Saturday, 2 February 2013
“I am the king of swing!”
Lots of people consider this people the poster child for “torture porn” and, yes, this is another film from the collection of my gore-loving, gorgeous girlfriend. I love her to bits but she doesn’t half like a bit of brutal violence every now and again. For me, such things tend to be a bit meh: I’m not titillated by graphic gore, but nor am I particularly squeamish. For me, it’s a thriller, and I’m judging it as such. Well, mostly. This review is going to be a bit whiny but believe me: I enjoyed Hostel as a thriller. It’s good. If you like a good thriller and don’t mind a bit of gore, you’ll like it.
Before that, though, a gripe. This isn’t directed by Quentin Tarantino, however much Pulp Fiction is shown on screens within the film: he merely “presents”. If there’s an auteur here, it’s clearly Eli Roth, who writes and directs. Why, then, is Tarantino’s name all over the bloody thing?
Another gripe, too: I don’t like this film’s depiction of Europeans. I suspect it isn’t deliberate, but some disturbing American prejudices about Europe show themselves here, at least to my European eyes. First we see Amsterdam, the uber example of Godless, secular Western Europe (although, as one line points out, the hedonists we see in Amsterdam tend not to be Dutch), and then we see Slovakia, a country whose tourist industry is probably not overly enamoured with this film. I suspect it’s more subconscious but intentional, but the subtext seems to be that European Godlessness, sexual openness and social democracy is immoral, bad and likely to lead to people being cynically tortured to death for profit. I should probably emphasise again, mind: I don’t think this is so much overtly intended as a latent prejudice finding its way into the narrative. Still, it’s the one big problem I have with this film. And yes, there are bits of dialogue which clearly satirise the American protagonists’ lack of understanding of the places they are travelling to, even though one of them is an Icelander, but I think the point is still valid. And, interestingly, all this reminds me of the conversation about McDonalds in Amsterdam that we hear in, of all films, Pulp Fiction.
One last gripe: the opening titles are so long that the film takes a million years to bloody start. All that aside, though, I actually loved this film. If you can stand the gore (there’s one particularly icky scene involving an eye), and one rather implausible coincidence towards the end of the film, you’ll enjoy Hostel.