In the early zeroes, it seemed that horror had lost its ability to shock…Then Saw and Hostel changed the game, going all in on gore effects and things you had never seen before. Which you then didn’t see because you were covering your eyes!
I remember sitting in the Odeon on January 6th, 2006, stunned at what I was seeing in a country that under the Draconian reign of James Ferman at the BBFC had been censoring anything us ‘fragile’ Brits could see. Now Eli Roth had taken elements of Nasties that we could not yet acquire as easily as a Google search allows in 2021 and thrown them back at us in a beautiful bouquet of balletique bluster.
Hostel works because it takes its time. For the first 45 minutes, you could be watching a cheap Porky’s knockoff as you follow three unknown (this is important later, as you have no idea who will live or die) actors through bars and whore houses before Roth pulls the rug and…well, shit gets dark as hell. I remember my heart feeling like it was going to pop out of my chest the first time I saw it and the second, the very next day, was just as impactful.
Eli Roth has been charged with the crimes of lesser films that followed in the wake of his early classics but with Cabin Fever, Hostel and Hostel Part II, he truly shook up the horror world and gave us one of the best and darkest universes to lose sleep in. Happy birthday, you ugly beautiful thing.