4 out of 5 sneepurs – Enjoy your travels with this genre-breaking classic!
Apologies for the sneaky 8-month hiatus, I had to do some stuff. Some of that included backpacking around Europe. Having returned home from months of training it across the beautiful Northern landscape, meeting people of all nationalities and sleeping in rooms full of strangers – safe in my living room I had a sudden jonesing to re-watch that mid-2000’s horror hit Hostel.
Now, when I first saw Hostel, I must have been a younger, more ignorant consumer. I was probably just following the hype of this film being ‘torture-porn’ and looking for some cheap thrills. I remember liking the film – especially its premise, but rewatching it with older, wiser eyes – this film is pretty damn great.
Before hitting its strong points, I will briefly touch on some areas it could have improved on.
First, the character development in the first part of the film could be a little stronger. It’s not the worst, but it does rely on some pretty shallow presumptions and storytelling. I found the gore in this film not as gross as I remembered it (except for that Kana/Paxton scissor scene blerghhhh), so maybe if I felt more for the characters the horror-aspect would be intensified.
Secondly, and I truly believe this may be more jarring nowadays than it was back then, but by golly, there is just a lot of homophobic jokes thrown about in the first half of this film. I’m not demonising it, as I do believe it is part of creating the whole ‘American douchebro backpacker’ character trope, but I truly believe filmmakers just wouldn’t include this nowadays compared to the early 2000s.
Cool so that’s pretty much it for the shortcomings, now onto the genius.
Hostel is a great horror film because it plays into the very real fears of people who travel as well as playing on the imagined fears of those that do not, in the following ways;
- Fear of Being the Un-fun Friend
In the opening scenes in Amsterdam, old mate Josh (Derek Richardson), just doesn’t want to employ sex workers in the way his two travelling buddies do. Later in the movie, he’s the one who doesn’t want to drink and/or go to the disco. Many travellers will know this divide between using other countries as some sort of conscienceless party world, or staying occasionally sober to enjoy the scenery. The worst part for our friend Josh is that in the end, none of this caution assists him, instead pure chance makes his friend Paxton the final one.
2. Fear of Missing Out/ Fear of being Part of the Masses
Another common conversation happening in every lounge of every hostel across Europe if a weird/semi-competitive diatribe of ‘I went to this really offbeat place and it is way better than (insert well known landmark/location/attraction here). When the boys get told of the treasures of Eastern Europe (pretty, sexually available girls), it rings of the traveller’s fear that they are just following the guidebook, not experiencing the ‘real’ Europe.
3. Fear of Being the Outsider
More than any other fear, fear of being the outsider encompasses the true terror of being a stranger in a strange land. You are isolated and vulnerable, you don’t speak the language and you are constantly warned that someone may be taking advantage of you. It’s this contrast between breaking loose and having the time of your life but also being told to be careful that makes traveling one hell of a balancing act. In the film, I found the inclusion of side-conversations in languages other than English a very real representation of the unease you will experience, even if the conversation is one hundred percent innocent and not planning your murder, in the multi-lingual Europe.
On top of these fears, the film is based on a very interesting, scarily believable premise of the rich being able to pay to kill the poor. Thesis been more recently played upon in the Purge trilogy (more great films), and is becoming more and more relatable as the wealth gap becomes internationally wider.
Final note: Eli Roth will always be the Bear Jew to me, but now I have to check out Cabin Fever, as well as the rest of the Hostel movies. Stay tuned!