Maybe it was the trailer, or Ain't It Cool News calling it "the scariest American movie in a decade," or the Post's "Family Filmgoer" column warning that the movie contains "Grossly violent scenes that show or imply the hacking off or slashing of body parts; evisceration of corpses; arms, legs shoved into furnace; gun violence; explicit sexual situations; nudity; profanity; drugs; drinking, smoking" (yes, smoking!). Either way, I knew I just had to see Hostel. How bad could it be?
Now I've seen my share of horror flicks and read through a couple issues of Fangoria. I remember as a kid being horrified by the "accidents" occurring in The Omen II (the boy trapped beneath the ice, the woman who got her eye gouged out by a crow and then ran smack into a truck). Thanks to cable, I am now totally desensitized. But still, I wondered, could this new movie, which has now grossed more than $36 million in two weeks, get the better of me?
The answer is, alas, sort of. Here is what I learned: Beware of Eastern Europe. And be especially careful when traveling to Slovakia, a terrible and evil kingdom of darkness. For in the countryside there is a hostel where beautiful women lure you with sex, drugs, and drinks (and smoking!), and suddenly you wake up not in the loving arms of Natasha but hooded and handcuffed to a bolted-down chair in a dank cellar. And some man has paid good money to torture you in the worst possible ways.
You're led to believe one of the backpackers is the main character and so, when he finds himself strapped down, you keep telling yourself it'll be okay, he'll live. He doesn't.
Are there scenes I would consider unnerving? Yes. (Squeamish readers, please skip to the next paragraph.) One poor guy has his shoulders and knees bored into with a power drill. His Achilles' tendons are then sliced by a scalpel. That, for my matinee money, was the most disturbing scene. And then there is the woman whose eyeball dangles out and gets it snipped, resulting in a seepage of vitreous fluid. After a while, however, it just looked like she had a Personal Pan Pizza on half her face. Now that, I told Galley friend Mike Woody, was crossing the line! (For some reason, both our wives think we're deranged for seeing this film.)
"There's not much of a plot, is there?" asked Mike. I told him I disagreed. The plot is How to Escape Hostel and Never Return to Eastern Europe.
My wife has lovely memories of Slovakia and is upset the movie takes place there. She spent a year in a sleepy town just north of Bratislava. In fact, it very much resembles the one featured in Hostel. She taught English at the local university.
Or at least that's what she tells me...
7 hours ago