Hostel (2005)

Two Americans, Paxton (Jay Hernandez) and Josh (Derek Richardson), along with their Icelandic friend, Óli (Eyþór Guðjónsson), are backpacking their way through Europe in pursuit of drugs, alcohol, and women. In Amsterdam, they meet Alex (Lubomir Bukovy), who informs them that outside of Bratislava, Slovakia there exists a hostel in which all of the beautiful women throw themselves at males. Upon the tourists’ arrival, they are given a room with Natalya (Barbara Nedeljáková) and Svetlana (Jana Kaderábková). After their charter evening in the village, Oli then Josh disappear. Paxton discovers his friends’ location, albeit too late, as he finds himself imprisoned in a human slaughterhouse.

    Tagline: Welcome To Your Worst Nightmare

    Directing:
    • Eli Roth

    Writing:
    • Eli Roth

Release Date: 2005-01-06
  • Country: USA
  • Language: english
  • Runtime: 94
  • Budget: $4,800,000
  • Revenue: $80,578,934

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Eli Roth

Director/Writer/Producer/Actor (American Stoner)

Mike Fleiss

Producer

Philip Waley

Co-producer/Actor (Alfie)

Daniel Frisch

Co-producer/Actor (Fanny Pack Man)

Milan Chadima

Cinematography

Howard Berger

Makeup effects artist/Special makeup effects designer and creator

Jana Dopitová

Makeup artist

Christopher Allen Nelson

On-set makeup effects artist/Actor (Dutch Police Officer)

Alan Tuskes

Visual effects

Franklin Purtiman

Visual effects

Ozzie Carmona

Visual effects

Ulysses Argetta

Visual effects

Kevin Wasner

Special effects makeup

Ozzy Alvarez

Special effects

Gregory Nicotero

Special makeup effects designer and creator

Nathan Barr

Composer

Jan Vlasák

The Dutch Businessman

Takashi Miike

Miike Takashi

Rick Hoffman

The American Client

Petr Janis

The German Surgeon

Martin Kubacák

The Scarred Cab Driver

Patrik Zigo

Bubble Gum Gang Leader
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  • Hollywood pretty boy, Eli Roth, after debuting with his campy yet cliché Cabin Fever, set out to create a vision so horrible that it would leave the world’s mouth agape, thus speechless. However, back in the land of reality, the predictable backlash of mainstream naysayers, like clockwork, summarily dismissed the feature due to its being a part of the horror cannon before pausing to watch the film so as to have a reason to reiterate the common genre complaints of gratuity, nihilism, and misanthropy (while never finding paradox in aligning the three). On the other side of the fence, horror critics went one of three ways. The kindred fan boys applauded, errr, hollered about the movie’s nudity and gore, others lambasted the thriller for not being suspenseful, while a small portion spent time commenting upon the film’s economic and moral criticism. In respect to the latter trio, they are all correct. Reputedly based on a Thai Web site shown to the director by Harry Knowles of Ain’t It Cool News, Hostel was billed as the most violent production ever filmed. To many genre aficionado’s chagrin, such turned out not to be the case for two decades prior Italian goremeisers sneezed more graphic materials on a daily basis (though there is an eyeball scene which would make Lucio Fulci proud). Yet, like any good self-promoter (which, for anyone familiar with Roth, knows if he is anything, he is this), the filmmaker set the agenda to first grab the audiences’ attention by way of their loins and stomachs (stomachs equating with Medieval bile levels which was said to induce rage, i.e. emotion) via the dependable subjects of sex and violence before addressing their minds. However, regardless of how good Roth is at working his viewership, the question stands as to how well he balances his selling points with the more substantial portions of his art. With Hostel, it is truly a mixed bag. At the crux of the film lies a Russian-owned, retired factory-turned-human slaughterhouse which operates under the name of “Elite Hunting,” whereby wealthy businessmen, i.e. (cleverly)“elitists,” from across the globe indulge themselves in the worst of vices: murder. For a price, and not unlike slavery, one can purchase another human being and do unto him or her whatever the buyer chooses. However, it is in the specifics of the plot that Roth issues his most poignant political criticism. Most of the morally-devoid billionaires reign from fascist countries: Germany (Petr Janiš), Japan (postmodern gore godfather, Takashi Miike), and Italy (two uncredited men heard speaking as they walk past the preparation room). The director then turns the thumbscrews by implicating America (Rick Hoffman) by association. Yet what do we make of a Dutch murderer (Jan Vlasák, who speaks his lines phonetically throughout) who is the central focus of the action (is there a portion of world history that I missed)? The latter remains a concern for it is the exception to the rule whereby Capitalism’s imperialistic excesses are put to scathing task (a tongue-in-cheek running gag parallels the practices of such via a murderous children’s gang which demands, of all things, bubble gum). In Elite Hunting, we are met by individuals whom, in the words of Horror Bob, “think they are invincible and can do whatever they want without giving two shits about how it affects them and the people around them.” Power with complete impunity has led such people to yearn for the ultimate testament of one’s social, political, and economic prowess: playing God. Moreover, Roth is to be commended by paralleling this conceit with the justification for Slovakia’s women being so lecherous: a war has deprived the land of its men. Never mind that this is reported by a human hunter baiting his prey, knowing it is merely what his audience wants to hear because, as some social commentators have stated, any and all violent action is imperialistic in nature. As the film progresses, the ethics of the scenario become convoluted for, as with Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left, an innocent victim is transformed into a blind avenger for, instead of merely fleeing, he pauses to kill, thus calling into question of whether or not murder can be warranted given the circumstance. But, upon reflection, did we not want the xenophobic, racist, homophobic, sexist tourists-cum-targets--cocksure Paxton, nervous-to-the-point-of-defensively-insulting Josh, and the deadbeat dad Oli--to crawl into a hole and die? Thus, the query becomes even more exacerbated for not only are the ethics of the act to be considered, but also who is acting. Roth has fun exploring this dilemma for, obviously, Paxton, Josh, and Oli are products of money whom are ironically clad in corporate brands, the items which more than likely, in some capacity somewhere along the economic line, availed their persecutors the ability to accrue bank accounts and mentalities whereby to frequent the establishment (it is not hard to imagine Rupert Murdoch, Philip Knight, or the Wal-Mart heirs jetting back and forth to Slovakia every third Tuesday of each month just so as to take vengeance upon sweatshop workers who attempted to form a union) or, as the director himself states, “It’s all done with corn syrup and fake blood. All my actors are still alive. What’s worse, my movie or Dick Cheney? Nobody actually died in my movie. People actually die because of Dick Cheney, and he doesn’t allow you to see it.” Also, Roth is to be commended for consistently veiling the fatal blow by the upper-class clientele as his bloodiest onscreen acts are committed at the hands of Paxton (only he is seen strangling a child during the film). This is perhaps why an American victim calls the highest price, $25,000, for--in the filmmaker’s eyes--such a death is a cosmopolitan vindication due to it being a symbolic usurpation of the world’s most overabundant instance of cultural and moral arrogance, vanity, and presumptuousness, i.e. all of the malevolent qualities found in Elite Hunting’s customers. In short, is Roth posing the question of whether or not protagonist and antagonist are not one in the same and, if we detest both on the same grounds, can we validate killing? Then there’s the seeming cliché--though it does juxtapose the American businessman’s hollow core--of an American rescuing, at the expense of his own life, a hapless Japanese female named Kana (Jennifer Lim). Does the latter inexcusably negate the filmmaker’s laboriously-established political criticism by offering just American and Japanese figures or is such an example of accepting that various nationalities contain all types of personages? Roth’s original, succinctly ambiguous ending--which would have been the most suspenseful element in the feature--would not have shed only light on the question for it reinforces what came before: Paxton kidnapping his would-be assassin’s daughter to either avenge the misdeeds done to him or to save her. Further aiding in the masterful construction of the narrative is the fact that the POV issued when we waltz through a brothel mirrors that of when we tour Elite Hunting, thereby synchronizing sex with death. Counterbalancing all of Hostel’s cognitive merits is the director’s poor Hitchcockian decision of making his central fiend gay. Retribution is indeed achieved by the final frame yet what do we make of how the camera and the filmmaker seem to revel in anorexic women, drug culture (even if it is satirically), alcohol, and frat-esque all-nighters? Also, Hostel’s characters, as in Cabin Fever, are underdeveloped However, in the former, such can be justified given its criticism of culture until we come to our supposed hero which, in order to align him with his viewers, Roth should have fleshed him out more so as to achieve greater empathy (if, indeed, this was his intent). Similarly, and again as witnessed in Cabin Fever, Hostel’s dialogue is shallow and trite. It is rumored that Quentin Tarantino spent half a day revamping the script. On that note, given the wordsmith’s genius, I hate to think what the film’s earlier draft looked/sounded like. Another weakness of the production is that it allows its audience to sit back and watch the proceedings instead of being where they should rightfully be, the edge of their seats, especially considering the fact that what is being hunted is one of their own. Furthermore, most of the feature is vastly underlit as the camera statically moves while remaining at staunchly serious angles throughout. Granted, an applause is in order, but it is hard to determine how loud it sound be. To help gauge the volume, there is the thematic allusion to Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man in that an entire town (the police are paid off and locals comprise a large portion of the acquisition ring) conspire against a single, foreign individual as the soundtrack includes the Sneaker Pimps covering the song which the character Willow sings in the classic film. References are also made to Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre as a killer is caught between his victim and a chainsaw while Room 237 returns once more from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, to say nothing of a very organized nod to Sion Sono’s Suicide Club in which, as in Hostel, suicidal jumps are made onto oncoming trains. And let us not forget the obvious kinship Hostel shares with Gavin Lyall’s Most Dangerous Game and its various cinematic incarnations. Eli Roth’s sophomore effort, Hostel, is hard to pass a sound verdict upon. Viewers are left to uncomfortably contend with what is possibly a greater horror than anything seen within the film: The notion that the filmmaker was basking in his subject matter. Yet, once we remove the biographical competent, we are nonetheless obligated to commend the director’s postmodern ethical deliberations from political, economic, and cultural standpoints, thereby easily granting the work a seal of approval with the agreement that further consideration for potential promotion remains withstanding. Trivia tidbit: Hostel was written, produced, directed, edited, and released in a twelve month period as Roth somehow managed to insert almost every single crew member into a frame. Also, Chloe’s Sex Fever, the X-rated parody of film Cabin Fever, is seen on a desktop DVD player within the slaughterhouse.

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