I'm a fairly big fan of Eli Roth's first major motion picture, Cabin Fever. It has the perfect blend of horror, goofball comedy, and children doing karate (!!!), and it's a rewarding movie to watch or rewatch with a bunch of friends. Plus, it stars Mr. Feeny's archenemy. "Mr. Hunter, would you please pay attention in my class? Your skin is being eaten away by some sort of zombie bacteria, and furthermore there's some freaking pasty-white kid doing roundhouse kicks and shouting 'PANCAKES' at high volumes! MR. HUNTER!" So it seemed like a no-brainer to pick Hostel from the smattering of recent horror offerings presented to me last evening.
The first strike against Hostel is that it does not feature any "Boy Meets World" alumni. Not even the guy that played Eric, and you know he's hurting for work. That's probably the least of my qualms, though, so I'll move on.
Our unlikely hero is played by Jay Hernandez, who you might remember from absolutely nothing. He and his two buddies are backpacking across Europe and having an excellent time--smokin' chronic blunts and bonin' hoes. A man tells them about a rockin' hostel in eastern Europe that is swimming with horny babes, and of course they are all over it. The modern horror movie is a bit of a mystery to me, but this seems like a lot of exposition. Halfway through the movie, I found myself asking, "Shouldn't there be a few lost limbs by now?"
The film presented here is extremely uneven. Where Roth's directorial debut featured an intermingling of all of its elements--you never knew if a scare was for real or for laughs--this seems like two seperate films. Literally the first half of the movie (over forty minutes) plays like a stoner comedy. Amsterdam jokes! Silly foreigners! Sex and boobs! Eventually, weird stuff starts happening and Jay Hernandez (whose character probably has a name, but who really cares?) finds himself at the whim of a cackling German with a pair of scissors and an arsenal of gardening equipment.
This second half of the movie, though, isn't particularly scary. It's as if Roth wanted uneasy stomachs instead of uneasy brains. We see sliced Achilles' tendons, unsocketed eyeballs, disembodied fingers, and pureed human bodies. What we don't dwell on is the fear. These characters are all being tortured, and yet blood starts flying three minutes into each session.
Because of the solid, "ultra-serious" tone of the second half of the movie, some of the supposedly-humorous bits at the end seem out of place. The roving gang of street-children that made me chuckle in the beginning become tiresome around the point when they become plot-relevant. They do, however, get credit for the best kill in the movie, as the ten-year-olds attack some pursuing villains.
There's no joy in Hostel. Maybe it's weird that I think there should be joy in a movie about torturing teenagers to death, but I do. My favorite horror movies--including a number of the Nightmare on Elm St. and Friday the 13th movies--do their killing with a wink and a nudge. They know they're not the most realistic thing in the world, so they think up fun and inventive ways for the villains to get their kicks. Maybe this will be remedied in the forthcoming Hostel 2, but I'm not sure I'll be around to find out.
HAPPY HALLOWEEN! Other spooky posts:
- Wade Boggs reveals his scary movie script! (New today)
- Free Halloween Music (featuring Garfield's Halloween Adventure, Sesame Street and The Gorgonites!)
- REVIEW: Friday the 13th and Friday the 13th Part 2
- REVIEW: Friday the 13th Part 3 and The Final Chapter
- REVIEW: Friday the 13th Part 5: A New Beginning and Part 6: Jason Lives
- REVIEW: Friday the 13th Part 7: The New Blood
- REVIEW: Friday the 13th Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan
- REVIEW: Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday and Jason X
- REVIEW: A Nightmare On Elm St. and Part 2: Freddy's Revenge
- REVIEW: A Nightmare On Elm St. Part 3: The Dream Warriors and Part 4: The Dream Master
- REVIEW: A Nightmare On Elm St. Part 5: The Dream Child and Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare
- REVIEW: Wes Craven's New Nightmare and Freddy Vs. Jason