Be warned, this will contain some spoilers.
Right, I know. Bit weird posting a Hostel (2005) review in the middle of summer 2018, but I've only just watched it and had to talk about it.
The Hostel films get a lot of hate and admitting you enjoy watching them is almost frowned upon by many people, and understandably so. I can't speak for the other films in the series, but from what I have gathered from the first instalment, they are essentially unnecessarily over-the-top gore fests that cater for those with a bit too much morbid curiosity, giving them something to satiate their interest in blood and guts for two hours.
That said, I couldn't help but enjoy this first film.
Okay, yes... The acting is sub-par at the best of times. This is to be expected from a relatively low budget horror film, which shouldn't really be an excuse, but I wasn't offended by the lack of Oscar worthy performances. Everyone's here for the scares and the blood, not the engaging dramatic performances of the torture subjects. The lead characters are essentially crash-test dummies. We don't need to love them, they are there to be torn apart in a horrible way. Although it would be more engaging if the leads were more likeable and would up the horror if we actually rooted for them a bit more.
Not going to lie, for the first two acts, I actually found this film CREEPY.
As soon as the two protagonists go to this remote town in Eastern Europe and are greeted with plain stares from the various locals as they walk around, it gave me shivers.
Small moments when they are walking past a building and you see someone looking at them through a window are unsettling and give the sense that they (and the viewer who is on this journey to hell with them) have no idea what they are in for.
The third act is when everything goes a bit wrong, for the film and our leading characters, as it goes full balls to the wall like few films ever have or will.
The gore and violence is over the top yes, but that's the subject matter of the film and why 90% of audience members are here - so I won't hold that against it. I personally think that the idea of a place in which rich people pay to torture/kill people in whichever way they like is a great concept for a horror film. It's believable. With half the horrible things that go on in the world, it's really not that far of a stretch of the imagination to think some place like this actually exists.
This is primarily, for me, what actually makes the film scary. The idea is so grounded and, if you've ever been travelling to a strange new place, you know you are completely vulnerable and often depend on help from the local people. If those people turn out to be unhinged, you are sort of screwed (as the character Derek realises literally when he wakes up locked in a room and tied to a chair with a sadistic man and his electric screwdriver).
I also think the whole escape sequence is handled really well and is exciting throughout, taking us to a lot of cool places and providing exposition and answers to questions when we wanted them.
In addition, the ending is satisfying but still leaves that horror-movie bitter taste in your mouth as it doesn't finish happily with everything sorted and the bad guys locked away - there's still many places in which this could go (hence the sequels - which I will be watching in due course).
For me the main negative comes with the sort of mismatch of tone. This film is a torture porn movie, yet it's context does well to ground it in reality. When the gore is at it's pinnacle of 'disgustingness', the film loses the realism and becomes borderline cartoonish. For me, this relieves a huge amount of tension and seriousness from the film, and just became a display of grotesqueness.
That said, Hostel kept me watching, so I must have found it entertaining on some level.
Does that make me weird? Not sure.
I can't see myself watching it too many times again though.
It does tap into your morbid curiosity and does make you wonder about the sick things that happen in our world.
Overall, I thought this was a good horror film. If you like disgusting gore and sadistic torture, this is the film for you kids!