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I typically love a wild horror film. While Hostel is definitely wild, I wouldn’t say that I “love” it. This isn’t a poorly made film but it does have flaws that hold it back from reaching a level of greatness. There are two main things that make this film an overall entertaining watch. The cast is talented and they give worthwhile performances, especially Jay Hernandez. There’s also a chilling sense of dread that hangs over the whole thing which is effective in striking fear into the audience. The original nature to the plot must be commended as well. The silly overemphasis on sex, juvenile homophobia, and occasional way over the top torture is what ultimately hinders this.
I had forgotten just how horny these main characters were. I mean my gosh the first half hour is solely focused on these three men trying to hook up with any live female. One of them is in his early 30s and still behaves like a teenage boy which is irritating. I’m no prude but as a filmmaker you have to know when enough is enough. It’s like yeah we get it these guys are horny can we move on to something else?
And it’s not just sexual acts, it’s the middle school level crude dialogue too. The anti-gay slurs and constant talk of female genitalia is off-putting. You typically want to make the audience like the main characters and in the beginning, Hostel seems like it’s trying to do the opposite.
Derek Richardson’s character is actually a pretty good person the whole way through. He is for sure the best character in this and Richardson gives a solid performance. Jay Hernandez is also really good in this role but his character takes time to come around to. I hated him in the beginning but as things get more dire his humanity starts to come out.
Sex is not the only thing Hostel overindulges in. There are several scenes where the gruesome violence just gets to be too much. There’s a way to do this and be scary without a few of the things they show us in full detail. Sometimes leaving the most horrific stuff to the imagination is far scarier than simply showing us everything. I’m not saying everything needs to be completely sanitized but I just did not need to see several of the stomach turning things featured in this.
But enough of the negative, there are more positives to be enjoyed here than the usual slasher has to offer. The Slovakian setting makes for a very fitting environment, especially the broken down old warehouse type building where the horrors take place. Environment means a lot in a film, especially a horror film.
The third act delivers pretty well on the thrills that are set up during the first and second. The evil forces at work get what’s coming to them and given the horrific nature of what occurs, that’s very satisfying.
Another really smart aspect of the final act is a scene where we see one of the men who has paid to torture. The writing in that scene is interesting and it makes the terror even more intense because we get to see one of these demented men and hear why they do this. That scene brings a sense of intelligence to the table that other films of this subgenre don’t usually have.
On top of that, the final scene leaves you with a lingering impact, which I found satisfying. And I do believe that it’s best to end a film this dark with at least a slightly happy ending, which Hostel thankfully does. After all of that you have to shine a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel.
Hostel earns a mild recommendation from me. There’s enough creativity and good acting to keep horror fans entertained, but beware that this is not for everyone!
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