I watched Eli Roth’s lovely torture porn flick, Hostel, from 2005 for a second time this past Thursday (I seem to have horrible luck with what screenings I can make it to), and it was a revisit I could have done without. Not that I don’t understand the whole critique on society concept, I’d just rather it not slap me in the face with drills, blow-torched eyes and severed ankles. Really. And the thing is, I love horror movies. When I go see a horror film, I’m fully prepared to be terrified. I was not relaxed for a second of Insidious (2011), but thought it was a great movie. I thoroughly enjoy all the Halloween movies, and I thought Scre4m was wildly entertaining. I can handle people getting stabbed, shot, chainsawed to death. What I CAN’T handle is something that I am unable to watch, or that makes me want to run to the bathroom and throw up if I do get a visual. Which, if you haven’t as of yet figured out where I’m going with this, Hostel does. And the superfluous nudity. I mean, really? Is that necessary? I mean, I know it goes along with the whole fantasy theme and such, but still.
And let’s look at the characters. Yes, they are indeed obnoxious. Beyond obnoxious if that’s possible. Might I go as far as to say they’re the kind of tourists that give Americans a bad reputation? Let’s take the scene that lands them in their predicament (to understate things a bit) in the first place. Okay, you’re in Amsterdam, you went to the Red Light District. Cool. But when you book a hostel, the description will always tell you whether it has a curfew or not. And it’s not difficult to find one without a curfew. I know this from my very recent trip to the Czech Republic (which is dangerously close to Slovakia now that I think about it). So if you didn’t pay close enough attention, deal with it. Don’t stand in the middle of the street and get pissed and yell like a moron. Granted, if Josh (Derek Richardson), Paxton (Jay Hernandez) and Oli (Eythor Gudjonsson) would have decided to act like rational human beings, I guess there wouldn’t have been a movie. And let’s also talk about how they changed their entire vacation route to have kinky sex with hot chicks. It makes sense that three guys would want to/plan on hooking up while backpacking through Europe. But how shallow can you be?
Now it may sound like I’m almost advocating the untimely deaths occurring in the film. However, I am not trying to do any such thing. I am merely pointing out the actions that led up to the gruesome scenes that I refused to look at the second time around. Once was enough for me, thank you. And then, if we’re discussing the attitudes of these three guys, how do we explain the other people picked to torture and kill? Are they equally obnoxious? Or does attitude have nothing to do with it in the overall scheme of things? Is it also coincidence? There’s no rationale to it, is my point here. I guess its illogic is its logic.
So how does that factor into another movie in the same sub-genre, but one, come to find out, I much prefer: Turistas (2006), directed by John Stockwell. The two movies are both about 90 minutes long, and released not too far apart. Similar concept, with backpackers falling prey to circumstances. Circumstances, I would argue, that are much more out of their control than those in Hostel. Set in Brazil this time, it is an upended bus that causes the unfortunate chain of events to ensue. While some of the characters, like Alex (Josh Duhamel), are slightly irritating with quick tempers and such, not to the extent of the characters in Roth’s film. A main issue for me, furthermore, is that the friends in Turistas are not doing something as blatantly ridiculous. It’s a scenario that I can relate to, a spur of the moment decision to stay and hang out with new acquaintances in a foreign country. No one would think twice about it. Now taking a stranger’s word about a specific hostel in a specific Slovakian town, that’s a different story. But anyway, this scenario seems more real life to me.
Now on to why it’s happening. There’s a sort of sick rationale to the actions that take place. An explanation by the perpetrator, if you will. Something more substantial than brutality being a rush you’ll never forget. Not that I’m taking sides. Obviously this is still twisted and horrifically wrong. But I’m just the type of person that likes knowing people’s thoughts and what drives them to do certain things. And Turistas gives me that, whether I agree or not. And while there is violence and gore, it is not nearly to the extent of what we see in Hostel, and it still gets the point across. It’s more of a firm prodding, as opposed to shoving it in your face. Not to mention, the people seem more human. Like Kiko (Agles Steib), though I’m not excusing him either. Still, here there is a randomness to the selection process. The only criteria is: American. Which pulls into question any sort of logical illogic may be taking place. Because if you’re going to argue that you’re evening the slate, wouldn’t it make sense to only even the slate with those who deserve it instead of generalizing?
The sole reason for my watching Turistas tonight was to be able to compare it to Hostel and formulate an opinion on the two movies. So here it is. While I do understand Roth’s point in making his film, I don’t think it is any more effective in its purpose than Turistas. I’m sure you could argue that its detailed content is warranted due to the subject matter. However, I feel as though I get the message of a film better when I can actually stand to watch it in its entirety. On the Turistas DVD cover, Michael Gingold of Fangoria writes that it is a better and scarier film than Hostel. I would agree. It’s not necessarily scarier, per se, but it’s definitely better.