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Newest name in horror films delivers

Mark Bemenderfer | Wednesday, February 8, 2006

“Eli Roth” is a name for which horror aficionados should watch. In an age of remakes, sequels and tired genres, he’s practically a solitary beacon of originality in a stagnant sea.

His latest work is the recently released “Hostel.” Half “Eurotrip,” half horror film, it manages to raise itself above the recent flood of uninspired tripe. That’s not to say that the movie is without flaws, however.

Much like Roth’s earlier work, “Hostel” isn’t a perfect movie. His previous movie, “Cabin Fever,” was a creative homage to classical horror movies while standing well on its own. However, it left a little to be demanded in terms of plot and pacing.

“Hostel” would have profited immensely from being a longer movie. Horror movies are generally short affairs, as the rush wears off if held too long. However, “Hostel” doesn’t dwell long enough on the horror aspects, keeping a brisk pace throughout the flick.

As previously stated, the first half of the movie plays in a similar fashion to “National Lampoon’s Eurotrip.” Two recent college graduates, Paxton (Jay Hernandez) and Josh (Derek Richardson), are treating themselves on a trip through the major teenager and young-adult spots in Europe. They meet up with an off-kilter but resourceful European, Oli (Eythor Gudjonsson), who joins in their escapades in Amsterdam.

While in Amsterdam, Josh, Paxton and Oli meet a Russian named Alex, played by Lubomir Bukovy. He recommends a spot further inland, a place that is supposedly virgin country for tourists. They agree to the plan and journey inward by train. After a run-in with a strange individual, they arrive to find all the reports were true and the country is perfect for tourists.

Things are obviously not as they seem, however, and people begin to disappear. This is when the movie ceases to be a raunchy teen comedy and veers sharply into the realm of horror. It is also where the film falters a little.

The film doesn’t emphasize the horror enough. It turns from an effective, unique horror into a rather standard revenge flick. While this doesn’t hurt the movie overall, it is disappointing for the audience for whom the film was marketed.

The twist that occurs halfway through the movie would have been better executed if it had been played out longer. The movie did a commendable job building up to the first climax, then doesn’t hold it long enough to sustain to the end of the film.

The horror-related elements are highly effective, however. The situations in which the characters find themselves are as realistic as they are dangerous, making the film more chilling for viewers. It’s a decent thriller that interested audiences should appreciate.

Fans of movie gore will also have reasons to watch the film. Fingers, hamstrings and eyes all meet disastrous ends to sharp instruments, meaning the weak-at-heart should not apply.

Fans of the famous Japanese director Takashi Miike should watch the film as well, as he makes a guest appearance about halfway through. For those unfamiliar with the name, he has directed some famous foreign movies like “Audition,” “Ichi the Killer” and “Dead or Alive.”

“Hostel” is obviously not for everyone. Violent and raunchy, the film caters to only a select audience. That audience will find some enjoyment, even if the film isn’t perfect.

Everyone else will probably be better off watching more light-hearted fare.