In its first weekend in wide release, Eli Roth's HOSTEL was the first low budget film to knock the reigning champ, "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe", off of its throne. This was reminiscent of 2004, when the low budget remake of DAWN OF THE DEAD popped The Passion of the Christ off the top. Christ was back for a second round the following week, only to be permanently dethroned by the bigger budget, HELLBOY. Oddly enough, the Lion movie is also a metaphorical vision of Christ. Is it just a case of history repeating?
While Eli was getting ready for production on this film, he told timeout.com that HOSTEL would be "Wild, Ultra-violent, Sick, and Disturbing." Let's see what he gave us.
If there's one thing that's readily apparent in an Eli Roth (CABIN FEVER) movie, its that he is trying really hard. As both a writer and a director, there is no fat or filler in an Eli Roth film. But there's no confidence either. Now with HOSTEL, I get the feeling that Eli remains unsure of his audience. As if he isn't quite sure if we've gotten his point on one thing, before he takes us to the next.
HOSTEL begins with a group of friends backpacking through Europe. Backpacking Horror movies ended last year and begin this one. Paxton (Jay Hernandez: JOY RIDE) and Josh (Derek Richardson: REEKER) are two best friends from America, hoofing it through the youth Hostels of Europe. For those of you who sat through your youth on your young fat butts, playing video games and arguing with your Mom, a Youth Hostel is a place where young tourists can stay really cheap as they travel the world. These places are great and I can't recommend them enough. Although your impression of them may change after you see this movie.
Paxton and Josh are accompanied by a guy named Oli (Eythor Gudjonnson), who, despite his behavior, is older and more experienced than he looks.
The three check into a Hostel in Amsterdam and immediately set out to get as stoned and laid as possible. The first part views like Americans in Euro Pie (and I'm sure they'll make one). There are tits aplenty, as well as ass and bush. Female nudity and lots of sex all over the place is not a bad thing if you are a het guy or Lez.
Eli Roth is a graduate of Lloyd Kauffman's school of movie making. But the character of Josh is a bring down. Vacationing in Europe to get over his breakup, he's an anchor on Pax and Oli. His character also brings down the movie real quick. Knowing nothing about his ex but what's being talked about (and talked, and talked, and talked), his character mopes too damn much.
Eli apparently felt that this would make him sympathetic, but since all this heartache is over something we know nothing about, Josh comes across as a real whiner as Roth hammers this point for far too long. Dealing with the Josh character is lightened largely by the naked women and the performance of Gudjonnson, who steals every scene with his newfound zest for life.
Pax and Oli make it a point to get Josh laid (although if you can't do it in Amsterdam, I'd say it can't be done), and to that end find out, through a chance meeting with a local, that the best place to go is Eastern Europe. Off the trio go to a faraway Slovakian town where they meet a creep on the train who likes to eat with his fingers. Chasing the creep away, they arrive in the promised village which, while desolate, poverty stricken and bleak, is not without its charms.
So okay, now the Merry Mishaps occur!
Pax becomes frustrated with Josh. The women here - what few women there are - are fun and willing; everybody just wants to have a good time; and Josh is still moping.
Christ! I'll kill the son of a bitch myself!
There are more club scenes, less nudity, another Hostel, and the film, which has been sputtering up to now, really starts to drag.
Then the best part of the whole movie is cut out when Oli disappears!
Well, he was a drifter they ran across and joined up with. Though Pax and Josh try to find him, and his disappearance is mysterious, the two move on with their lives. I won't tell you how, but just trust me at this point when I say that Merry Mishaps are finally occurring.
But then there's yet another club scene, and Josh is moping and getting sick, and the audience is really sick of him.
Then Josh disappears! Which immediately makes the movie better. In fact, its amazing just how much better HOSTEL gets once that freaking Josh is out of the picture!
What remains of the film is all about Pax, and I won't tell you anymore. Unfortunately, the good part is only about the last 15 or 20 minutes of the film. Horror, as in Horrifying - not scary - is delivered. Heavy on the gore, light on the frights, Roth takes his foot off the brake and steps on the gas.
While not as gory or intense as last year's THE DEVIL'S REJECTS, Director Roth stays on top of it, though he cuts from any actual hardcore like, say, we saw in I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE. Then again, Eli wanted HOSTEL to get a theatrical release, not a direct to video shuffle. I will tell you that, by the end of the film, there were a few times that I clapped and cheered: I'm that kind of guy.
If you can put up with the first hour of HOSTEL (and again, the naked women help), then this film will reward you in the end.
Three Shriek Girls.
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