Sunday, January 08, 2006

Adam stays the night in Hostel
I liked Cabin Fever. I liked it just fine.
Eli Roth's first outing as a director, after YEARS of hanging out with filmmakers (everyone from David Lynch to Lloyd Kaufman), showed that he had a wicked sense of humor and could at least be original in his storytelling.
I was not in any way prepared for Hostel.
Now, I'd been reading about this movie for months. I'd heard that Japanese director Takashi Miike had hung around on the set and even had a cameo. I'd heard that Roth wanted to put his mark on Miike's brand of horror, which I'm passingly familiar with. So, I thought I knew what I was in for going into the theater.
Man, I was so fucking wrong. First off, Hostel is NOT a horror movie. Not really. It has some horror elements to it. And it has some good splatters from time to time -- so the Miike fetishists will still dig it.
But there's so much more to this movie. It's equal parts gritty Eurotrash crime drama, revenge film, and irresponsible college sex romp. We all know Eli Roth loves him some nookie. He loves the jumblies on the ladies, too. Yes. It's true. Eli Roth loves boobies. And while he couldn't get Jordan Ladd to whip out her sweater stuffers in Cabin Fever, he managed to get most of his female cast to go at least topless in Hostel.
After all, Hostel takes place in Europe. And the continental folk are so much more open about boucing ta-tas all over the place.
That's how Hostel starts off -- an immature, irresponsible European sex romp. Paxton (Jay Hernandez, last seen in the electrifying Friday Night Lights) and Josh (Derek Richardson, who the truly unfortunate might remember from 2003's Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd) are backpacking around Europe with their brand new Icelandic pal Oli (Eythor Gudjonsson, who really IS from, that's casting!!!) trying to get laid. Well, actually, Oli and Paxton are getting laid and Josh is mooning over his college sweetheart whom he broke up with.
Poor Josh. Poor widdle Josh. Boo fucking hoo, Josh.
The boys are about to head down to Barcelona to stay with one of Oli's friends, when their pussy hunt is redirected by a chance encounter with a fellow degenerate, a Russian named Alex (Lubomir Silhavecky), who tells them about a wild time he had in Slovakia -- complete with pictures, of course. What better use for all those fancy schmancy digital cameras floating around today than home porn (Note to self: Start taking home porn pictures. Addendum to note to self: No one wants to see my pasty ass in anything less than full riot gear. No home porn pics, please.).
Well, you know which head college guys think with. So, off the guys go to Slovakia. The hostel they've been recommeded turns out to be an old manor house -- gorgeous place, but there's a catch. The rooms are only semi-private, so they've been assigned roommates.
The roommates turn out to be a pair of gorgeous Russian chicks, Natalya (Barbara Nedeljakova, who is officially on my Christmas list for next year -- someone get me one of her...PLEASE!!!) and Svetlana (Jana Kaderabkova). The hotties are heading out for a day of relaxation at the local spa, and the boys tag along. Sure enough, they hit it off, and end up dancing the night away with them and then shagging like Austin Powers only wishes he could.
Oli goes off with the chick who was running the front desk when the boys showed up, and the next day, he's nowhere to be found. Also, one of a pair of Japanese tourists has also ditched her travelling companion, Kana (Jennifer Lim).
Kana shows Pax and Josh a picture that her friend sent of her taking off with Oli, but none of them can get ahold of their friends. Paxton and Josh search around town and find nothing but a "Tortury" museum and a dude wearing a jacket that looks a lot like Oli's. Kana curls up in the lobby of the hostel and looks terrified.
That fun European vacation everybody was planning...well, that's fucking over.
Pax and Josh hit the disco with the Russian hardbodies again -- with bait like that, consider me a victim. I'd be so fucking dead. Really. -- and Josh goes home (alone) sick. Paxton gets all fubar, and when he goes looking for the bathroom, he accidentally gets locked in the bar's storeroom all fucking night long. Good job, Paxton. Party fouling SOB...
Guess who's missing in the morning? Yep, ol' Posh Josh is gone, by gosh. And so's wee Kana. At this point, Paxton is fully aware that the whole thing is a trap. Some bad shit's going down. He just doesn't know what, yet.
He returns to the hostel and finds he's been checked out (since Josh has "left"). He gets assigned a new room and goes upstairs to find his new roomates are ANOTHER PAIR OF RUSSIAN HOTTIES (I would be so fucking dead by this point. I'm serious. If you keep sending me Russian hotties [or English hotties, or Brazillian hotties, or Dutch hotties, etc, etc, etc], I'll be forced to fall into whatever fiendish death trap you've got waiting for me) who try and hook him with EXACTLY THE SAME LINE AS THE FIRST TWO DID. Oops. Fiendish they might be, but apparently Paxton has seen this trick before. Cunning bastard. It probably would have worked on me, if I wasn't fucking dead in the first reel, but not that Paxton...
So, Pax cowboys up and goes hunting for his friends. And finds two things. Jack (not played by anyone) and shit (which is possibly the one substance that comes out of a human body that we don't see at one time or another in this movie -- really). Hernandez really carries the movie and anchors everything in a believable way. He's as excellent in Hostel as he was in Friday Night Lights. OK, Hollywood. Give this fucking guy more work. (Now! -- or, since this movie's all European...SCHNELL!!!)
Things don't turn out quite the way Paxton plans (or even we, the audience, expect). Who makes it out, and how many pieces they're in, is up to you to find out. Because if you don't see this movie, you're totally dead to me. Really. Dead, I says.
Have I mentioned the roaming gangs of little kids that will kick your fucking head in if you don't give them candy or bubble gum when they demand it? Bratislava's a tough fucking town. Wee lil' Patrick Zigo tears up as one of the little hoodlums. He totally steals the movie. The lil' bastard needs to have a series where he roams the land and kicks ass like Caine in Kung Fu unless you give him bubble gum. Yessir.
If you've seen the trailer, you know what's going on. Rich fucks can pay big money to torture and kill innocent people. (Whee! Fun! Where do I sign up for that??? How much to torture and kill Assley Simpson??? And do they take Visa???) And poor Oli, Josh and Paxton are on the menu this week.
Oh. Rick Hoffman, who I remember from a ton of shit, and can never really pinpoint where (I think maybe he was in Cellular), is awesome in a bit part as a client of the service. Plus, if you look REALLY HARD, you might even see that Miike guy's cameo role. Just don't spend ALL YOUR MONEY to spot him.
The movie works on a number of levels. There's a few great splatters for the gore hounds. There's a genuine mystery. There's a bit of the action/revenge genre tossed in for the testosterone addicts out there. There's taut suspense. There's a handful of honest-to-goodness belly laughs. And there's a whole lot of naked European flesh jiggling for the teenage male (and every other horndog out there). Still, Hostel may be a bit much for the delicate set -- and all those mindless folk seeking their bland, vanilla entertainment (Read as: John Tesh fans. Fuck that guy. He sucks.).
Surprisingly, the narrative of Hostel is strong and confident. Most films in the genres that Hostel hop-scotches around tend to get weaker in these areas, and Cabin Fever had its issues with being all over the fucking map in tone and subject matter (which, oddly, lent it a certain charm). Hostel is tight, focussed and crisply written.
Eli Roth has also grown as a director (in the span of one short movie). Believe it or not, the movie looks and feels like the work of someone who truly knows their way around the art of cinema. Considering the many years he's toiled as a personal assistant, a production gopher, a film journalist/historian, etc...perhaps he's ready for prime time. I'd tend to believe that's the case, and I'd say that Hostel tosses down a big, salad-encrusted gauntlet at the doofs who're rehashing old 70s horror or remaking last year's J-horror flicks.
After seeing Hostel, I'm wondering if tourism to Europe will drop off any. Or, if people think they can hook up with a couple of fine-ass Eastern Bloc hotties before they get their wedding tackle blow-torched...they might think it's worth the risk. If the Russian mob dangled Barbara Nedeljakova in front of my barely-functioning eyes, I might have to book a Europass myself...

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