Hostel has changed the horror movie genre permanently—though not many have realized just how much. Written, produced, and directed by Eli Roth, the movie was first released in 2005. It was extremely well-received by audiences, and even kick-started a new subgenre of horror movies called “gorno,” which came from the idea that the violence and gore in the movie was so elevated that it was nearly arousing.
The movie takes place in Europe, and is about two young men in college, Paxton and Josh, as well as an Icelandic friend Oli. Together they’re traveling through various countries on vacation, though most of their time is spent overindulging on various kinds of desires. During their travels, they’re approached by a man named Alexi, who bribes them with ideas of fun and pleasure at a hostel in Slovakia.
They leave with him, and after a first night at the hostel, Oli goes missing. It’s later revealed that he was brutally murdered, though his two friends are told he left to go home. After a second night of indulging in themselves, Josh and Paxton are both drugged. Josh then falls as the next victim, and his viciously tortured and eventually murdered by a Dutch businessman.
With his two friends gone and missing, Paxton begins to get suspicious of what’s going on. Neither the hostel employees nor the authorities will help him, so Paxton tracks down those that originally greeted him when he arrived at the hostel. He’s told that his friends are at an art exhibit, and is offered a ride there. Instead of going to the art exhibit, however, he’s taken to a factory to be tortured and killed. There, he sees his friend Josh’s dead body being sewn together by the same Dutch businessman that murdered him.
Paxton is ambushed and forced into a cell, where he is restrained and joined by a German wielding a chainsaw. After accidentally tripping, the German injures himself with the chainsaw, allowing Paxton enough time to kill him, and escape. After killing the guards, and escaping, Paxton comes back when he hears cries for help. He finds a fellow tourist being tortured—he saves her life, and together they escape the factory in a car. By a stroke of luck, Paxton sees Alexi and two women who conned him into coming to the hostel, and runs them over. As they near their final escape, the other tourist sees her tortured face in a reflection, and commits suicide, giving Paxton enough time to not only escape, but exact a final revenge against Josh’s murderer.
The film has two sequels, which, while they did not do as well as expected in the theaters, are still fan favorites, and continue the tradition of impressive gore and violence. Critics were impressed with Hostel as a horror film, and claimed that it changed the scene for all time, also marking Roth as a permanent figure in the film world.
Many find the film extremely consuming because of the switch between the overindulgence enjoyed by Josh and Paxton at the start of the film, only to watch them fall victim to a twisted world that allows the rich to indulge in their own sick fantasies. The extreme role reversal makes it hard to watch without feeling the intense irony and horror these boys fell into.
Praised for its well-written screenplay and skilled filming, Hostel is more importantly a break from the traditional horror movies that populated the screen before it. With scenes that would shock any viewer, and a level of gore that becomes nearly arousing, Hostel takes a moment to remind us that those who indulge can easily become victims, while making us realize our own indulgences.