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[Remember This?] When You Were Scared To See ‘Hostel’?

“Remember This?” is a new feature that highlights cool anecdotes from the horror genre’s storied past. It’ll pop up from time to time, giving your brain a spark of an insane memory before you move on with your day.

Let’s clear up any initial misunderstandings – I still really like Hostel (even if I’m one of the rare few who prefer Hostel 2). This isn’t some retroactive review of the film. Rather, it’s a brief musing on the last time I was able to get swept up in hype to a degree where I wasn’t sure I’d be able to handle the actual movie.

I blind bought Cabin Fever when it came out on DVD and rather enjoyed it. It didn’t scare me per se – I responded more to the Deputy Winston stuff than anything else – but it put Eli Roth on my radar. In the ensuing months I kept hearing about his next movie, Hostel. Reader reviews on various sites, on AICN especially if I recall, touted how extreme the movie was. I read about the film’s “hardcore” bona fides over and over and over again. This went on for months (like many of you – I had a group of film sites that comprised my daily routine of web browsing). Then, suddenly, it was January 2006.

It was actually time to see the thing. My girlfriend at the time, who I realize now was an actual insane person far scarier than any horror movie, agreed to accompany me to a matinee showing of the film at the Grove. So here I was, on January 6th 2006, in my 20’s and somehow unsure if I’d be able to handle a movie. Let’s talk more inside…

So we went. Conditioned by months of hype I had an adrenaline charge the entire way to the theater, a charge that spiked during the opening credits where blood, teeth and goo are washed down the drain accompanied by that creepy whistling. 95 minutes (or so) later I emerged. “That’s it?

Sure, it was gory. Sure, it was gross. But I was somewhat underwhelmed. I realized that I wasn’t nervous because I wasn’t sure if I could handle it or not… It was my desire for something I couldn’t handle that was making me nervous. And I could certainly handle Hostel. Even my date could handle Hostel. I was so confused by all of this internal commotion that I neglected to judge the film on its own merits. I think Roth addressed this issue to some degree later on – stating that audiences primed to expect “the most hardcore thing ever” would of course be disappointed. Simply because it wasn’t that.

In April of 2006 I bought the movie on DVD, and was able to enjoy it for what it was. A good horror movie with some intense moments that actually had something to say. It never became my favorite film, but it was only after the veil of hype had lifted that I was actually able to enjoy it at all.

This isn’t to say that I don’t get excited for movies before they come out. Of course I do. There are several films coming out later this year (and next year) that I’m dying to see. It was just the last time that I prioritized hyperbole on its own rather than filtering it through my own system of checks and balances.

When was the last time this happened for you?



  • staindFAN

    Well speaking of Roth, I was super stoked to see The Last Exorcism. The trailers and TV spots had me really super excited to see it. Went to see it opening weekend and guess what?… I was very let down. I didn’t care for it and it was nothing like what I was expecting it to be.

    • noNoNOOO

      The last movie I saw actually was a situation like this. The Possession…ugh. The film itself was ok, but the score made it feel campy and as if it wasn’t to be taken seriously. My friend and I laughed throughout most of it.

      • Miikesmama

        Gzys read the headline, this is about films that you were SCARED to see, like in: “Oh my god, this will be so terrible, I will be scared for life”

        This is not about films you were looking forward to, and that let you down…

  • godmonster

    I had the same reaction with “Serbian Film”. Every thing I read and saw about the film seemed so intense, with reviews warning “You will wish you never saw this.” and phrases like “It will rape your soul.”, I was pretty intimidated. I was very nervous when I watched it alone. Afterwards I thought it was a pretty good movie. I even showed it to my wife and she liked very much as well. It’s really not as bad as you think. One or two scenes get talked about a lot, but when you see them in context the director is almost winking at the audience, “You know this isn’t real, right?”

    • I had to respond to your comment because I was so traumatized by the movie, that I could remember thinking days later, what kind of person would enjoy this movie? I realized I was more traumatized over the idea of someone enjoying a “Serbian Film” not to mention that there are people out there that are into that kind of snuff. Every once in a while, when I come across a comment about this film in regards to it not being “that big of a deal”, I feel like a little part of me dies because I am assured that people are so desensitized in this world, that we will see more films like this in the future. Not Cool!

      • MakeThisAMovies

        Hmmm. I have had a copy of this flick for a while and haven’t been able to bring myself to watch. I tend to seek out the most “hardcore” movies I can find (though real life bloodshed makes my queasy), but something about this film’s rep has just stopped me from watching it. I guess I’ll eventually cave.

        • Michael_M

          Serbian Film is horribly overrated. Not nearly as disturbing as its marketing or reputation would suggest.

    • I got very excited for “Serbian Film” and it just bored me to tears, even all the gore and violence in the film failed to phase me, it failed to engage me, I was very disappointed with it

    • Decapitated_Dave

      Same, godmonster.

  • Aaron Emery

    I actually just saw Cannibal Holocaust for the first time, and if it wasn’t for the real killing of animals (the reason for which I despise the film) it really isn’t all that disturbing, not what I was expecting anyway. I found it to just be gross to the point of being unnecessary and pointless. As for Hostel, most of the violence was implied rather than shown on screen, and that’s one of the reasons I love it, you don’t need gratuitous violence to get the point across (not that I mind gore, it’s pretty great in the right spots). What I found creepy about Hostel was the mystery, the whole Elite Hunting thing was left to small detail and little explanation, it wasn’t until Part II that explanation really came into play.

    • MakeThisAMovies

      I actually found Cannibal Holocaust to be a surprisingly intelligent film (minus turtle torture). I thought the underlying comments on media in our culture to be even more valid among today’s “reality” TV.

      • Aaron Emery

        Oh totally, I just can’t get into it knowing some of what I’m seeing is actually real, torturing animals for the sake of making a movie on a small budget is disgusting on its own. I can handle a lot, I thought A Serbian Film was an excellent movie, will I watch it again? Absolutely not, I own it and actually pulled it from my shelf so my niece wouldn’t pick it up. Back to Cannibal, I feel that the directors vision and commentary could have been delivered without the animal killings. Sorry for the rant, I’m not an animal activist lol. Red meat FTW!

        • Miikesmama

          And even if you were an animal activist, what would be wrong with that??? Human meat FTW!

  • Zombie-Killa

    I remember all the hype surrounding The Ring (the 2002 American version). I was still in my mid-teens, and all of my friends wouldn’t stop talking about it. “You gotta see this!!!”

    So after a while, I finally caved in to the peer pressure, and watched it at a theater….man was I disappointed. I didn’t hate it. In fact, I enjoyed most of it, and the creepy found-footage was done well. But it really didn’t live up to the hype.

    I THOUGHT The Ring Two would be better, but it was too cliched. Ring Two was beyond awful, and I’ve only seen it twice: once in theaters, and another time on HBO, but that was out of pure boredom.

    Hostel lived up to my expectations. I’m a sucker for gore and blood, and the storyline was truly creepy. And for some odd reason, the story for Hostel always gave me that “this could actually happen in real life” feeling. I mean, how many 20 something year old males dream of a trip to Europe, that promises plenty of drugs and easy hot women? The thought of getting sucked into a Hostel-like death trap is pretty frightening.

    Loved Hostel, but wasn’t too crazy about the sequel. The blood and gore is more extreme, but that film features the same EXACT storyline. Just replace an all male leading cast with an all female leading cast, and it’s the same shit all over again.

    • EvilHead1981

      That actually happened with me regarding Scream. When it was released, I was in high school, and everybody was making a BIG deal about it. And I kid you not, I’m serious, everybody I knew was making it out to be the “scariest movie ever made”. LOL, I guess it was more just teenagers overhyping things like they tend to do more than anything. I mean, even now, I hear teens tossing around words like “amazing” and “groundbreaking” too loose for their own good. It’s not amazing and it’s not groundbreaking, you’re just young and full of energy and thing anything that’s “decent” is 100 times better than it actually is. Give yourself a few years and you’ll grow out of it. LOL! At least that’s what I tell those kids.

      And I agree with you about the sequel of Hostel, didn’t like it as much. The first one seemed more gritty, more “underground”. The whole “this is happening in the shadows, like secret nobody knows about” made it more scary. Hostel II made it more of a big world wide conspiracy, almost Illuminati-esque. To me, things like this are best handled in a more smaller fashion. It makes it more interesting, scary and realistic(if anything). It’s something small that no one detects, it a small operation that goes under the radar. The bigger they blow it up, the more ludicrous the operation becomes. For movies like They Live, the global conspiracy thing works. For Hostel, making it more an intimate horror is, IMO, the way to go. Once you start saying, “Oh, all the police are in on it, as are all the national leaders, and yadda yadda, massive comspiracy!!”, it just makes it sound stupid.

      Also, I think the male cast was more likable. They started off as complete douches(except that Norwegian guy, who was goofy), but by the middle, were absolutely sympathetic. It’s kinda the whole bravado thing, that when they finally faced the situation, their true selves came out, and all the “shit” of being a cool young man craving nothing but ass doesn’t mean shit when you are come into a situation of pure horror.

    • evenscarier

      If you can, check out Ringu, the original and it’s sequels. I found them to be much better.

    • Miikesmama

      It’s so funny here in Europe it is exactly the other way around! When we think about easy woman that like casual sex we think about the US of A (Springbreak, Burning Man etc… I once read that every third girl visiting spingbreak comes back pregnant, is that true?

  • Accident-with-power-tools

    I also think Hostel 2 is better than the first, I actuallyvthink it’s one of the best horrors of the modern era!

  • Psycrow

    I like when you watch a movie once, and years down the road you can still remember most of it. Hostel is like this for me, it just sticks with you. Hostel 2, while I liked it, I can only remember maybe two parts from it. And the ending totally eludes me.

  • djblack1313

    Evan, i liked HOSTEL 2 much more than part 1 too! i never saw either in the theaters and i admit i can’t really sit through them without taking a break (i watch them MAYBE once a year if that) because i really can’t handle “torture porn” movies. movies like GRABBERS & SILENT HILL are more my thing.

  • flesheater24

    I loved hostel 1 & 2 so much. They weren’t really disturbing all that much. But I also watch so many disturbing movies. That this was like a walk in the park. It was really different for its time. And I think so many movies have been trying to out do it. Some do, some fail. But I do love these movies I own both. I haven’t watched them in quite sometime. I erased the 3rd one from my brain. That movie was fuckin stupid. Eli roth is a really good director. I think at least. I loveeeee Cabin Fever So muchhh I remember seeing it back in theaters when I worked there and just chilled when it was slow and watch it again and again. 🙂 BTW great read too 🙂

  • WalkingDeadGuy

    I saw both in theaters, and although I consider the first to be “scarier”, the second one is a far better film. I think because we got to know the villains a lot more in Part 2, it left out that element of surprise, causing the scares and shocks to be weaker, but certainly made it a lot more interesting. The second also featured better, likable characters with a cool semi-twist ending.

    • WalkingDeadGuy

      Oh, and in response to Evan’s question, the last time I felt disappointed by a film because of hype was ‘Super 8’. The film isn’t a bad film by any means, but I remember for an entire year before its release, I kept hearing how it’s going to be a throwback to early Spielberg films. Closer to its release, the hype of the film grew so large that I was sure It would capture the same magic as E.T. and even ‘Poltergeist’ but failed in its clear attempt to do so.

      I like the film, but it’s certainly not what I had imagined and hoped it would be.

  • tearingasunder

    I think the last time I was so intimidated by a film to the point where I was even too nervous to go see it at first was The Human Centipede II. I would go on any horror blog or website and read countless things of how relentless and brutal it was, I was terrified, the fact it was getting banned and cut in all these different places had me so intimidated by it. I finally went to go see it at this tiny indie theater, the only theater showing it around me, and I wasn’t half as scared or disgusted as I was expecting! Yeah of course it had its horrifying and disgusting moments, but once you get out of the theater you just kind of forget about it.

    I absolutely loved Hostel & Hostel II too though! I can remember the hype behind Hostel as well, I wasn’t necessarily scared to see it, just as you said, wanting to finally be disgusted by something. I also can relate to you on Part II being my favorite of the two as well, and let us not even bring into the picture part III. haha

  • zog71

    When I watched Cabin Fever for the first time, I thought that it was really good, so I kinda kept tabs Eli, listening and reading for anything about his next project. Like everyone else, heard all the hype and suspense around Hostel, and how brutal it was. I live in a small town and the nearest theater is around 40 miles away in a larger town of 40,000. A friend and I went to watch the movie, because it was the only theater around showing it. We walked up to the entrance doors and there were actually signs posted that anyone under 17 would not be let in unless with a parent or guardian. I have never ever seen that in any of our theaters, and haven’t seen it since then. Yes, I love Hostel, thought it was great and not as intense they made it too be. Didn’t think 2 was as good, but still liked it alot too.

  • ThunderDragoon

    I loved Hostel and Hostel 2. I didn’t get to see the first in theaters, but I saw the second. Love them both. And even though the third one went straight to DVD, I thought it was pretty good. I think I would’ve preferred seeing more Hostel films made than Saw films.

  • AllanaDoe

    Hostel was amazing and even though I do like Hostel 2 better, I still really appreciate what Hostel did for the slasher/gore porn genre. For me, it was the first REAL slasher flick that used real situations and perverted it in such an intense way that people couldn’t help but watch. I wish a movie would make me anticipate seeing it the way Hostel did.

  • madmooney

    The problem with Hostel was the theatrical trailer…and it speaks to an industry-wide issue with trailers.

    I first saw Hostel’s in a crowded theater (there to see one of the Saw movies, I think) and it created a noticeable buzz.

    It contained no dialogue, the images chosen (all from the 2nd half of the film) were brief, dark and bleak. It was antithetical to Hollywood horror at the time.

    It seemed to be selling an abstract extreme underground European torture film filled with title-to-credit misanthropy and misery. Instead, we got a fairly common-place abduction thriller punctuated with moments of gore and torture.

    Still a good film although most look back at it as a disappointment. But without that trailer, would those people have ever seen it?

  • ZombiesAteMyNeighbors

    Hostel was never scary to me. Yes it had some great gore scenes but nothing made me jump. I admit the last act was brilliant and we were enjoying the heck out of it because it was so intense not knowing if the lead was going to make it out alive or not. I loved how he got his revenge in the end and the whole thing was just brilliant.

  • Mark Zonder

    There are some fun scenes in Hostel and it had some decent gore, but I found the trailers and announcements made it look far more grim than it ended up being. I expected something far darker. The first half of the movie pretty much ruined it then for me, annoying characters, stereotypes etc.. Much of the hype seemed to be Roth’s love for Asian sicko movies, but he never got close to them. Nevertheless it still was an ok entertainment, just nowhere as nihilistic as I hoped it would be. From around the same time I found Aja’s “The Hills have Eyes” remake more interesting.

  • BedlamBeersie

    The last time this happened to me was actually very recently. While it wasn’t ever super hyped-up like Hostel was, the tagline for the movie, The Apparition, got me kind of excited. “Once you believe, you die.” It piqued my interest, and I thought to myself, that, while that sort of concept has existed since the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, I was still excited to see where this film was going to go with it. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t go anywhere with it. The concept is included in the trailer, on the poster, in the tagline, and NOT in the movie. While I could probably watch the film at a later date and appreciate it for its other merits (after I’ve had time to think about what those other merits might be), right now, I’m still disappointed that I got sold a bill of goods, but not the goods themselves.

  • DarkestKnight

    The last time this happened to me was with Human Centipede 2. I went into the first one not knowing much about it and it has become one of my favorite horror movies. All I really knew about the second one was that according to Tom Six everything that wasn’t shown in the first one would be shown in the second and that it would make the first one look like a disney movie. I bought the second movie the day it came out but knowing what I had heard about it I wasn’t sure I could get through it. I finally sat down and watched it through. while it was more over the top than the first I still had no problem getting through and it now I am anticipating the 3rd movie. I just need to not let the hype get to me.

  • evenscarier

    I had similar feelings with the Blair Witch project and the first SAW movie. I enjoyed SAW infinitely more than I ever thought I would and it still remains one of my favorites. The Blair Witch ended and I was still waiting to be scared. Disappointing.

  • MakeThisAMovies

    @evenscarier I had a similar reaction to Blair Witch. My cousin had seen it under the assumption it was 100% real and nearly had a panic attack. I, of course, knew it was a true story but my friends and I still expected to be traumatized. We weren’t. But it wasn’t until later that night we realized just how much it had affected us.

    • MakeThisAMovies

      oops…was not* a true story…

  • I’m going to sound like a prude here, but here goes. I think in some ways Hostel was the “beginning of the end” for me. I look back on it and realize that I wasn’t bothered by any aspect of that film as much as I was bothered by the depravity of these aspects making money in today’s society. I later went on to watch Hostel 2 and then it came to a head when I watched Taken. In my mind, Eli Roth’s opus and Liam Nieson’s film were two sides of the very same coin and it both came down to really nothing more than a line of work (because I’m certain this exists in the human trafficking world) that destroys lives.

    Ever since then I never was able to get into “gore” horror. I moved my sights to movies like Insidious and Sinister and novels like Peter Straub’s Ghost Story. These pieces of fiction were exceptional in every way and achieved horror through psychological mind-f***s rather than the exploitation of other people.

    For me, that was much more enjoyable. But yeah, I remember when Hostel came out. I also remember walking out of Hostel 2 feeling like I needed to pray and shower.

  • VictorCrowley

    Was never much on Hostel. My wife and I rented both (tells you how long ago this has been) several years ago and watched the first one.

    Never cared to see the second before we returned them.

  • I wasn’t a huge fan of Hostel. Hostel: Part 2 is much better in my opinion. Lauren German is what helped that because she’s a good actress. It was better because it’s girls who are being subdued to the torture of the first film, with guys, who gives a shit?

  • Michael_M

    “I realized that I wasn’t nervous because I wasn’t sure if I could handle it or not… It was my desire for something I couldn’t handle that was making me nervous.” Wonderful insight as always Evan. You really must write a book about horror movies. Maybe publishing can be BD’s next project.

  • crow454

    Insidious. When its being touted as “The scariest movie since The Exorcist”, a real “shot in the arm of horror”, you expect it to at least be decent. It was by far and large the single most over hyped film of the past decade. Not only not a single second of tension or scares, an actually poorly put together BAD movie all around. Very UN-scary. Drag Me To Hell is a close second. As a huge Sam Raimi fan since around 1983 his highly anticipated “return to horror” made me angry at how awful it was. The ONLY Raimi film NOT in my collection.

    • EvilHead1981

      I liked Insidious, but I agree, it was overhyped. I disagree with it being more overhyped than Drag Me to Hell(that one was hyped to death). I’d even go to say Cabin in the Woods was overhyped too(even though it generally was a fun ride).

      This is personal, but I think Martyrs is overhyped by horror fans in general. It was near as good as people make it out to be.

      • crow454

        Martyrs was overhyped. I don’t think I’d ever watch it a second time. I actually got to see it pre-hype and lost interest halfway through. You say its personal though, what did you mean?

  • H666

    I was much the same with Hostel. But I think the thing you have to remember is most of this hype is from the mainstream media, not horror fans. If you haven’t seen Guinea Pig, Cannibal Holocaust, etc something like Hostel is a massive punch to the face. Same goes for Saw, a massive crossover hit and for most audiences they’d never seen anything as intense before.

  • lillysuejones

    A similar thing happened to me but the other way around. When insidious came out last year i was excited to see it but because there were no good horror films out at the time that were truly scary, i needed a film to scare the socks off me. and i walked into insidious thinking it will just be another low budget horror film that wont be scary but it seriously terrified me the first time i saw it. it doesnt scare me now but at the time it was terrifying. I hate getting all hyped up for what you think will be a great scary horror film and then you see it and its crap. I love having moments like this where you think it wont be scary and in the end it truly terrifys you. 🙂

    • Mr.Mirage

      Ditto. Or, when you see a film thinking it is going one direction then goes another entirely, like Chernobyl Diaries. Not great but entertaining, definitely not what I thought it was going to be.

  • ReplicA

    This happens to me a lot. But the very last time it happened to me was Hunger Games. It was so slow, and so boring, that by the time anything happened I could not bring myself to give a shit about any of it. Obviously, I’m not one of those horror meatheads who feel like watching gory movies makes them manly, or tough or whatever. But I’d heard so many good things about Hunger Games, I was excited to see it. Then nothing happened. And nothing happened some more. Then more nothing… Huge disappointment.

    I can identify with the article, though. I too, felt a little scared to watch Hostel. It truly was like when you were younger, and certain movies were “dangerous”. I do like Hostel 1 & 2 still, although I like the first a lot more. The 3rd… Not so much.

  • Mr.Mirage

    For me, the once and future king of Hype will have to remain: The Blair Witch Project. Like The Human Centipede, everyone, everywhere seemed to know it existed, but no one seemed to know anything about it. (I loved it, and still do.)

    To be fair, though, I have spent many days/weeks camping in that manner, and to find oneself that lost, with such inexperienced fellow campers was enough to give me the heebie-jeebies for a week. Kind of like To Build A Fire by Jack London, all the basic rules are tossed aside due to ignorance…

    My daughter is the one that told me that the (then) two Hostel movies were like the two Kill Bill movies, one film released in two pieces, and when I got around to seeing them, I watched them back to back, and still think she was right.

  • I Saw the Devil. I enjoyed it, but it was not all that I’d hoped for.

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  • I agree with you evan hostel part II was the far superior to the 1st. as for a film that made me feel like hostel had to you i would have to say that for me i was in my pre teens and the hype around the orginal scream was so intense i was feeling like whoa this film is going to be so scary and it wasn’t. not to say i didn’t like scream its just that i had been overhyped and was expecting it to be this huge gruesome masacre.

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