Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bald Mountain Night 25: Hostel

Each day in October, intrepid blogger Alex Boivin will watch a horror movie. These movies are all new to him and are part of his month-long effort to fill in his gaps in the horror canon. If he doesn't die from fright, you just might get to read about about his exploits in cinema during the Halloween season.

The 2000's are destined to go down as a peculiar time in horror cinema. Here we had a decade that embodied some monumental and unsettling changes in the way Americans saw themselves and their place in the world, and the end result was a bunch of remakes/reboots and torture porn.

There's an old adage, it comes from Plotinus I believe, that you can never form a judgment on something without having studied it. It's also part of the Scientific Method or something, I don't know. The point is, "torture porn" or "gorno" has gotten a really bad rap over the past half-decade and I'm really in the mood to figure out why. I saw...Saw and the first of its five sequels in a marathon session sometime in 2006 (it was not my decision, btw). They didn't do that much for me besides fulfilling a childhood dream of seeing someone tossed into a pit of hypodermic needles. Now that I'm becoming something of a journeyman horror fan, I thought it was time to revisit the subgenre with my newfound knowledge and spiritual strength; my choice was Eli Roth's 2005 film Hostel.

You probably already know the plot of Hostel: there was once a script floating around Hollywood called "Untitled American College Students in Europe Project". The script got to one director who made the Charge Shot!!! favorite Europtrip. When the script came to Eli Roth, he did a significant rewrite and came out with Hostel.

Alright, I made that up, but you've got to admit that would be pretty funny if it were true, right?

Some American college students get tortured in Slovakia. There, Hostel.

I wouldn't say that I didn't like Hostel, but it didn't really do anything for me. I was admittedly attracted to the movie because of Eli Roth, who despite a pretty weak performance as Ssgt. Donny "Bear Jew" Donowitz in Inglourious Basterds, has the backing of one of my favorite directors (because I am in reality a college freshman) Quentin Tarantino. QT has a producer credit on this picture so how could I in good conscience say no?

Also, he made this, which gives him my eternal respect and admiration.

The subgenre of "torture porn", with its star falling fast, probably works once or twice on screen and then becomes repetitive and unsettling in a really boring way. I definetly squirmed in my seat more than a few times while watching this one and peaked through my fingers at least once, but I walked away not feeling particularly disturbed or entertained. Yeah it's gross, but I wasn't really anymore morally reprehended than I would be at any other gore fest. In the end it just felt like an advertisement for watching some genuinely disturbing horror flicks that are circulating out there rather than a full movie. I'd like to give Roth another shot, maybe I'll watch Cabin Fever sometime, but this one sort of reminds me of Tarantino at his worst: all homage to (better) obscure genre movies and no real substance.

Final verdict: 15 Congos