Hostel (Roth, 2005)

Eli Roth’s Hostel (2005) depicts a strange, perverted world, where, not only can one pay for sexual satisfaction, one can pay for the ultimate rush – to kill another human being. In the film, three pleasure-seeking backpackers traveling through Europe find themselves in a small, unmapped Slovakian city where foreigners, especially Americans, are captured by a secret organization known as ‘elite hunting’ who offer the rush of torture and murder for a significant fee. It seems as though everyone in the city is aware of, and associates with, this abhorrent organization – even the police; to them, it is normal. The notion of this elucidates the striking horror of the unfamiliar, foreign, and unknown.

In a foreign place with alien customs, it is difficult to imagine just how bizarre things can be. One may take for granted the social instilments, particularly moral instilments, produced of their own culture, assuming similar standards in regards to politics and ethics in all cultures – an unconscious admission of moral absolutes. In Hostel, the poor, decrepit Slovakian city illustrates that there are no moral absolutes, and that a depraved city produces depraved people. This is especially elucidated by the actions of the children. They unrelentingly beat, and even murder, over trivial material desires such as dollars, cigarettes, and bubble gum; they are morally void, and it is likely because of their decadent upbringing.

Moreover, when Paxton (Jay Hernandez) reports his friends missing to the police, the policeman asks him “where are you from”. After Paxton replies “California”, the policeman states “you are so far away from home…”. This statement can be interpreted in a number of ways. It could plainly mean that he is literally, from a geographical standpoint, far away from home; however, I believe the implication is more sinister. The policeman implies that Paxton, like his friends, are in a strange, unfamiliar place, where if something were to happen to them, no one would be the wiser. Furthermore, the statement also implies that Paxton is in a place wherein the moral standards are so alien to the moral standards of where he comes from.

Through its depiction of a strange, perverted world, where people can pay to torture and kill other human beings, Hostel exploits the human fear of the unknown to create a truly horrific state of nature; the wicked characters display a haunting portrait of the human condition.


About Kamran Ahmed

I have a Masters in Cinema Studies from the University of Toronto. I work as a freelance writer and film critic in Vancouver. My writing is primarily distributed through Next Projection, an online film journal based in Toronto.
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