Plot: Paxton (Jay Hernandez) and his friend Josh (Derek Richardson) are in Europe and plan to live it up, with an emphasis on alcohol, drugs, and of course, women. While the two have had some fun and even made a wild new pal in Icelander Oli (Eythor Gudjonsson), but Paxton feels like crazier adventures are out there, the group just needs to find them. Soon enough, the trio learns about a hostel with a special reputation for girls looking to score and insane parties, so of course, they head there right away and see the rumors are true. The good times begin to roll, but Paxton and Josh are confused when Oli ditches them and seemingly checked out, though that doesn’t seem to make such sense. Soon more strange things begin to happen, but what dark secrets lurk within this remote, unusual village?
Entertainment Value: One of the pillars of the torture porn era, Hostel is a wild ride that pushes the envelope on the violence side, even if the path to the carnage is drawn out and inconsistent. Hostel was as mainstream as horror can be, but kept a much harder, blood soaked edge that most of its peers, especially in the final act when things really start to spiral out of control. This is the kind of horror you’d expect in low budget, indie style productions, but rarely find in well funded, high profile movies, so it is fun to see all the graphic gore with such slick production values. I don’t think Hostel has the grit or nastiness to the level of some of those indie horror shockers, but it packs a mean kick and doesn’t hold back once it ramps up. But the movie’s teen comedy lead up feels slow and can be a slog, as the humor isn’t that sharp and the hedonistic craziness just isn’t that memorable. I would have loved more colorful characters or outlandish elements leading up to the chaos, but Hostel settles for a forgettable build up and that results in a movie that doesn’t hold up on the whole. Even so, the horror and gore are a lot of fun in this one, so even with a lackluster lead up, Hostel earns its reputation and remains a solid watch for genre fans.
This movie seems to have a reputation for sleaze in addition to gore, but the truth is there’s not a wealth of naked flesh here. More than the typical mainstream horror movie however, with several topless scenes, most of which aren’t brief in the least, as well as as some full frontal nudity. The sex scenes aren’t graphic, more used to try to build the exotic, free spirited texture of the trip, but it is still nice to have some skin on showcase. Hostel lives up the reputation when it comes to gore however, with some impressive, memorable sequences of violence that more than earn the film a place in the torture porn’s top tier. This includes prolonged scenes of torture and abuse, so this isn’t light, madcap slasher violence, but often a darker, more sadistic style. So we have blowtorch mayhem, eye trauma with a super fake (but gross) prosthetic, toe trauma, hammer time, a unique method of catching a train, toilet swimming, fun with a chainsaw, throat slashing, and general other wounds and assaults. The effects are mostly impressive and the camera doesn’t often drift when things get nasty, so Hostel certainly comes through in the gore department. The dialogue is colorful at times thanks to some oddball side characters, like Oli and the American client at the compound, both of whom have some great moments. But otherwise, not much to talk about, just basic, straight forward lines to get from here to there. The craziness spikes thanks to the violence and sadistic nature of the final act, but the lead in is rather tame in most ways and the sex/comedy elements never push into chaos or madness.
Overall Insanity: 5/10
The Disc: Mill Creek released Hostel on Blu-ray as part of a double feature with Hostel Part II, in a capable, if unremarkable presentation. The movie seems primed for a new master, but looks quite here and shows solid detail and depth, the visuals just don’t jump off the screen like some HD releases. The colors are bright and vivid when needed, then descend into the dark, dank hues when the movie shifts. So Hostel looks good here, better than a DVD could offer.