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HOSTEL (article first published : 2006-04-25)

Bolt-cutters, power drills, scissors, scalpels, chainsaws all will become the subject of nightmares after seeing this latest gorefest from Hollywood, an intense outpouring of violence and blood that will be sure to attract the fans of the recent, similar, Saw and Saw 2.

Co-produced, penned and directed by Eli Roth, and presented by Quentin Tarantino, the film has done big business in America and has received a lot of media attention for pushing the envelope on the peep-through-fingers front. It's definitely not for the sensitive or squeamish and the warning on the cinema poster is not simply for box-office clout - Hostel really is rough when it comes to sickos and sadism.

The story? Well, there's two young Americans and a Russian, see, who meet in Europe while backpacking. They're guys who learn from a dodgy dude in Amsterdam about a piece of paradise waiting for them in an otherwise forgettable city in Slovakia.

Heaven, in the eyes of our highly sexed trio, means gorgeous women - easy to attract, eager to please. And, our salivating sex-seekers are told, such beauties are not only abundant in that Slovakian city, but virtually fall at the feet of any man with a foreign accent.

So off the team trots, taking a train to the otherwise quiet and deathly dull city where, the moment they disembark, the soundtrack becomes full of foreboding, prodding us into knowing something sinister is on the way.

Our lusty lads - played by Jay Hernandez, Derek Richardson and Lenka Vlasakova - book in at a hostel that seems the answer to every pimply adolescent's wildest fantasy. The men share rooms with nubile lovelies that have no problem undressing in front of them. They also enjoy a naked frolic in the spa and, after drink and drugs at the local disco, engage in some robust rumpy-pumpy before lights out. But, of course, all good things simply have to come to an end. A very grisly end in this case.

One by one our boyish bachelors, and assorted others at the hostel, start to mysteriously disappear, giving no notice and leaving no notes.

We, of course, having sat through an opening credits sequence showing a man in a coat - in a dingy room and carrying a bloodied pair of scissors - know that the young folk aren't exactly being whisked off to Disneyland in the wee hours of the morning. Nope, as the movie's trailer emphasises, they end up handcuffed to chairs to await terrible tortures involving assorted tools and surgical instruments, their screams and pleas for mercy going unnoticed.

As such scare fare goes, Hostel is fairly predictable and certainly not everyone's cuppa. But it is strangely compelling if you have the stomach for it. It's all so ludicrously over the top, the horrors so heightened, the premise so far-fetched, that it's as watchable in the way, one imagines, that the very early Dracula movies might have been for an ultra-conservative audience.

Initial disgust at the excesses quickly turn to giggles at the sheer absurdity of it all. Those who disagree should ensure Hostel is not on their itinerary. Billy Suter.




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