Every once in a while, a horror film comes along that really raises the bar for other films in the genre. In Hostel’s case, not only is the bar raised, it’s used to sodomize a 19 year old pledge in a bizarre fraternity hazing ritual. Hostel has got to be one of the most juvenile films I’ve ever seen, and that’s a lot coming from a guy who has Attack of the Crab Monsters on DVD. This cruel, soulless picture feels like it was made by idiot frat boys for idiot frat boys, complete with nudity, violence, and a complete ignorance of the way anything other than a beer bong works.
Hostel gives us two young American boys, back packing their way through Europe with a expendable Icelandic sidekick, on the hunt for pussy and drugs. They find both in Slovakia, as well as the titular hostel, which is essentially the gateway to a filthy murder shack for rich business men who love The Most Dangerous Game but refuse to do any running. The first two-thirds of the movie is nothing but boring soft-core titillation, obviously created by someone who’s never been to Europe, but has seen enough Euro Angels Hardball to form an opinion of an entire continent. Then, presumably once the jock audience has blown a load in their $50 sweatpants and lost interest in sex, the final third has a bunch of torture to satisfy the urge to go play Grand Theft Auto.
I’d say this film is xenophobic, but no one even considering seeing this movie would know what that word means, so I’ll just mention that I’ve been to Europe, specifically Slovakia, and the women do not look like leggy supermodels, nor are the men all deformed Deliverance extras. The men are average looking, though a tad hirsute and entirely too interested in military history, and the women all have very square heads, which explains why they cover them up with gypsy shawls once they hit middle age. What confuses me most about Hostel is not its ignorance or its stupidity, though I would have expected more from the director of Cabin Fever, but rather how baffling cruel the writing is. It’s not that the macho, violently ignorant main characters are unlikeable; they’re downright horrible. Watching them die is still unpleasant, but in the end you feel grateful that they’ve finally shut up and stopped perpetuating negative stereotypes about American tourists. The whole movie is designed to give us characters we hate, then let us revel in watching them die, transforming the audience into the sick voyeurs the movie ostensibly condemns. It’s like The Simple Life, which presents two characters who think they’re better than everyone else, then invites the viewer to feel better than them, and then to masturbate while imagining Nicole Ritchie getting blow-torched to death. Except in Hostel, it’s not Nicole Ritchie, and you don’t have to imagine.