While you wait patiently for me to post my official word on Eli Roth’s (Cabin Fever) second feature film Hostel, inside you’ll find a gushingly positive review sent in by a B-D reader named Dan. Eli wishes to keep most of the details under wraps, so the reviews have basically no spoilers, so read on and don’t worry. Sony Screen Gems’ film stars Jay Hernandez, Derek Richardson, Eythor Gudjonsson, Takashi Miike, Jan Vlasak and Eli Roth (cameo)… I was lucky enough to catch the first public screening of a rough cut of Eli Roth’s sophomore horror project, Hostel. The cut was incomplete, featuring missing special effects elements, a rough audio and music mix, and several scenes that probably won’t make it into the theatrical cut. Eli Roth attended the screening alongside Quentin Tarantino as well as Jay Hernandez and Derek Richardson, the film’s two principal actors.
Hostel follows two American backpackers (Hernandez & Richardson) traveling through Europe, looking for opportunities to take advantage of all the pleasures foreigners are told Europe has to offer: booze, drugs, adventures, beautiful girls and endless sexual opportunities. When they travel to Slovakia in search of an exclusive youth hostel where the girls are beautiful and the sex is plentiful, they end up in the clutches of some sick, sick freaks.
I was a huge fan of Cabin Fever. I loved Roth’s mix of gore and humor. I loved Audition, the bleak Japanese thriller by Takashi Miike, where Roth got some of his inspiration for Hostel. I also spent a semester studying abroad in the Czech Republic, where Hostel was shot. So needless to say, I was thrilled for this movie.
Hostel delivers. In terms of pacing, it flowed similar to Audition, which might confuse, bore or annoy some American audiences. Audition doesn’t turn scary until the last thirty minutes. Hostel opens as a teen sex comedy, showcasing the exploits of two horny Americans and one perverted Icelandic traveler. Topless girls frolic across the screen often in the film’s first half. The dialogue is typical Roth, with the words “gay” and “fag” being tossed around often. Some people might be put off by this, but I find Roth’s dialogue realistic and pretty funny at times.
A little over halfway through, the movie shifts tone drastically, and never returns to its lighthearted beginnings. One by one, the travelers end up in creepy rooms full of intimidating surgical tools and scary looking Eastern Europeans. Toes get cut off, legs get drilled, faces get mutilated, and so on. Roth does a great job with the gore. It’s not too senseless and overboard; it’s treated realistically and with extreme suspense. There are a lot of cringe-inducing moments. There’s also an amazing sequence where we watch a pitch black screen for a good minute and a half while Jay Hernandez’s character squirms and whimpers in fear. All of the actors did surprisingly well with the torture scenes, really selling their fear and making the pain seem believable.
There’s a lot of talk that this movie getting an NC-17 rating. Based on this cut, it seems likely. However, if the editors lose a few more of the nude scenes, and maybe tone down one or two of the gore scenes, it could squeak by with an R. Hopefully the studios won’t cut too much, because horror fans will be satisfied with the film the way it is now. We’ll find out when Hostel hits theaters sometime in the near future.