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Reviewed by Gary Mitchel, © 2006

Format: Movie
By:   Eli Roth (director)
Genre:   Horror
Released:   January 6, 2006
Review Date:   January 10, 2006
Audience Rating:   R
RevSF Rating:   8/10 (What Is This?)

Business is boring. — The Dutch businessman.

What have I been saying for the last year or so? Do not, ever, head into the backwoods! Not in America, not in France, and definitely not in Russia. If there isn't a Starbucks, major highway or broadband connection, just get the hell away from the place.

Hostel is the story of three young, horny guys spending a few months wandering around Europe drinking, getting high and chasing girls. We have Paxton (Jay "Joyride" Hernandez), Josh (Derek "Dumb and Dumberer" Richardson), and Oli (Eythor Gudjonsson), their super-horny and hyper Icelandic friend they met in France. While the guys drink, smoke and fornicate their way all over Europe, they stay at various youth hostels. It's a frat-guy dream vacation.

In the first act, as we see the boys party we get the thumbnail into to who they are. Paxton is the cool, collected one, while Josh is the nice-guy sensitive one, all nerves because he just broke up with his girlfriend before the trip. Oli, meanwhile, is pure id, drinking everything, smoking everything, and chasing every woman that breathes.

When they guys get locked out of their hostel in Amsterdam, they meet Alex, a Russian kid who tells them of a small town in the Ukraine where the women are beautiful and throw themselves at American men. After seeing some pictures on his cellphone of said gals, the three guys are on the train there the next morning.

While on the train, they meet a slightly creepy Dutch businessman (Jan "Dune" Vlasák), who is also on his way to this town. He shows an odd interest in Josh, and weirds the boys out because he eats with his fingers. "We've lost touch with ourselves, and the feel of things," he tells them.

The guys arrive in the town, and it's a typical depressed post-USSR-breakup former factory town. There are roving gangs of thieving kids, suspicious-looking fellows, and other things that bother the guys until they arrive at — the Hostel.

They are given a room to share with two very attractive local girls, Natalya and Svetlana, whom seem to have no issues with modesty. They boys join them first in the spa, and then spend the night out clubbing and fornicating. Frat heaven.

The next day, out clubbing again, Oli goes missing and the movie changes into second gear. The desk clerk tells the guys that Oli checked out, which confuses them as the trio was supposed to head off to Barcelona together. The guys worry about Oli, chase someone through town who has his jacket, then go partying the next night because, hey, hot Russian gals. Meanwhile we see Oli's grisly fate. Then the next one of them vanishes, and the movie shifts again as the remaining guy searches for what has happened to his buddies.

When he finds out, the movie switches gears yet again, and things get really interesting.

Here's why. First, Hostel has all the blood, gore and boobs that have been missing from horror/slasher flicks since their heyday in the '80s. The opening 20 minutes of this movie have about as many bare breasts as two years' worth of Playboy. And when the horror starts, there are buckets of blood. Limbs are severed, power tools dig into flesh, throats are cut. This is no Scream rip-off, bloodless PG-13 horror flick, like most of the ones of the last ten years. It's old-school, hard "R" breasts and gore. And the good old '80s slasher moral lesson — sex = death — is intact here as well.

The next thing that's interesting is the fact our protagonists are guys. In the '80s slasher flicks, our main lead was always a nice gal, most of whose friends were tormented and killed. Reams have been written on this, some claiming it was misogyny that all these teen girls are slaughtered, and others claiming that it showed strong women who survive the films, defeating the hockey masked or clawed psycho killers.

In Hostel, it's three guys who are the main victims. It's an interesting twist for the slasher genre, and I wonder how that will hold up, as most guys will identify with our "heroes" and want them to survive. I also wonder how well people will handle guys being helpless victims for a good chunk of the movie instead of the heroic boyfriends. It's a bold choice.

The plot is a bit thin, but that's par for the course with slasher flicks. The characters are also thin, but they hold your attention and make you sympathize with and fear for them. The direction by Eli ("Cabin Fever") Roth is nicely done, and he keeps the film moving at a decent pace.

If you liked the slasher movies of the '80s, and miss when horror movies had gallons of fake blood, sex, drugs and thin plots, then you'll like Hostel. If you don't like explicit gore, violence or nudity (lots and lots of nudity), then I would avoid it and check into a more upscale, five-star place.

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