Hostel review by The Grim Ringler

Far be it for me to start out any review opening fire but, well, don’t believe the hype on Hostel. I admire the idea behind the ad campaign and the work Quentin Tarantino did to promote this film but I am sorry to say that he, and their ad department saw a different film than I did. I saw a movie that was a spring break film gone wild that turned all dark towards the end. Not the scariest or goriest movie I’d seen in, well, a week even. This was a good film, and I won’t deny that, but one that was mis-marketed and misleading and did little more than frustrate me with a tease of what it could have been.

Two friends from the states and a new companion from Norway hook up on their way across Europe in a trip that is more about debauchery than self-discovery. What they are discovering is, at least in this film, European girls are easy and everyone loves to party. Swell. The three friends get locked out of their hostel one night after being out too late but are saved from sleeping on the street by a fellow traveler who offers them his room for the night, as well as some info. The info consists of a location, a destination the three men must travel to instead of where they had been intending to go. Why? Because the women are beautiful and looking to party, especially with Americans, so naturally the friends are sold. They immediately book a train for this city, a place in Northern Europe recently freed from the iron curtain, and they prepare for their adventures. And their informant wasn’t wrong – as soon as they check into their hostel they are greeted by two gorgeous, and naturally nude, women who are to share their room. The men hook up with their roommates and find a third for their Norwegian friend and the party lasts all night. When the two friends awake though their friend Oli is missing. They later learn he has supposedly hooked up with one of the Asian girls staying at the hostel and has left with her, though they get a message from him later that he’s gone home. None of this makes sense to the friends though and, concerned, they begin asking around to see if anyone’s seen or heard from him. Things begin getting strange for the two but they decide to enjoy their last night at the hostel, in the city, before leaving and finding someplace they feel more comfortable at. Unfortunately for them, the two stay one night too long and find all too late that they’ve been tricked and both are drugged that night. One manages to pass out in the back room of a club and finds, upon waking that he’s suddenly alone as both Oli and his friend are missing and he has no idea what’s happening. As he works to unravel this mystery though he realizes too late the trap that was waiting for the friends before they even arrived, and which they’ve unwittingly stepped into. A trap they may not escape from.

I love the concept of the film. And the set design and costuming at what is essentially a human slaughterhouse is amazing. Very scary. The hell of it is that the rest of the movie doesn’t live up to that. The acting is fine, and the direction is at times brilliant and other times too cutesy and clever for its own good. As is the movie. The film, at its heart, is an examination of human excess, looking long and hard at people who seek parties and not expansion. People who live by their wants and lusts. What happens, Eli Roth asks, when these lower urges are focused on and made paramount in one’s life? If someone created say, a business that was only concerned with selling humans as cattle? We go from the fun, generally harmless partying of some self absorbed college students to the nastiest extension of that in the form of people wealthy enough to buy the lives of other humans in order to do as they please with them. A pretty nasty subject. Yet Roth pisses the deeper meaning away with over half of a film that’s filled with needless nudity and what amounts to so much Girls Gone Wild footage. And that sucks.

There is a lot of good here, but you shouldn’t have to wait patiently for the film to really get going. The core of this film is the slaughterhouse, is that aspect, the aspect they exploit in the commercials. Yet, you don’t get there for about an hour and then you’re barely shown that world. In another film that might work, but this is like making a vampire movie and only having the vamp pop up at the end to prance around a bit. Had they marketed and made the film as a riff on the Gone Wild genre, and then suddenly the film turns bleak, that’s a hell of a twist. I’d buy it. The thing for me is that Roth wanted to make this intense, shocking, yet deep film. And he managed to start getting at that, yet, by the time we get there, it’s too little too late. There are weird characters, funny situations, nudity, and some moderately likable characters but it is a waste of a great concept and set piece to use it the way they did.

This is a good film that could have been great. A dark film that could have been bleak. A film that could have been a leap for Roth and shown he’s not just a horror director to watch but a director to watch in general. Instead we get a good movie with some shocks at the end, a movie heavily influenced by Asian cinema (something he acknowledges with the casting of Takeshi Miike in the film), but one that is not much more than a follow-up to Cabin Fever. Which is fine. Sadly, I bought into the hype and thought this would be more.

I recommend this as a cheap movie, or as an eventual rental. It’s got a lot to offer. Sadly, not as much as they’d have you believe.


7 out of 10 Jackasses
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