If you’ve ever seen, or even heard of Eli Roth’s pretty notorious film series, Hostel, you know that they’re pretty simplistic films. A lot of critics and movie-goers alike believe these films to have pretty much single-handedly created the badge of shame on films that have followed their footsteps, in the term, ‘torture porn’. And while I don’t think that they really deserve such harsh finger pointing, it’s hard to find anything of real substance in such shallow films.
If you don’t know the premise, allow me to catch you up (don’t worry, it’s not overly complicated): American friends visit Slovakia and end up falling victim to a group that sells the experience of torture and murder. A basic formula for what are, some of the most basic films you’ll ever see. There is no great mystery, or great depth to this society; there’s no real twists in the story (except the ending to Hostel:Part 2, but we’ll get to that later), and there is certainly nothing to like about any of the characters.
Ultimately, these films should have tanked, but alas here we are: living in a world where Hostel is one of the most well-known and well received horror film series in recent years. And that is simply down to the gore. That’s fine and all, but I will give some credit to the premise as well. Pitting western audiences, especially those in America, in a strange yet very real setting, (although the accuracy of that setting and its culture are very up in air) being preyed upon by a murderous group driven only by money that also seems to have the whole town on its side, is a very clever idea. I mean, a lot of us DO decide to make trips across foreign countries, and always with the warning from someone to be careful. Eli Roth also claims his inspiration came from the finding of a site in which you could pay to watch someone getting tortured. So yeah, scary stuff.
But that’s about as far as the scares go; Hostel is very much in the same category as films like Saw in that sure they can call themselves Horror, but it’s not the kind of horror fans are used to and particularly want, but hey, that’s a dance for a different day. Aside from the ‘everyone is out to get you’ vibe, Hostel doesn’t really offer much. We are given some of the most annoying, tedious and downright vile main characters in the first film, especially ‘that’s gay’ Paxton; countless ‘I think that might be offensive to Slovakia’ moments, and lots of blood. Sorry Eli, but you aint got much.
So that’s all, I feel anyway, the Hostel series offers. But after watching the first two Roth directed films again, I do feel that under the right circumstances, they could be some of the most inventive and notorious films of the last 50 years – sure, they had a couple of years of being talked about, but not because they were MVPs.
So ignoring the obvious flaws, what could have Hostel done to become such a heavyweight? Well, the first mistake was the premise. No shit right? Well, not exactly because everything part of the setting wouldn’t need to change – in fact, all that would be required is changing the point of view. Rather than another dime a dozen cat and mouse type film, they could have set the first Hostel film from the point of view of the cat i.e. a person who’s willing to pay money to hurt and kill someone. Because let’s be honest, it would be really great to have a film try and dissect the mind-set of someone like that.
This kind of relates to what I was saying about Better Call Saul: the fact that a real mapping of the human psyche, especially a human who goes from neutral to bad, is always interesting. It give us a chance to be empathetic and attempt to understand someone who’s mind isn’t wired the way we think ours are. Not many of us can claim to be killers, or potential killers, but if there was an opportunity out there, what kind of person would take it? What would push them to want to torture and kill someone? How would it all go? These are all great ideas that could’ve been reality. Instead, the first Hostel film is made up of about an hour of tit comments, vag comments, bum comments, racist comments, sexist comments, homophobic comments all made by the victims – you know, the characters whose side the audience should be on.
The second film, which is way way way better than the first tones down the un-likability factor but doesn’t really offer anything that new. EXCEPT, it has a sub-plot that follows two men about to join the murder club so that’s something – although, it seems the prayers were misheard because the film doesn’t really do anything with them in the end. That is of course until the guy who wasn’t that into the idea of butchering someone suddenly goes ape-shit and decides actually yeah, that is what he wants to do.
But that’s me to my conclusion: the twist of him being into it, for then to have the main protagonist, Beth to kill him quite graphically and then join the murder club herself was actually pretty nice. So here’s my full timeline on how the Hostel films should have gone. Hostel should have been from the point of view of a potential killer, his/her mindset, their life, their neurosis and psychology. They arrive to the club unsure if they can follow through with it but ultimately decides, at the end, that they can follow through with it. Simple, but it cuts deeper especially if the semi-likable not going to kill person suddenly does a 180 on that. The audience would be left like ‘WAT!!’ Hostel:Part 2 would then basically play how it does anyway but without the POV of the sickos, from the point of the view of the victims etc, etc. At the end, Beth is in the room with the protagonist from the first film, over powers them, kills them and then ends up joining the murder club. Boom, full circle bitch.
And that would mean there would be no need for a diuretic third entry, like there really was one to begin with.
That video is dedicated to every fella out there with ‘The Fear’ – you all know exactly what I’m talking about.