In 2005, Eli Roth defined the "torture porn" genre with this simple yet effective entry into the horror sub-genres
The film follows three backpackers, Paxton(Jay Hernandez), Josh(Derek Richardson), and Oli(Eythor Gudjonsson) as they travel to Slovakia to meet their stereotypical male desires...in other words, they want to get laid and get stoned. For the first half hour, the movie feels more like American Pie than what's supposed to be "the scariest movie in ages." There's sex, profanity, and lots of t*ts. Eli Roth seems to be setting up some sort of story here. The girls the guys meet clearly have a secret agenda, one that doesn't quite launch until the 40 minute mark...but when it does launch, it delivers some pretty graphic scenes with brutal realism. The purpose of the flick, while extreme and often disturbing, is finally realized. It becomes quite clear that people aren't who the say they are and the last man standing is lured to his possible doom.
Roth's endeavors set this film apart from other horror flicks. While graphic violence has become all too common in horror movies, Roth still manages to create mysterious atmosphere, one that consumes you as soon as the first victim meets his fatal end. While character development in a film is a must for the viewer to care about the characters, Roth expertly crafts a tale that doesn't need much development in said characters to create a profound sense of shock when one of them is tortured. Why? Because it's torture. You don't have to know every detail about the character to think "that's a shame" when he's getting holes drilled through his body. It's simple fact that Roth clearly examined and used at full force. Paxton, Josh, and Oli aren't the most likeable guys around...but they're freaking angels compared to the people paying to kill them.
However, while Roth manages to create a someone unique piece of terror, the film also meets horror stereotypes. As mentioned, sex and drugs play a big part in the film's first half hour, dangerously inching close to completely alienating the viewer. Then there's the common "picking off" of the least liked character first, then the second character's more detailed axe, leaving the last man standing looking for answers that ultimately leads to his own incarceration. How does it lead to that? He reluctantly, against his better judgment, follows an up-to-no-good hottie into a dark place. You obviously need a hero figure, someone that "sticks it" to the antagonists, so that last man imaginatively figures out a way of escaping. In the end, though, these things never weigh down on the overall story. In reality, the only thing Roth could have done without was the drowning out of the beginning. How many more minutes of guys trying to get laid before the torture begins?
Roth's love of on-screen blood and gore is quite evident, but Roth also shows he has the potential for awesome character moments in Hernandez's character, Paxton. --SPOILERS-- From the get-go, you knew Paxton would be the main protagonist, and Roth gives him the defining moments of the film. In a rare moment of character interaction and plot-developing dialogue, Roth sums up the main idea behind the film's bad guys in just one scene, involving Paxton and a client played by Rick Hoffman. Hoffman's character has seemingly paid to kill someone, describing the rush from holding someone's life in your hands, and making it something actually worth remembering. He's clearly insane, but he describes the fundamentals of this "business" in a shockingly humorous and crazy way. Then the film turns into a "revenge thriller" and it's probably the best moments of the film. You'll want to stand and cheer as Paxton escapes and deals an awful amount of hurt to the men and women behind his friends' murders.
Overall, Hostel is a bit sketchy at points, but it's an undeniably disturbing piece of horror, at least the horror of this day and age. In a world of gory and disgusting horror, Hostel manages to stand out as one of the best. I think it's the mysteriousness of the film's antagonists and the thrilling finale that garner it so much attention, because without that, it's just another disgusting exploitation of gore and boobs(ahemPart IIahem).