When is nudity not enough? When the movie is directed by Eli Roth.
From the director of the award-winning "Cabin Fever," which gripped the nation with stunning performances and a moving story, comes "Hostel," an equally mesmerizing piece of crap that fails on just about every level - except showing boobs.
"Hostel" is about three young men who travel to Amsterdam to have the time of their lives, get high and get laid. Somehow these men are able to seek out the hottest chicks every where they go, which is definitely a feat I have not been able to accomplish in my several trips to Europe. Regardless, despite my jealousy and desire to be a movie actor on a set working with a bunch of porn stars... er, actresses pretending to be normal European women, the entirety of the plot consists of the men seeking out sex. Yes, that is the entire plot. Anyway, some ugly Dutch dude tells them that the best women are in Bratislava, Slovakia, so they mindlessly catch a train to check it out - and sure enough they meet a couple of hot chicks willing to take their clothes off and have sex. There's a side story about homosexuality, but it really is never resolved in any way or form.
Of course, the women are not who they appear to be, and the hostel actually is a launching point for a severe and twisted industry of torture, where rich people pay to murder locals, foreigners and especially Americans any way they see fit - and as the movie shows, this usually involves drills, knives, scalpels, blowtorches, axes, guns and dildos (okay, so I made the last one up).
Unfortunately for Roth, I just watched "Wolf Creek" the night before, which was made on a much smaller budget to much better results. That movie, which also had absolutely no terror for the first half of the movie, was undeniably creepy, well-acted, well-written and all around suspenseful. The gore and torture was also quite gritty and realistic, which added a lot to the atmosphere.
Roth's approach is quite different - remove sensible and sympathetic characters, throw in a lot of nudity (which I'll admit is lacking from horror movies these days) and sprinkle in a bit of cheesy gore. The movie isn't exciting even for a minute, and, frankly, the torture scenes aren't nearly as disturbing or shocking as the previews made them out to be - I've seen worse in much better movies. So, what does a movie like this need to have? Excitement and disturbing gore. What does it have? Stupid characters and some splashes of blood.
To be fair, there are some nasty parts in "Hostel." For instance, the scene where the guy gets his Achilles' tendons sliced, then tries to stand and falls to the ground in pain as his heels tear apart, is quite nasty. The girl with her eye burned out of her socket could have been gross - had it not been so damn cheesy looking. Sadly, if shock factor is what Roth was going for, he failed miserably. Most of the gore looks lame, and there really isn't enough of it.
"Hostel" really is a crappy movie all around. Sure, it's nice to see as much nudity as Roth offers up here, but basically this movie is a soft porn with some violence in it - it offers absolutely nothing new to the genre, and is perhaps a rip-off of "Saw," which in itself was a terribly bad movie. Watch the first half for the nudity and then pop in "Wolf Creek" to get your fill of terror and gore.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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