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HOSTEL (2005 - R)
HOSTEL is a graphic yet haunting exploration of the concept of adrenaline junkies seeking morbid ways to pay for thrilling activities. As three young men venture into the secluded terrain of Eastern Europe's Slovakia, one by one each will learn just how far someone will go to seek the thrill of a lifetime at a deadly price.
The cast includes: Jay Hernandez, Derek Richardson, Eythor Gudjonsson, and Barbara Nedeljakova.
Written and directed by: Eli Roth.
Genre: Horror, Drama
Rated: R for language, multiple scenes of nudity, and graphic scenes of disturbing violence.
Tagline: When bungee jumping and skydiving lose their thrill… kill.
Set in present day, the film commences with three young men making their way across Europe to enjoy the novelties of alcohol, marijuana, and other censored paraphernalia restricted to normative societies. The 2 Americans, Paxton (Jay Hernandez) and Josh (Derek Richardson) join forces with a wandering European by the name of Oli (Eythor Gudjonsson) as they tackle their latest destination: Amsterdam. One long day of smoke-infused enjoyment later and the boys suddenly find themselves looking for a little fun. Heading to the nearest strip club Paxton and Oli go about their ways while the more conservative Josh sits idly by. Hours of fun later, however, and the three return to their hostel to find they have been locked out. As beer bottles rain down on the drunken men’s heads, a lighted window from the hostel unveils a friendly face who calls to them to take harbor in his room.
Climbing the fire escape the three boys enter the room of a young European by the name of Alex. After a brief visual interlude the guys begin to talk about their quests for ‘hot babes’ (to censor the vernacular) to which Alex openly admits he can profitably assist them with their efforts. Alluding to the remote town of Slovakia where ‘babes and beer runneth over’, Oli, Paxton, and Josh prepare to head towards their heavenly haven. Along the way they will meet a precarious gentleman who enjoys eating raw salads with his hands while fondling Josh’s thigh; his first European ‘action’ to date.
Once in Slovakia the boys find the answer to their dreams in the form of a Grande hostel that looks more like the remains of a regal castle than a run-down hotel. As the boys adjust their eyes to the finery of their surroundings they head to their room where they are greeted by their unbelievably beautiful ‘roommates’: Natalya (Barbara Nedeljakova) and Svetlana (Jana Kaderabkovas). Heading to the spa for some ‘baths and boobies’ the men strike up a conversation with their more than friendly female counterparts. A spa trip turns into a night escapade to the local disco where the girls provide the men with ample amounts of fondling, booze, and mysterious white pills eager to do the European vacation its novel justice. As Oli parades from one woman to the next bantering his “Of course, my horse”, Josh and Paxton head back to the hostel to ‘go to bed’ with their beautiful roommates. One wild ride later and the boys wake up to the sound of their beloved babes showering together. But their overjoyed awe is soon cut short by the realization that Oli has gone missing. Though the front desk insists that Oli checked out sometime that morning it seems as if something is off in everyone’s flippant dejections of Josh and Paxton’s concerns. As Josh and Paxton head about Slovakia looking for their lost buddy they run into a fellow hostel-mate Kanna (Jennifer Lim) who informs them that her friend has gone missing with Oli. Though to no avail, the men sulkily search for their friend all day until its time to head back to the disco for another night of fun with Svetlana and Natalya. But there the boys begin to feel more than ill and while Josh stumbles home, Paxton heads to the bathroom where he is strangely locked in for the duration of the entire night. As he stumbles home the next morning he discovers that so to is Josh missing and his once warm and cuddly ‘roommates’ Svetlana and Natalya are being abrasively mysterious and distant.
As Paxton searches through all of Slovakia for his friend he eventually is forced to confront the two women who seem somehow responsible if not knowledgeable of Josh’s whereabouts. An indifferent Natalya takes Paxton to the town’s popular ‘art exhibit’ where many grueling surprises await. At the ‘art exhibit’, identified by the title “Elite Hunting”, Paxton’s greatest fears will be painfully and mind-bendingly realized as he comes face to face with death in the guise of a very sick man. But with his two friends missing, can Paxton escape certain death in time to be the speaking voice for the tragic practices at the ‘art show’. Or, are even the legal forces of the small town, like the town’s juvenile gangs, precarious women, and other nefarious social groups, be as corrupt as the force threatening to destroy Paxton’s life. Suddenly Paxton is very, very far from home and his dream vacation has just turned into his most horrific nightmare!
“Hostel” is a gruesomely graphic and haunting film that evokes a long-lasting disturbing impression upon its viewers. Though some see it as a cheap exploitation of typical “horror-gore and cliché” with its over the top, in your face sexual and graphic scenes, what these critics fail to realize is that as cliché as this concept may feel (as it appears repeatedly in cheap, low-budget horror films that arguably desecrate the art of the horror genre), the incorporation of such graphic content in “Hostel” was absolutely necessary to evoke the total overall effect. Why? Because as director Eli Roth discovered, the discovery being a main reason he chose to direct this specific film as opposed to the multitude of other offers, is that this concept of over the top sex fantasies mixed with torture and death is, in large part, true. Eli Roth discovered an actual website advertising a similar concept about paying to kill someone as the next big “thrill” for adrenaline junkies. In “Hostel” Roth takes this concept to the extreme and explores the many varying degrees of human psychology to pontificate exactly what drives a seemingly normal man to such horrific extremes. Moreover there is a brilliant parallelism in the natural, albeit cliché, quest for erotic and illicit thrills in the passage from boy to manhood that is to be found in a crazy vacation in the notorious niches of Europe vs. the disturbingly calculated and perverse desires of those ‘people’ so greedy and so desirous for self-satisfaction that nothing will ever suffice to give them a big enough thrill. Whereas a good high and some sex is more than enough to complete the novel chapter of these men’s adolescence, even the most disturbing activities seem to be only the next ‘fad of entertainment’ for the individuals ready to embark on the “Elite Hunting” quest and their complete disrespect for humanity in their selfish quest for self gratification and temporary pleasure.
Though unquestionably graphic (apparently the un-edited version is even more disturbing than the version that made it through the MPAA ratings and into box offices), “Hostel” is undoubtedly an intricately psychological film. Anyone that fails to notice this component of the film is either missing the major points and subtleties in characterization and cultural, gender, and age dynamics of the film; or, they have simply become so jaded by the repeated immersion of clichés in the horror industry that they have failed to notice the true artistry of “Hostel” and have simply been sidetracked by the sight of the familiar so as to unjustly cast this film into the lot of failed horror films where it, arguably, does not belong by a long shot.
In short, “Hostel” is a mind-blowing film that will leave you questioning the extremes, or even lack of, the human conscious and psyche and its vast complexity and occasional perversity. “Hostel” puts a mirror up to the face of humanity and strips us of our proper etiquette and refineries to reveal the truly animalistic, albeit diabolical potential of humans as being more ‘beast’ than ‘man’. And even in our bestiality Roth seems to exploit that we are more beastly, more perverse in than the beast in that, as opposed to killing for necessity, we have turned to killing for pleasure; worse, we will pay to kill for pleasure! Though this is definitely a cult film that is only going to captivate a certain audience, and granted the material is so disturbing that most might not feel compelled to repeatedly re-watch the film, if one is truly interested in seeing a daringly psychological and disturbing horror film that actually applies a perversely, albeit “practiced art” and its ramifications, may we suggest the highly controversial “Hostel” for your viewing pleasure. Viewers you have been warned!
Jay Hernandez plays Paxton, the ‘last American standing’.
Derek Richardson plays Josh, the overly cautious American.
Eythor Gudjonsson plays Oli, the intriguing European wanderer.
Barbara Nedeljakova plays Natalya, the foreign brunette bombshell.
Jana Kaderabkova plays Svetlana, the ravishing Russian.
Jennifer Lim plays Kanna, the tragically fated Japanese girl.