Hostel (2006) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Hostel is Eli Roth's highly anticipated follow-up to his phenomenally successful Cabin Fever. It is a spin on one of the traditional set-ups for horror films: Americans are in Eastern Europe to pick up chicks, and seem to be having phenomenal success until it all turns ugly. Really ugly. In this variation on the theme, the Eastern European beauties are used to lure various unsuspecting tourists into situations where they can be drugged, kidnapped, and used as unwilling victims in an evil scheme similar to snuff films. Various rich people pay the Slovakian entrepreneurs vast sums of money to set up whichever demented acts they would like to commit upon untraceable victims. That consists mostly of being able to inflict pain and death upon fellow human beings.

Your basic family film! Severed limbs, eyes dangling from their sockets, oozing viscera, drills with bloody bits, tables full of arcane blades -  the full package of explicit gore in the Herschell Gordon Lewis tradition. Just think of it as 2000 Maniacs for the new millennium, with Eastern Europe playing the part of the Confederacy.

Although it is at heart an exploitation film, it is also a film with a serious point to make about exploitation in general. The American students who go to Eastern Europe, intending to wave a few dollars around and exploit the locals, find that somebody else has paid the locals a lot more for the privilege of exploiting American students! The American backpacker characters don't give any thought to the poor victims of the pay-to-play industry when they are the ones paying, early in the film. It is only later, when they find that they are in the middle of the food chain rather than at the top, and that those with more money can exploit them as easily as they exploited the anonymous prostitutes in Amsterdam, that they gain any sensitivity or insight. By then, of course, it is a bit late for their epiphany to have any value.

The trailers bill the movie as "inspired by true events." Well, sorta. Here's the scoop. Director Eli Roth says that he found a Thai website that advertised "murder vacations," in which tourists had the chance to torture and kill someone for $10,000. Roth showed the site to Quentin Tarantino, whereupon the two developed the idea for this film. Tarantino and Roth told an Icelandic interviewer that they do not know whether the offer was genuine. Hey, if it accomplishes nothing else, Hostel may permanently scare off some viewers from the notion of heading to Budapest or Bangkok to sample forbidden pleasures. Stick with the museums and old cathedrals, kids.

As you can guess from the plot description, audiences and critics were sharply divided into those cultists who found it an effective genre film and those more mainstream viewers who found it generally repulsive. It must have had some fairly broad appeal because it opened in the number one box office spot in the very first weekend of 2006, and pulled in $47 million altogether. It also pulled in positive reviews from such white bread publications as Hollywood Reporter, Entertainment Weekly, and Variety, none of which can be accused of being targeted at Fangoria readers. I joined a lot of those other people with mainstream sensibilities who found themselves engrossed in the story and admiring the atmosphere achieved by the film. I wouldn't say I liked it, but I sure got more involved in it than I expected, given that I would have read the description and passed on it if watching it were not in my job description. After all, Hostel just isn't my kind of film. It is dark-hearted, mean-spirited, and gory. Indeed I suppose that Eli Roth is never really going to make the kind of film that appeals to me, but nobody said all films have to be for me. In fact very few films are made for us old geezers. To a great extent, film is a medium for the young to talk to the young, and while I wish the kids could find healthier things to talk about, I have to concede that there are lots of people who love creepy films like this, and Roth has both the talent and the inclination to make such exploitation movies the way they are supposed to be made: with imagination, solid storytelling, sound technical skills, and transgressive amounts of violence and sex. And you know what?  I ended up thinking it was a pretty cool, albeit unpleasant, movie. The story moves along smoothly. It's dripping with atmosphere. Best of all, it has plenty o' naked chicks! It's not my kind of movie, but maybe it's yours.



  • The widescreen transfer is anamorphically enhanced
  • There is approximately an hour's worth of "making of" footage. There was one nice scene for us nudity lovers. The film has a scene in an Amsterdam bordello in which the backpackers see silhouettes of sex acts and posed models through paper-thin walls. The DVD brings the camera around to the other side of the walls, where real Czech porno stars were actually stark naked, posing and making whoopee, throwing their shadows on the thin walls.
  • Eli Roth does four (count 'em 4) different full-length commentaries, one alone and the other three with guests, like executive producer Quentin Tarantino, and Harry Knowles of Ain't-it-Cool News


  • Barbara Nedeljakova - breasts
  • Jana Kaderabkova - breasts
  • Natali Tothova - bum and blurry breasts
  • Petra Kubesova - distant full frontal
  • Paula Wild - breasts and bum
  • various others, including frontals.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus out of four stars: fewer than two  stars. James Berardinelli 2/4, BBC 2/5.

The People Vote ...

  • Box Office Mojo. It was a hit. It opened the 2006 year with the #1 spot on the first weekend. It cooled fast, as cult films are wont to do when the initial pent-up demand evaporates, but still took in $47 million. The production budget was a mere $5 million, but the marketing/distribution campaign was estimated at $18 million.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.


Based on this description, this film is a C+, arguably a genre masterpiece.

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