A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Hostel is a 2006 horror movie in which a pair of American college guys backpacking through Europe in search of sex, drugs, and alcohol, find themselves in a gory nightmare of sadistic torture. This is absolutely not for kids. The premise and primary "plot" is torture, specifically, the torture of young travelers by wealthy adults who pay thousands of dollars for the experience. These images are graphic and bloody (severed limbs, penetrated genitals, sliced Achilles tendon, gouged eye, with weapons including scissors, chainsaws, knives, hammers, drills, clippers, guns, cars, and chairs). One character throws herself in front of a train when she sees her disfigurement following torture. These violent scenes are preceded by a sojourn in Amsterdam, featuring girls' breasts and one frontal nudity shot. Characters engage in boisterous sex and a man makes a homosexual pass at an unwilling young man. Characters smoke, drink, and do multiple sorts of drugs. Characters use frequent foul language (over 100 f-words, derogatory terms like "faggot" and, in this context, "gay," slang for genitals, "damn," "hell").
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
American backpackers Paxton (Jay Hernandez) and Josh (Derek Richardson) are traveling with their new friend Oli (Eythor Gudjonsson), each trying hard to impress the others with his capacity for partying. In Amsterdam, they're amazed by the availability of sex, marijuana, and hash, all of these indulgences featured in graphic imagery. The boys are thrilled to learn from the ultra-skeezy Alex (Lubomir Silhavecky) that a hostel in Slovakia promises even more loose girls and more potent drugs. They hop on a train tout de suite. Here they're forewarned of the mayhem to come when a fellow traveler, an older Dutchman (Jan Vlasák), makes an unwanted pass at Josh. Still, the boys' cockiness only escalates when they meet a few girls who do indeed seem enthralled with them, in particular Natalya (Barbara Nedeljáková) and Svetlana (Jana Kaderabkova). Soon enough, everyone is intoxicated and having sex, and one by one, the boys disappear. When he wakes up tied to a chair with a spastic German man whizzing a chainsaw over him, Paxton eventually pieces together that they have been kidnapped for use in torture rituals by wealthy customers who pay to abuse and kill pretty young tourists.
Is it any good?
HOSTEL is as brutal a film as you're likely to see in a theater; it's definitely NOT for kids. The fact that Paxton must pose as one of the clients, and, while wearing rubber aprons, endure a conversation with an anxious first-timer (Rick Hoffman) suggests the film's other agenda, the one that's not just grossing out and repulsively titillating an audience familiar with gore conventions. Whether or not Paxton recognizes his own consumerist frenzy in this pompous, too-excited goon, you can hardly miss the mirror images of grasping for hedonistic experiences at the expense of "native" cultures and compliant objects.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the film's rudimentary moral lessons. What lessons is the film trying to convey about backpacking through Europe or class disparities? Or, you might consider the film's evocations of movie conventions, appeals to genre connoisseurs (including homages to executive producer Quentin Tarantino). Are these images cynical responses to a violent world or incisive commentary on violence in media?
What do you think is the appeal of horror movies like these? Is it because of the physical responses of fear--and perhaps nausea--that graphic and grisly violence inspires in audiences? Is it dark humor? The spectacle of horrific and stomach-churning imagery normally not scene in movies, even horror movies?
Why do you think that a movie as graphically violent as this would receive an R-rating, and yet a movie that would have a comparable level of graphic sex would be NC-17, assuming it would even be allowed to be shown in the average American cineplex?
- In theaters: January 6, 2006
- On DVD or streaming: April 18, 2006
- Cast: Derek Richardson, Jay Hernandez, Jennifer Lim
- Director: Eli Roth
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: brutal scenes of torture and violence, strong sexual content, language and drug use.
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