American college friends Paxton (Jay Hernandez) and Josh (Derek Richardson) are backpacking round Europe in the company of Icelander Oli (Eythor Gudjonsson) looking for a good time. In Amsterdam they find it, but just when they thought they'd died and gone to hedonistic heaven, they meet Alex (Lubomir Silhavecky), who points them to an out-of-town Slovakian hostel renowned for beautiful and easy girls just waiting for foreign hunks. When they get there, they are indeed instantly seduced by the lovely Natalya (Barbara Nedeljakova) and Svetlana (Jana Kaderabkova). Oli soon disappears, but the two Americans are lured into a hellish "artists' exhibition" that turns out to be as horrific and depraved as it is deadly and gruesome.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Australia's Greg McLean has beaten Eli Roth to it - by a week. Wolf Creek opened in the US on Christmas Day 2005; Hostel opened on January 6, 2006. Both are horror films that dare to go further than many of the recent examples of the genre. Just over two years ago Roth was in Australia promoting his warm up film, Cabin Fever. In an interview with Urban Cinefile he said at the time how keen he was to see the real horror genre (his favourite) make a return. Hollywood has been scared of horror, he said, tending to call them thrillers. All that has changed, he would be glad to see. Wolf Creek too as much money in its opening weekend in the US (A$6.5 million) as it has in its first three months in Australian ($6.2 million, approx).
The reason I'm harping on about Wolf Creek in the review of Hostel is that McLean really took Eli Roth to heart and went deeper into horror territory - so much so he offended many people, because he defied many of the conventions that make horror films safe for audiences. For a start, he never joked around with 'gruesome'. Where McLean places young women in the central role of the victims, Roth has women as both accomplices in the scam to trap the victims, and also as 'support' victims.
But enough of the lecture; Hostel, as Roth promised, also eschews humour completely. There is no irony, only iron torture implements and the premise is as twisted and terrifying as the acts themselves. To his credit, Roth avoids overstating the film's premise, letting us deduce it bit by bit. (You'll have to read reviews that give away the details - or see the film - to learn what it is.) Also to his credit, he casts suitable East European actors so we are not tortured by fake accents and improbable facial characteristics.
Where The Devil's Rejects (dir. Roz Zombie, Aust release Oct. 13, 2005) was plain ugly gruesome, Hostel's ugliness is not plain; the filmmaking is serious, in every sense of the word, and Roth doubles the horror quotient by adding to the graphic visuals some suggestions for our brains to gag at. The performances are tops, Prague locations gothic and the production design horror-esque. Don't book into this Hostel unless you're a horror fan. Or if you do, don't complain.
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CAST: Jay Hernandez, Derek Richardson, Eythor Gudjonsson, Barbara Nedeljakova, Jana Kaderabkova, Jan Vlasák, Jennifer Lim, Lubomir Silhavecky, Paula Wild
PRODUCER: Chris Briggs, Mike Fleiss, Eli Roth,
DIRECTOR: Eli Roth
SCRIPT: Eli Roth
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Milan Chadima
EDITOR: George Folsey jnr
MUSIC: Nathan Barr
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Franco-Giacomo Carbone
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 23, 2006