The movie world is full of countless flicks that will make you jump, scream and maybe hurl your popcorn across the cinema. Boogeymen creep from closets. Lunatics are killed but keep getting
up. Tiny dolls with knives menace entire communties. Most people enjoy a harmless fright. It's all good once the credits roll and the theater is lighted again.
Hostel is not a harmless fright. It's bleak, bloody and bold and suited only for those who like to wander to the really dark places. It's a gloomy, hard tale every bit as traumatizing to the intellect as it is repulsive to the eye.
In short, I freaking love this movie. And it all starts with lively music and naked people. For the first 45 minutes, I wanted to be a reckless teen again. I wanted to get myself a passport and backpack and prepare to tramp all over Europe. I wanted to wander with my friends and experience the liberal offerings of those far flung countries. I wanted to indulge in all the vice so vividly advertised in the opening scenes of the movie.
By the time it was done, I had endeavored never to leave the safety of the United States. Nossir. I'll burn the passport, drop the backpack in a river and stay right here where 911 is always a finger's length away.
Much fuss is made about the graphic violence in "Hostel." It's certainly graphic and violent as they come. Yet, it's not the blood and gore, drills and saws that will leave you unsettled. More disturbing is the concept at the very heart of the tale. The idea that Americans abroad could be snared into a sinister underworld and then sold to wealthy sadists to do with as they will. What gnaws at you is how handily such a business could operate.
There's a scene midway through the film where a young man awakes with a hood over his face and only a small hole to see through. His feet are bound to the floor. His hands are bound behind him. He is a prisoner in a dark, dingy roomand the horrible truth of his situation becomes abundantly clear soon enough.
The movie works because it plants you in that very chair. You feel the rising desperation as it becomes evident what your role is here. You are a plaything for a madman who has paid good money to satisfy all the depraved longings in his sick heart. At his disposal is a nauseating variety of tools. There are drills and blades, saws and hammers, needles and scalpels. All the things that have scared you since your first visit to the dentist or doctor are right here and there will be no anesthesia.
Yeah, it's pretty damn jolting when the first young man gets a drill bit sunk into his thigh. But more revolting is the notion that this is the only beginning. Because a person who pays enormously for such nasty pleasure is surely not going to be quick about it. You feel the grinding and growing horror of the victim's plight. Screaming will get them nowhere. This is a place designed specifically for screams. There will be no human rights groups stopping by. There will be no U.S. led rescue operation at the last minute. This is a place with a name like Ardvarkia, or Ohyuckia. The safety of home is a long ways off and the people back there are blissfully unaware of this strange country and of the terrors therein.
Sure, in-your-face images of dismember legs and hanging eyeballs will ruin your popcorn. But it's the heavy feeling of isolation and helplessness that will cloud the rest of your day.
There are plenty of people who refuse to see this flick. If they are timid about unrestrained nastiness, I don't blame them. Don't blame them at all. But if you're even mildly curious about the movie, I say go. Go spend a couple hours with Tarantio and Eli Roth, and you'll feel a little better about missing those overseas trips when you were a cocky college kid. You never go the high times in Barcelona, it's true. But at least you have all your fingers and you never had an eyeball dangling against your cheek.
If you still get a giddy delight watching the ear scene in "Reservoir Dog," go see this movie. Just cut your date some slack if he or she starts squeezing your hand with bone crushing might. It's only human to recoil against atrocities committed against humans. And a story that can reach a person on that primitive level is a success. I give "Hostel" two thumbs up to go with the three or floor laying on the floor.