of 'torture porn.' I must say I disagree. As a matter of fact, there is hardly any violence during the first half of the film. You know why? Well, that's because the film is busy building its character and plot. Okay, the characters aren't deep and they may be obnoxious, but they're a little more than your basic cutouts. The buildup is also effective, especially since the concept is chilling—it really works in showcasing the dangers of backpacking. The limited violence during the first half coupled with the actual plot make me scoff at the 'torture porn' label. That's for films like Grotesque, which severely lack character and plot.

Labels aside, I think Hostel is a great film. Like I said, the concept is chilling and the buildup is effective. The characters may not be likable, but they have some personality. And, when the violence finally kicks off, it really does leave an impression. It may not be the most realistic violence, but it's a movie—any inaccuracies are forgivable, especially when they're minor. The film doesn't have many jump-scares, so most of the horror comes from its concept and the gore. If the idea of being kidnapped while traveling or violence doesn't scare you, you might not find this film frightening. I wasn't particularly frightened, but I was entertained.

The acting was good. It's not excellent, but it was better than I expected. Jay Hernandez performed well as the leading man. There's some stiff dialogue here and there, but nothing bad. The film was shot well and the music fit the tone of the film. The special effects were also great. If you're a fan of practical gore effects, you'll probably appreciate this film. Hostel was written and directed by Eli Roth. Roth plays with a great idea in this film—and he doesn't really fumble. The characters could have been a bit more fleshed out (and likeable), but the screenplay ultimately works. His direction is strong, too. He clearly had a grimy vision for this film.

Overall, Hostel is a very good movie. It's a dark and disturbing film with some interesting themes and ideas. Some of it could have been fleshed out a bit more, but it ultimately succeeds in entertaining. I think it's more than the typical 'torture porn' film. It's worth watching for fans of the genre.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore, sex and nudity.

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