Hostel is one of my favorite movies of all time! The other two are 28 Days Later (reviewed here) and Green Street Hooligans. I got my hands on a bootleg copy of Hostel when it first came out (2005) and watched it with my older sister because watching horror movies together was kind of our thing but I sooo did not know what to expect.
The movie starts off oh-so-innocently! Two college kids Paxton (I was delighted to see Jay Hernandez because I think he’s cute) and Josh along with their Icelandic friend Oli, travel across Europe in search of a good time (drugs, getting laid, etc…). The trio might come across as obnoxious but I just think of it as boys being boys. They meet some random guy in Amsterdam who tells them they should check out a certain Hostel in Slovakia because it’s got a lot of hot chicks who are down for some fun (DTF…?). Boys being boys, they obviously head straight towards that Hostel.
Along the train-ride there, they meet a creepy Dutch Businessman who eats a salad with his hands and says some random things to them, but they quickly forget about him once they reach their destination. It seems everything they were told was true, because as soon as they arrive the boys are greeted by hot chicks (who invite them to a spa and later on, a disco). The girls are gorgeous, and have beautiful bodies, and aren’t ashamed to show off said beautiful bodies (they strip completely naked at the spa). The boys and girls go out for some drinks and dancing at the disco before eventually pairing up to go sleep with each other. Up to that point, the movie is like every other teen movie out there. The next morning, the guys wake up to find Oli missing…
They are later approached by a Japanese girl called Kana (played by Jennifer Lim) staying at that same Hostel. She shows them a picture of Oli along with another Japanese girl. She manages to communicate to the two boys that her friend Yuki (the girl in the picture she showed them) is now missing as well. This scares Josh so he wants to leave but Paxton convinces him to stay for one more night. At the disco, the boys are slipped tranquilizers and while Josh managed to make it back to his room, Paxton passes out in the storage room at the disco (and is therefore safely hidden).
Josh wakes up in a dungeon-like room with both his hands and feet handcuffed to his chair with a masked man facing him. The masked man proceeds to DRILL HOLES IN THE KID’S CHEST AND THIGHS!!!! Then the masked man removes his mask and reveals that he’s actually the Dutch Businessman the boys had met on the train earlier (on their way to the Hostel). It just gets worse from there…
Paxton wakes up and makes his way back to the Hostel where he is told that he had already checked out. After fixing the mix-up, he returns to his room and finds a different pair of hot chicks, who also happen to be in the process of changing (giving him a glimpse of their bodies) and also invite him to the spa, exactly the same way the previous pair of hot chicks greeted him when he first arrived to the Hostel with his friends. Realizing something is off, Paxton heads out and finds the original pair of beautiful girls and asks them where Josh is. One of them tells him that Josh is at an art exhibit and she’d be willing to take him to that exhibit.
They arrive at an old factory where Paxton asks Takashi Miike “How is it in there?” as he is leaving the building, to which Takashi replies “Be careful, you could spend all your money in there”. Inside, Paxton finds Josh‘s mutilated corpse being stitched together by the Dutch Businessman whom they’d all met earlier on the train. Paxton is then restrained by thugs who drag him into one of the cells and bind him to a chair, but not before passing the other cells where PEOPLE ARE BEING SADISTICALLY TORTURED IN ALL MANNER OF WAYS INSIDE!
Do you get the idea yet? Basically, members of the “hunting club” pay a certain amount (depending on the person’s nationality ) and get to torture that person to death, in the privacy of their very own cell at the old factory. How twisted is that? I can wrap my head around a movie where the antagonist kills people and even tortures them psychologically before killing them but a whole “hunting club” who are actually willing to pay any amount of money for the chance to inflict incredible amounts of pain by mutilating people before eventually killing them anyway is terrifying! They don’t just die. They are physically tortured and maimed until they wish they were dead. That’s beyond horrifying! I believe the sub-genre is called Torture Porn but it can also be called a Splatter Movie.
Nowadays we might watch a movie like this without even blinking but at the time (2005) Hostel shook me to the core, even though I was supposedly desensitized after watching Japanese Movies for years, namely Dead or Alive (1999) which blew my mind, and happens to be directed by none other than Takashi Miike (who also directed the movies Audition, Ichi The Killer, Visitor Q, and the list goes on) which makes it deliciously apropos that the twisted director has a cameo appearance in Hostel as one of the clients. I felt apprehensive all throughout Hostel, with tightened abs and clenched teeth for the majority of it. During a particularly gnarly scene (eyeball scene) my sister literally threw up. She can’t handle gore so she usually looks away but I forced her to watch the whole thing this time and to be fair she lasted way longer than I thought she would. There was just so much blood and gore in Hostel! Even once the movie ended and I could finally breath normally, I still felt a tightness in my stomach. I mean for all I knew, this could be a “thing”. I could totally see someone who used to be in the army, develop a taste for maiming people and torturing people, so he buys up a secluded farm, kidnaps random people and locks them in cages then gets all his like-minded buddies with their firearms and crossbows to come over and they set the people in cages loose and tell them to run so the army guys can hunt them down, for sport. There’s nothing I find scarier than crazy people because you just can’t reason with crazy!
Hostel not only scared me but that fear stayed with me, to the extent that several years later I was traveling alone (well there were other passengers but I didn’t know any of them) on a flight to Germany all snuggled up and feeling cozy in my window seat, when a Dutch Businessman (who looked exactly like the shady guy the boys met on the train in the movie) sat down next to me. I kept thinking “Please don’t be creepy. Please don’t be creepy. Please don’t be creepy.” We made small talk which was basically him talking and me agreeing with everything he said in hopes of pleasing him so he wouldn’t think to torture and kill me (The weather is very bad here. Yes, the worst! Blah blah blah. Yes, you are so right! Blah blah blah. Yes, couldn’t agree more! Are you from Kuwait? No! Wait, what? Yes.) I’m pretty sure he thought I was an idiot (and therefore not worth torturing). I was tightly wound for the duration of the flight to the extent that I finally managed to muster up the courage to ask for some water (and I rarely drink water) only after he fell asleep and even then I was so high-strung that I accidentally spilled the water all over myself. Horrified that I’d accidentally spilled some on him, I hurriedly yanked my scarf off (it was around February) and tossed it between both our seats hoping it would soak up the water. Thankfully, I’d only spilled it on my seat so I went back to staring at my watch, willing time to go faster. Once his meal arrived (I declined because if I wasn’t able to sip water next to him, I doubt I could handle eating) foregoing all the eating utensils (knife, fork, spoon, anything!) he started eating with his hands (just like the guy on the train in the movie!). I almost had a heart attack right then and there. Once our plane landed, I called up my sister at around 4 in the morning and was stage whispering to her in arabic “I just arrived in Germany. We’re on a bus headed towards the airport. There’s a guy who looks like that guy from that horror movie we saw. Hostel!” A Kuwaiti guy who had given up his seat on the bus for me even though he was clearly sick (flu, possibly) overheard me and literally snorted with laughter. As it turns out, my Dutch Businessman was actually a really nice guy because once we reached the airport, I was just standing there trying to figure out which way to go, he came back to me and directed me to the proper path before leaving again. While waiting in line to get my passport stamped, the Kuwaiti guy told me to get in his line because the guy stamping passports in the line I was standing in “was a bas***d” and as he said that, the guy in my line starts yelling at a Moroccan woman who clearly did’t understand him so not wanting to deal with all that, I quickly switched queues, we got our passports stamped and went our separate ways (#missedconnection).
Personally, I love Hostel but many people actually prefer Saw to Hostel from the Torture Porn genre. Honestly, the first Saw movie was pretty good because it was unexpected and also had an amazing soundtrack but all the other Saw sequals did nothing for me. Hostel was, is, and always will be, one of my favorite movies of all time! Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the two sequels it spawned. Where female nudity in the first Hostel was actually pertinent to the story there was way too much gratuitous nudity in the sequels, none of the “actors” could act, cheap scares were abundant, and in Hostel 3 the OTT blood and gore verged on the comical (unrealistic). Just like 28 Days Later, I got Hostel as soon as it was released on DVD and I don’t mind watching it all over again any time they play it on Showtime. I’m not quite sure why I love movies like this but I think it might possibly be because I lead a happy, safe, and some might even say sheltered life (so basically the exact opposite of what happens in those movies) or it might be because of the adrenaline rush or maybe I enjoy being scared out of my mind for an hour and something minutes. I honestly don’t know but for some reason I just can’t get enough. Worthy of note, Hostel was directed by Eli Roth, Quentin Tarantino was one of the executive producers and Gregory Nicotero was the special makeup effects designer and creator. You can see all three of them together in the photo above.