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"I paid a lot of money for you and that makes you my bitch "

March 1st, 2010

Torture Porn. When you hear that don't you just cringe? This is the movie that brought that phrase into existence. Every review I read for this found it's scenes of torture horrific, leading to various countries banning the movie outright (Germany for example). As a horror fan when you hear that type of reaction it makes the film more alluring. Rushing out to see this I was waiting for the screen to make my eyes bleed and then found myself somewhat disappointed.

First off let me address this whole label "Torture Porn". I hate this as this is now a death knell for any flick labelled with it. Granted, the majority of horror films are about the exploitation of its characters and depicts their graphic deaths, whether they are tied up or not doesn't really matter. Porn is a seedy business and rightfully deserves the title but I have yet to go to a cinema to watch a horror flick and see the guy in front of me whip out his dick and start bashing off, we just don't have that type of reaction to extreme gore. When you hear the above term you immediately think that the film is going to be devoid of storyline and with Hostel and the Saw films that's just not right.

Hostel is the type of film you're either going to love or hate and I fall into the former bracket. The storyline is basic but it's not the focus of the film. Before your mind goes running overboard it's not about the violence either (although there's plenty) – this is about the characters who are so well crafted that they become believable and the situation they are thrust into becomes that much more real.

Paxton (Jay Hernandez) and Josh (Derek Richardson) are backpacking across Europe with their Icelandic friend Oli (Eyþór Guðjónsson). They have no other goals than to party and hook up with as many girls as possible. Learning about a remote hostel in Slovakia that has beautiful women on tap the guys book themselves in for one last weekend of fun. The only problem being once you check in you don't check out.

Hostel, despite its reputation is quite a slow burner; it actually takes 25 minutes before the guys arrive in Slovakia. All the dudes in this film are arrogant arseholes but as I said earlier are so realistic (I actually have a few friends like them) that when the shit hits the fan you are rooting for them to escape which is strange as if this was a slasher they'd be the ones you were rooting to die.

The first half of the film is actually set up like a teenage comedy and you become wrapped up in their antics that you actually forget you are watching a horror film. This is why I think the scenes of horror sideswiped most viewers by tricking them into thinking they had seen more than there actually was. In fact the first two murders occur off screen, cutting away before any physical damage can take place. Don't let this fool you though as there are some moments of gore that push the special effects team to the limit. These include drill holes, tendons slashed, chainsaw abuse and an eye gouging.

Without giving too much away Eli Roth pulls an Evil Dead on us by leaving us with a character that we wouldn't necessarily have picked to be the final survivor. The women are utterly stunning and it's easy to see why these characters let their guards down, it's strange to watch a film where it's the men that are being manipulated and played.

The actors are great but Barbara Nedeljáková as Natalya is the standout here. Her performance ranges from the ultimate sexual fantasy to absolute nightmare with the delivery of her lines spot on. The quote that opened this review is spoken by her and is so great it made the trailer, the film and plays again at the end of the credits. Also of note are the scary kids known as the Bubblegum Gang – such a bizarre idea that works perfectly, you wouldn't want to meet this lot unless of course you have enough bubblegum for all of them.

It seems a bit far fetched that people would pay extortionate amounts to mutilate another human being but when you break it down it seems a whole lot more plausible than you might want to accept. Everyone at one time in their life has considered what it must be like to take the life of another human being. With violence sparking such a curiosity in news items and television programmes we're not far off from seeing death on TV. In fact there are many websites now that allow people to watch CCTV footage of fatal accidents. Is it not possible that there are some depraved people who would actually do this? You have to ask yourself if you knew you could kill someone and get away with it, would you?

When the true motives of the Hostel are revealed rather than looking forward to seeing the characters die in gruesome ways I was actually rooting for them to survive. I haven't really rooted for the hero like this since the release of Robocop. Alex Murphy's (Robocop) death was so vicious that when he had the chance to take revenge I wanted him to get it and that's what I felt here. The final 30 minutes are so thrilling that I was feeling the characters (I'm using character as I don't want to give away who this happens to) anxiety and found myself holding my breath alongside him when in hiding.

The movie looked good and while it had a grainy look to it this helped give the picture a cheap quality reminding me of a snuff movie (not that I've seen one). The music I surprisingly enjoyed despite being Europop tracks and gave me a feeling of what the tone of each different location was.

I've attempted to write this without going into too much detail as it's the surprises along the way that make this great. If you haven't seen this and were put off by the torture porn label this is not the myriad of sickness that followed in this flick's wake. I really enjoyed this one despite the fact it wasn't exactly the gorefest I was expecting; it's just a shame that it has such a bad reputation, one that the sequel absolutely deserves. 8/10

Trivia Eli Roth hired real street kids to play the Bubblegum Gang
When Paxton, Josh and Oli first arrive at the Slovakian hostel the movie on TV is Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction (he produced this)
The porn film the guard at the factory watches on the DVD player is Sex Fever, the X-rated parody of Roth's first film Cabin Fever.

Director: Eli Roth
Screenplay: Eli Roth
Released: 2006
Rating: 18
Starring: Jay Hernandez, Derek Richardson, Eyþór Guðjónsson, Jennifer Lim, Barbara Nedeljáková

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