Oh, Hostel series. You really got people talking, don’t you? Even after 10 years of your initial release, people still mention how you’re insignificant amongst the others in the horror scene. But I don’t. I actually think you have a special place in this wide world of fear; making people think you’re only good for one thing: blood, and violence. But are you really just a mindless blood-bath? That’s what I’m going to be talking about: because I don’t like to believe what I’m hearing.
In the case of the Hostel films, I only tend to hear about it’s cringe-worthiness or even complaints that the series is part of a sub-genre of horror known as torture porn. According to Urban Dictionary, the term ‘torture porn’ was a term coined by various film critics who felt [and still feel] that the current trend in horror Hollywood consists of having no plot whatsoever but instead, we the viewers get gratuitous graphic imagery of people having body parts removed, from legs, heads to even genitalia; torture porn is definitely a sub-genre that doesn’t fit everyone‘s bill. The most common films that fall under this category are the SAW films [which I’ve talked about on here a dozen times] and, the reason why I’m talking about them, the Hostel trilogy. Now, I am a fairly large fan of both series, [so I might come across as bias] but I will admit that the later SAW films [more so SAW IV and onward] did fit the stereotypical torture porn category, but part of me is not so convinced that the Hostel films do.
In the first film, we learn of three backpackers: Paxton, Josh, and Oli who all decide to head to a Slovak city that promises to meet their male chauvinistic expectations, with no idea of the hellish tortures that await them when they arrive. Within my first viewing, I fell into the thought process that everyone else had: that it was just a g0re-fest for the sake of filming a gore-fest. But was it really? Let’s delve a little deeper into the film, and for that reason – I’m going to issue a fair-sized spoiler warning.
For this particular argument, I’m only using one point: the plot.. or more importantly, the EHC. Whether you agree or not, the movies do far more than just show blood, guts and everything in between; they actually has a genuine story attached.I mean, yeah; we have the bullshit about the three guys wanting – and succeeding – to sleep with Natalya and Svetlana [and I mean who wouldn’t?] but the real thing I find the most intriguing is the Elite Hunting club. [it’s funny cause their club’s logo is a dog: and that dog is a blood hound..get it?] This “club” and it’s “members” are super important not only because they are our main villain, [they are just as important in the sequels!] but because of what – or who – they really are: extremely fucked up individuals.
writer’s note: this is the part where I take a deep breath, cause this is going to be a long winded piece of writing..
According to Hostel and Hostel: Part II, this “club” had used a hostel in Slovakia. In this “hostel”, the “players” [who ultimately become victims] check in and give their passport to the desk clerk who then uploads the images to the EHC website. From the moment the photos are placed online, the members can start bidding actual cash on their victims of choice. The highest bidder gets the victim. [sort of like a fucked up eBay?] The catch is, that the member [sometimes more than one] have to travel to Slovakia to claim their prize. If they can’t make it to Slovakia, they lose their chance and the other members get a second chance to bid! Once arrived, the organization provides the client with the best services in a hotel while the organization takes care of the rest [kidnapping the victims, placing them in a underground bunker, standard stuff]. Once kidnapped, the members are told and they can head out, and go to the location of the facility. There, they choose the “tools of the trade” that they wish to use to torture their victim they just “bought”. Then when they’re officially ready to begin, they are dressed up. [quite professionally, might I add] Mostly does the torturers wear standard orange jumpsuits, leather caps and a leather apron [as seen worn by Stewart and Todd] but in Hostel: Part 2, we see a female EHC member who wears only maroon cloak, but, she eventually removes that goes completely nude. [check that out here! NSFW] If desired, the member can even choose how their victim is dressed, if they are chained in a chair, laying on a stretcher or even chained on a crucifix!
Like any other organization, the EHC has rules to follow: [in this case, two rules] no one leaves without killing and no one leaves with being a member or becoming a member of the organization. The last rule is only for the rich victims because you need money in order to become a member. In the event that a victim escapes without becoming a member, he/she will be hunted down and eventually: decapitated. His or her head will become a trophy for Sasha – the head boss of the organization. Interestingly enough, in Hostel: Part III, we learn that the EHC also have a facility in Las Vegas. [which makes sense, cause Part 2 taught us that the EHC is a world wide phenomenon] like before, they use a hostel to attract victims, sending them to room 9. The concept of this facility is slightly different, though.. complete in style of Las Vegas, the members now bet on how a victim will be killed. They look in from behind a glass window while the victim is tortured and if desired, they can participate in this ‘game’ with the Wheel Of Misfortune. [which I feel is a really lame name for a torture ploy]
According to Eli Roth himself, the films weren’t intended to be mindless violence. Hostel is supposed to be about how Americans view the world and how they tend to behave towards other countries- thinking the world is their playground and that they are untouchable. Remember the scene at the beginning of Hostel where the guy gets the characters to go to Slovakia by simply claiming its a war-torn country with absolutely no women? Anyone with knowledge of Eastern/Central European history would know that isn’t true at all! In short, the film is meant to come off as a huge joke about how Americans view the world around them. As for Hostel: Part 2, it’s about the “corporate killing” mentality. Now, obviously, we can argue that Roth’s intentions were not executed as well as he may have hoped, [that, or they were so buried by the gore that they’re difficult to recognize] but the point is Hostel, and it’s sequels, have some intentional social commentary. As long as one takes the time to look.
In the end, I feel that the Hostel films can be considered a bit more than just “gore for the sake of gore”. I mean, there is a significant amount of blood and gore, but The Elite Hunting Club is far more interesting than people give it credit for. Unfortunately, I’m only a fan of the first two Hostel films. I gave the third one a watch [it is on Netflix] and it greatly disappointed me: especially when it took the second film’s cliffhanger, and threw it out the window. [maybe just ignore Part 3..] The films are entertaining, more-so if you’re a horror fan, just don’t buy into them being “just torture porn”. Cause they’re really not..
THANKS FOR READING.
[also – a fun fact: according Eli Roth, he got the idea for the film after getting email about an organization who claimed to sell people to rich western men and women to let them shoot at them with real guns. this email claimed that would happen in Thailand]