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Bewildering Stories

Eli Roth, dir., Hostel

reviewed by Chris Stires

Director: Eli Roth
Screenplay: Eli Roth
Starring: Jay Hernandez
Derek Richardson
Eythor Gudjonsson
Date: 2005

Welcome to Your Worst Nightmare

Damn. Okay, one more time. Damn. If you are faint of heart or have a weak stomach, do not see this film. This is one very tough, brutal story. You’ve been warned. There are reports of audience members in the premiere showings bolting from the theater. Some supposedly hid in the restrooms and refused to come out. Whether the tales are true or not, they are believable.

I will attempt not to give too much away. Two American college buddies (Hernandez and Richardson) and their new Icelander friend (Gudjonsson) are in Amsterdam. It’s the latest stop on their backpacking trip across Europe. It is fantasy time: sex, booze, and legal drugs at every turn.

One night, after breaking the youth hostel curfew, they stay with a young man who tells them about the city of Bratislava. It is located in Slovakia and because of the recent wars the women far outnumber the men and the women especially love Americans. Bratislava makes wide-open Amsterdam look like kindergarten. So our trio decides to add the city to their trip. Mistake, of course.

On the plus side, it has been a long time since I’ve seen a movie where you’re really rooting for the heroes to take out the bad guys. Rooting, heck, you’re cheering at times. This is an edge-of-your-seat horror-thriller. No doubt about that. There is one scene that is a homage to Texas Chainsaw Massacre that is terrific. And I won’t be surprised to see the Dutch Businessman (Jan Vlasak) start to appear on best villain lists. He’s that good, uh, bad; he’s a great villain. You really, really want to see him get his.

On the minus side, after the movie concludes, you realize the roller coaster ride had a lot of coincidences in it. A few too many in fact. Roth needed another writer to tighten the last third of the storyline.

Also, the main characters could’ve used a little more dimension and background to them. Then again, college boys on a sex-and-drugs pilgrimage in Europe probably aren’t well-rounded individuals.

And one plot device involves a group of feral street kids. They are very menacing throughout the story until the last scene with them. Didn’t buy that.

Overall, I was hooked throughout the movie. It is a hard, suspenseful story. I’ll be looking forward to Roth’s next project. But I doubt I’ll ever watch Hostel again. I also will never think about backpacking through Eastern Europe.

TRIVIA: Over 150 gallons of movie blood was used during filming. Most appears on the screen. Also, the movie playing on the lobby television at the Bratislava hostel is Pulp Fiction.

Copyright © 2007 by Chris Stires

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