Ah, to be young, stupid and horny. Never a good combination while looking for sex in all the wrong places. Just ask Americans Paxton (Jay Hernandez) and Josh (Derek Richardson), college buddies in Amsterdam looking for hot sex and legal drugs. When Amsterdam turns out to be nothing more than a Mecca for American tourists looking for the same thing, Paxton and Josh team up with Oli (Eythor Gudjonsson), an Icelandic party animal, who lures them to an out-of-the-way Slovakian hostel.
Anyone not thinking with his testosterone would immediately recognize the numerous red flags, but not Paxton and Josh, who can’t wait to unleash their sexual desires. Like most tourists suffering from tunnel vision, Paxton and Josh never once believe they are in danger. They’re just there to have a good time, but don’t understand that their idea of a bad time might be someone else’s idea of a good time.
Lost? So are poor Paxton and Josh, who learn too late that what goes around comes around, and while they get their jollies using other people, there are people lurking in the shadows waiting to satiate their jollies using Paxton and Josh. Hostel, written and directed by Eli Roth, is a dark, twisted morality tale which should hold most horror audiences hostage for an hour and a half.
Playing off simple yet morbid fears, Roth works overtime to make unsympathetic characters sympathetic. When we first meet Paxton and Josh, we know exactly who they are. It’s not that the characters are transparent, just obvious. Hernandez and Richardson have no problem convincing us that they are card-carrying ugly Americans, hoping to ride the sex tourism bandwagon for all it’s worth.
The only way to redeem Paxton and Josh is to introduce them (and us) to characters and situations so extreme we have no choice but to side with the Americans. When they arrive at the hostel, the men believe they have hit the jackpot: Drugs and scantily clad women fill every room. So does an eerie undercurrent of menace, a driving force leading us to believe Paxton and Josh are about to get in way over their heads. That is, if they get to keep their heads. Some people come for the sex, others come for the torture and mutilation show, and guess who gets sticker shock when it comes time to pay the bill?
Roth effectively uses light, color and sound to evoke extremely disturbing images, scenes so intense and upsetting they make your palms sweat.