Friday, January 06, 2006

Hostel Hostile

I just saw the movie "Hostel." It was surprisingly good. Read no further if you're thinking of seeing the movie. Spoilers within! Also, this movie is a gore and guts horror flick. NOT for the faint-hearted.

The movie starts off as a basic film about a pair of obnoxious American backpackers, Paxton and Josh, who are soon joined by an Icelandic counterpart, Oli. They tour Amsterdam in search of sex, then hear about a town in Slovakia that has more sex than even they can handle (this is illustrated by a cell phone slide show of gratuitous girl-on-girl action). Apparently, due to war, the male population of the town has been decimated, causing the female populace to become wanton and do anything and everything with visiting men, especially "Americans with their sexy accents." The brash trio waste no time hopping a train for some Slovakian booty.

Thus ends the first half of the film. There were three things that struck me as maverick choices for a movie of this genre, and they all had to do with one character, Paxton. Though thoroughly American, he is also Latino. However, unlike other horror flicks, his ethnicity is not played for thugged out "street cred" or wacky Latino hijinks. He's just a super horny American guy that happens to be Latino. Second, he is fluent in German, unlike the stereotype of the American "monolingual chauvinist." And finally, Paxton is a vegetarian. He still likes to party, he talks like an imbecile at times, and generally doesn't give off any of the usual flower child vibes that Hollywood loves to ascribe to most vegetarians. Of course, as soon as it's revealed that he's vegetarian I'm thinking, "you're Latino AND vegetarian? In a mainstream HORROR movie? Dude, you are sooooo dead!"

The second half of the movie finds the trio in a Slovakian hostel, where all their fantasies are just within reach. Despite being told it's the local girls that put out, it's their Russian-Italian and [oh, I forget where the other girl is from] roommates who they hook up with. The Icelandic "king of swing" (as he calls himself) hooks up with a local. The next day he and a Japanese woman go missing. The guys go out dancing, though Josh is visibly worried about Oli. In twist on the normal gender arrangement of such things, the girls slip Paxton and Josh GHB. Totally high, Paxton mistakenly locks himself in a closet while trying to find the restroom. Lucky for him. Josh is taken to a dungeon where he is horribly tortured. And I mean horribly. This movie is NOT for the faint of heart. I repeat. It is NOT for the faint of heart. When Paxton awakes the next day, he realizes something is terribly wrong and searches for his friends. Finally, his seductress takes him down to the dungeon to see his friend, or rather the remains.

The oversexed misogynist tourists who saw women as objects of desire, scorn, and ridicule are now the objects themselves. They're toys of rich businessmen who pay top dollar for the privilege of torturing them to death. The cost is graded by nationality, with Euros the cheapest, Japanese mid-priced, and Americans top-dollar. In case we missed the message, the murderous vixen clues the entire audience in with, "you wanted me to be your b*tch? I make much money selling you. Now you are MY b*tch." Paxton is dragged kicking and screaming to a cell, where he awaits his fate in total darkness. Finally, his butcher arrives. Taking a look at Paxton, he protests with the guard. There are no subtitles, but it's evident that the man is not convinced that Paxton is an American. I was wondering when that would come up. People with dark complexions and hair are often taken for Gypsies, especially in Eastern Europe. While I liked Paxton as the Everyman despite his ethnic heritage, this scene added a lot of legitimacy to the character overall. The guard threatens to shoot Paxton unless he talks. Paxton obeys, surprising the butcher, while the guard gloats, "see! American!" Paxton responds in absolute terror, "NO! Just look at me! I'm not a f*cking American!" Then commences another scene of brutal torture, that is only stopped when Paxton hears his captor utter something. Realizing that the man is German, Paxton begins to beg and plead in the language. The German sadist is obviously disturbed by this, as it humanizes Paxton far too much for his taste. We're talking some tear-jerking material here. The sadist's solution is to have the guard place a ball-gag in Paxton's mouth so he can continue with the torture. A seriously gross and painful twist of fate frees Paxton, who kills his captor and eventually escapes. But before he does, he frees the second of two Japanese tourists, though in doing so, he and the audience witness what is probably the worst gross-out moment in the entire film. And with that, I'll end the summary portion of my review. A bit more happens in the film, but I think I'm done with talking about the guts and gore.

All in all, I was entertained by the film. It was frighening and full of suspense. Plus, I liked the message about objectification that the film conveyed, though I don't think pornography is on par with bodily mutilation. Still, the movie stands out in its genre, especially with a lead character that defies several stereotypes and horror movie conventions all at once. I mean, really. Who would've expected a movie like this to have a vegetarian hero?

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