I hate sounding like the old guy. Can't stand the stereotype, and hate it when "He just doesn't understand us cause he's getting old" is used to dismiss this not-quite-so-old fogie's disinterest or dislike in something. Especially art. Damn it, I like lots of things that aren't old school. I like modern music more than the music of my youth, and ...Well, I like today's music. And lots of other stuff. Promise, I do.
I've been reluctant to write about Hostel, due to that very reason. The first couple of times I started a post about the movie, paragraphs automatically started with: "Back in my day..." or, "Old-school horror movies were..." And in my head the voice saying the words was the Grumpy Old Man character Dana Carvey used to do on SNL. You remember:
"Back in my day, we didn't have no 'talking mooooviees.' Our movies were black and white and silent, and we had to make up the dialogue ourselves. We didn't have no mamby-pamby talking movies, all done up in techno-color and lookin' prissy. No! Our movies were hard, like our lives. And we liked it that way!
No, I never want to be that guy. So I have to choose my comments about Hostel carefully in order to ensure my objectivity, and preserve my street cred with the kids. Let me try it this way:
Hostel is a clear indication that American culture and civilized society is nearing extinction. The end is near, folks. We're done. Toast.
Somehow, that still sounded like the Grumpy Old Man. Let's see if I can make my point.
Hostel follows three recent college graduates, all young American men, as they travel to Amsterdam for a holiday of decadence before they enter into the more responsible and professional period of their lives. While traveling, they meet up with an assortment of characters who build up their desire for easy chicks and legal drugs, and they learn that in a neighboring town "you can pay to do anything you want." They high-tail it off to the neighboring town. Of course, that's ultimately a mistake. They are eventually drugged, kidnapped and tortured (and two of the three are murdered) by rich men who have become so bored in life that they pay as much as $25,000 to torture and murder humans. This hostel is really a trap used to feed that business; unsuspecting tourists show up and spend a day or two livin' large, then become drugged into a stupor. They wake up in a dungeon, chained to a chair with some rich bastard cutting off body parts.
It is disturbing. Completely, overwhelmingly disturbing.
One young man survives the torture and escapes. As he escapes he meets up with one of the rich pricks who is getting ready to enter into a room to torture his paid-for victim. The torturer mistakes the young man for a client himself (the guy was in disguise, as he was trying to escape) and the two have a several-minutes long conversation about the pleasures of killing. The theme of that dialogue is, basically, that life has become so boring and so routine that paying large amounts of cash in order to torture and kill is necessary to have feeling, or to experience a real purpose in life. The scene is an important one, because it seems to be challenging the viewer to avoid the pitfall of becoming de-sensitized by excess.
I couldn't help but wonder how the producers could make that argument, though, knowing they were asking people to pony up a $7.50 admission price to watch what amounts to a high-budgeted snuff film that contained no artistic merit. At least Nightmare On Elm Street had a surreal, supernatural-type premise that was original. More recently, Saw blended a horror theme with a psychological thriller. Hell, American Psycho was brutal to watch, but the violence was secondary to the mental breakdown of the main character.
Hostel just allows voyeurs to peek into a room to watch torture and murder. Period.
Maybe I'm just too old to get it.