In the early 2000’s, Eli Roth came into the horror scene as a director and gave us the now cult classic Cabin Fever. Riding on the film’s success, Roth brought us yet another gorefest in 2005 with Hostel, which featured Quentin Tarantino as an executive producer. Seeing that I’m a bit of a gorehound, it’s no surprise that the film falls into my top 25 favorite horror films. In honor of Hostel’s 11th anniversary of its American release on January 6, 2006, let’s take a look back at the film and its impact on the genre we love so dearly.
Hostel follows two college students, Paxton (Jay Hernandez: Suicide Squad) and Josh (Derek Richardson: Anger Management), and their Icelandic friend Óli (Eyþór Guðjónsson). While in Amsterdam, the trio are told about a hostel in Slovakia filled with beautiful women, which entices them enough to make the trip over. When the guys arrive, they meet a woman working the front desk, Vala (Jana Havlickova), and two hostel guests, Natalya (Barbara Nedeljáková: War Dogs) and Svetlana (Jana Kaderabkova).
After a fun night out (and in) with the women, everything quickly goes to hell for the three men. After Óli mysteriously disappears, Josh and Paxton start searching, but soon find themselves playing victim to the exclusive Elite Hunting Club. The club is comprised of wealthy men and women who pay to live out their torture and murder fantasies without repercussions. Their victims are lured to the hostel and taken to a variety of different torture rooms. However, the hunter becomes the hunted when Paxton manages to escape and later has a run in with one of the torturers.
Although the business man/torturer (Jan Vlasák) does die gruesomely in the end, there was an alternative ending that showed Paxton kidnapping the man’s daughter while he’s helpless to stop it. Considering the questions that would have left in my head, I’m grateful for the hack and slash ending we’re all familiar with.
Here are some other fun facts about Hostel:
- The crew used roughly 150 gallons of fake blood for all of the torture scenes.
- The word “fuck” is used 128 times total.
- In the factory, you can see Sex Fever playing, which is the porn parody of Cabin Fever.
- When the guys get to the hostel, a snippet of Pulp Fiction is playing. Seems fitting considering Tarantino’s role as executive producer.
- Speaking of, Tarantino talked Roth into making the film. Roth told Dread Central, “I told him the idea for Hostel and he was like, ‘Are you fucking kidding me? That’s the sickest fucking idea I have ever heard. You’ve got to do that. Fuck it. Do it low-budget. Go to Europe and make it as sick as you want to make it …”
- Slovakia wasn’t happy about being depicted as an underdeveloped country with murderers and hookers running the streets. They even offered Roth a trip out to see what a great country it is.
- Roth has a brief cameo in a bar and can be seen hitting a bong.
- There were numerous references to classic films, including The Shining when the guys stay in room 237.
- The film’s poster is a tribute to 1980’s Maniac.
Hostel, along with 2004’s Saw, managed to revitalize the “torture porn” sub-genre and spawn two sequels. Hostel: Part II, which was also written and directed by Roth, was released in 2007. It follows the same path as the Hostel, but features a female lead cast. Hostel: Part III was released in 2011, but was the only film in the trilogy not to be directed by Eli Roth. It was instead directed by Scott Spiegel, who was an executive producer for the first two films. It was also the first film not to be set in Slovakia, but instead in Las Vegas.
Composer Nathan Barr, who provided the music for Cabin Fever, worked on the score for Hostel as well. Roth hired a 75-piece orchestra to give it the same feel as other classic horror films, such as Psycho. The orchestra was quite effective and leaves the low budget film feeling much more expensive than it actually was.
The film was a success with mainstream critics and horror fans alike, which isn’t easy for horror films to achieve. Hostel was nominated for twelve awards and won four- Best Screenplay, Best Director and Best Film at Fantastic Fest, as well as Best Horror at Empire Awards. On a budget of $4.8 million, it brought in $19.5 million during the first weekend and ranked first in the box office. By the end of its box office run, Hostel brought in a total of $80.6 million worldwide.
While I am a sucker for gore and torture, as mentioned, I also love the revenge aspect of the film. Seeing a baddie get as good as he gives is incredibly satisfying. While Cabin Fever made fans of the genre fall in love with Eli Roth, it was Hostel (and Hostel: Part II) that kept the love going. Now that you know where the film lands on my overall list, I’d love to know where it falls on yours! Sound off below or on social media.