John's Horror Banana-nanza Episode Fifty-Eight : Hostel
Eli Roth's second film ushered in what is known as "torture porn." And man alive, does this rub me the wrong way. Why exactly is it that we have to lump all things into subgenres? Let's put it this way. Porn is made to excite some sort of sense, and in most uses of the word, it's used to sexually excite people. How does torture in mainstream movies excite anyone? Not to mention, there really isn't anything lingering in this film. I've seen far more love and dedication paid to murder scenes in the old Italian Giallos. They relished the gore. This film really doesn't. It does spend a lot of intimate time with the people being tortured, but we don't get spurting bright red blood. It's called torture porn just so people who don't want to watch horror have an excuse.
And this is a pretty decently executed piece of horror. Like "Cabin Fever" before it, humor dominates the opening twenty minutes. We get to know Paxton, Josh and Oli, as they take in Amsterdam's vices, smoking pot openly and visiting whorehouses. We find Josh to be a bit indecisive, even hesitant. And because this was one of my first horror movie experiences when I saw it in 2005, I bought into that false sense of security for him.
However, he meets a gruesome end when two girls who work for a torture club sell him as a victim. He encounters a man who he had a strangely sexually suggestive encounter with on a train, and that man takes great pleasure in stabbing, drilling, and basically ripping Josh apart. Just when we think Josh is going to escape, he gets one of the most brutal cuts you'll ever see in a movie.
So the rest of the movie is basically Paxton looking for both Josh and Oli, asking one of the prostitutes to help him. She takes him to the torture club, where he has to make his way out of the gruesome and disgusting rooms without being seen. One of my favorite scenes is when he encounters one of the members of the club getting psyched up to go kill. The scene is creepy, but funny and over the top.
Eventually Paxton does escape, but not before helping an Asian woman with one of her eyes gouged out escape with him. The two start to make their way through town, avoiding the most brutal group of kids you can imagine, before she throws herself in front of a train. And before Paxton makes it back home, he has one more piece of business in a bathroom stall to take care of.
This movie is gory, well paced, and not as lingering as the subgenre may suggest. It doesn't revel in its brutality. There is a story here, and the characters have some depth. I know a lot of horror fans don't respect or even like Eli Roth's work, but his first two movies, including this one, deserve a second watch.