Podcast Up on Mephisto’s Castle

•November 27, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Hey friends. A while back I recorded a podcast with the awesome Jose Cruz. Here it is all ready for your listening pleasure. 

Sinister Spotlight on Last House on the Left

Be sure to check out Jose’s site in general and look for him at Classic-Horror.

“We Want to Be Friends….”

•September 3, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is the stuff childhood nightmares are made of. It’s not a movie you should watch with your grown up glasses on. It’s a movie you should go to with the wonder, naivete, and bravery of a child. If you do this, you won’t be disappointed.

Young Sally comes to New England to stay with her father and his considerably younger girlfriend. Feeling like no one wants her and that Dad’s girlfriend is, as per usual, proof that the family won’t be reunited, Sally sulks around and begs to be sent back to sunny (and if you ask me–icky) Los Angeles. But as she investigates the house, much to the chagrin of the gruff, and always available in these types of films, handyman Mr. Harris, she finds that some things are living in the flue of the chimney in the once hidden basement.

Sally, being the curious and resourceful little girl that she is, opens up the ash gate and sets those somethings free, thinking–however wrongly–that they are telling the truth when they say they want to be her friends. What’s a lonely little unwanted girl to do? She certainly can’t turn down friends. But as Sally soon learns (and her soon-to-be stepmonster soon after), the somethings in the basement aren’t nearly as benign as they led her to believe.

All you could hope for in a haunted house movie is present–even though this isn’t a haunted house movie in the strictest sense. You won’t find ghosts, but you will find an overwhelming malevolent presence in each little nook and cranny. The shadows are dark, and the tension is stretched so tight it’s almost painful to watch poor Sally struggle in telling her own personal (and completely accurate) truth to those expectedly lunkheaded adults who just can’t seem to take her word for it.

This is a message from me to you, kiddos: If a child tells you a place is haunted or that there are monsters in her closet, make absolutely sure she’s not telling you the truth.

Much is owed in this film to producer/writer Guillermo Del Toro. Though, he’s not given a directing credit (that’s left to the increasingly impressive Troy Nixey), you can feel his sense of style in every single frame. This is a Del Toro movie, and there’s no doubt about it. It’s utter completeness is a hallmark of Del Toro films. From the set design to the music, this couldn’t reek more of his mastery.

Much has been said of Katie Holmes in this film, and I can’t disagree. She plays the conflicted would-be stepmother quite well. She’s grown up to be something worth seeing, which is surprising when you consider that Michelle Williams is the real talent from that disaster of a teen show I must admit to watching.

But this movie belongs to Bailee Madison. She’s a wise little girl, and her performance bears that through. What fun is to be had when the child in question simply shivers and screams? Bailee’s Sally is smart and honest and, most importantly, very brave. Without her courage and remarkable clarity in the face of serious danger, the film would have had to end with something no American audience can seem to handle in a horror movie–the violent death of a child.

The script, written by Del Toro and Matthew Robbins, is based on a teleplay by Nigel McKeand from 1973. It was a stellar little made-for-TV horror movie that apparently scared little Del Toro out of his footie pajamas and convinced him to make horror films. Damned if I am not extremely glad he saw this movie. The nods to the original in Del Toro’s script are respectful but not completely stolen. Katie Holmes’s character is named Kim–presumably after Kim Darby who played the original, adult Sally. The bathroom scene is a wonderful take on McKeand’s original.

Perhaps the most significant change, though, that Del Toro and Robbins have made is the introduction of the child. As I sat in the theater tonight, I heard many voices laughing at scenes I found frightening. They were sitting in the theater acting like Grups. This is a child’s nightmare. And to approach it as anything other than the child inside you is to do the truly wonderful film a disservice. Del Toro knew this, and as such, he allowed a child to carry us through the adventure.

This frightened but brave child perspective is something Del Toro does well. He’s proven it over and over again (see Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone). How he managed to keep himself so aware of the mind of child is something I think we may never know, but we should all be that much more grateful. He understands a child’s sense of wonder, and without it, we’d all really be missing out.

Quick Cuts (Edition 6)

•December 27, 2010 • Leave a Comment

And now we have come to the this week’s last edition of Quick Cuts wherein I bring you news of a good remake (what?) and an incredibly shitty original.

As I said, I watched about one million movies this weekend, and some of them were horror movies.  As a result, I am writing short reviews for many of them–as it is difficult for me to remember in detail what I think about them.  That’s the joy of Quick Cuts, my friends.  I don’t actually have to do any work to review movies when I do it in this form.

What can I say?  I am an American, and laziness suits me quite well.

The Crazies (2010)

What can I say about this remake of the George Romero classic except that it totally does not suck?  That is really saying something.  When I first heard about this remake I was all depressed-like.  I mean, who wouldn’t be?  The original was subtle and calm and had this really cool subtext about the Vietnam war.  “Woe is we,” I thought to myself as I read news that Breck Eisner, director of the much maligned Sahara, would be helming the remake.

I can officially tell you, buddies, that I was dead wrong about this movie because it’s mostly RAD.  That’s right.  I said RAD.  You may now light your torches and grab your pitchforks.  I seriously just called a remake RAD.

It’s a story as old as the hills–or as old as George Romero.  A military airplane crashes into a local reservoir, and a biological weapon spills into the water supply of Ogden Marsh, Iowa.  As the locals slowly drink in this biological weapon, everyone pretty much goes batshit insane, and the sheriff and his wife, the town doctor, try to escape their town and the chaos with their lives and the life of their unborn baby.

So it’s your typical “ragtag group of survivors” kind of story, but where The Crazies is special is that unlike other zombie and non-zombie zombie films, it’s less a post-apocalyptic mess and more a horror movie.  There are many, many scenes throughout that are downright fucking terrifying.  For example, early in the film when a man calmly locks his wife and son in a hall closet before setting the house on fire and killing them both.  And for my money, the best scene in the entire film, when four of our survivors are trapped in a car wash.  I found myself shivering in terror during this scene.

Even without these individual scenes that make the film worthwhile, there are moments that remind us why we love horror movies.  There are many “bad guy at the edge of the frame” shots.  And upon seeing them and loving the very visceral terror reaction they cause in me, I can’t help but wonder why this happens so little in horror films these days.  A man at the edge of the screen is ten times scarier than all of those jump scares Platinum Dunes seems so obsessed with; though, there are plenty of those too.

You can also look forward to a pretty awesome performance from our two leads: Radha Mitchell and Timothy Olyphant.  (Even though Radha Mitchell is no Jill Brock.)  They have a comfort and ease in these scenes that makes the situation all the more believable.

I know it must seem like I have a girl boner for this movie, and you know, I guess I would, but there is one major problem with it.  In the original film, you never know who has the disease.  They look normal.  However, in the remake, as the disease advances, people begin to get veiny, and their eyes are all black.  While they do look sufficiently creepy, it really kills some of the magic when you can identify them by their appearance.

And that… my friends… is how you dampen an otherwise awesome film-going experience.


Train (2008)

For our second film today, I have to be totally honest.  I only watched three minutes.  But I am totally sure that the judgment I levied in those three minutes is exactly right, and I am totally sure that you wouldn’t disagree with me (because if you do I will kick you in your no-no parts).

See the whole opening credit sequence just went too far.  Someone was being skinned.  Yes, you read that right.  Don’t ease a girl in or anything.  Just jump straight to the flaying.  Jesus, can you try any harder?

I’m sorry to be all unilateral about this, but you simply cannot start your film with flaying.  You have to earn flaying.  And they certainly hadn’t earned it in the ten seconds it took for the flaying to start.

When I read the description of the movie, it seemed like a simple slasher film, and it had Thora Birch, who I imperceptibly love.  So I was all, “I’m down.”  And then the flaying.  And I was like… “Um… no.  This is just too gross as a starting point.”

And I turned that shit off.

That should teach you a lesson, filmmakers.  I can watch almost anything, and I would rather shove a rusty railroad spike through my forehead than watch the rest of that movie (or A Serbian Film).

That is all.

Quick Cuts (Edition 5)

•December 27, 2010 • Leave a Comment

As I said in a previous post, I spent my entire weekend in bed watching movies.  As they were not all horror movies, I will not be telling you about, say, True Grit or All Good Things or The Kids Are All Right.  Instead, you will be dealing with sequels and pornography.

It’s Christmas time, y’all.  Around this time of year, I submit to what I believe is the greatest of all traditions.  I watch a ton of movies.  Two movies in particularly are must-watch movies for this particularly holiday: Black Christmas (1974) and White Christmas (1954).  I did keep my holiday tradition and watch both of these films, but in an effort to expand my repertoire, I also added another Christmas horror duo: Silent Night, Deadly Night 1 & 2.

SNDN 1 & 2 are an extra special treat kiddies.  Watching Santa Claus kill people is–in a word–rad.  And to begin this edition of Quick Cuts, I have a short review of Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 (1987).  (Yes, I am only reviewing the sequel, and you will see why.)

If you’re in a hurry to take in the joy that is SNDN 1 & 2, I suggest skipping part one.  While it’s an enjoyable movie, you’ll find that the first thirty minutes of SNDN 2 are all you need to know about the series thus far.  Besides, if you’re watching these in order, seeing part one will render part two a little boring, and in a film that has as much awesome as SNDN 2, you really shouldn’t take that risk.

Ricky, little brother to the murderous Santa Billy from SNDN 1, is chatting with his thirteenth shrink in ye olde booby hatch.  He recounts the tale of his psyche-damaged brother Billy with chilling accuracy–mostly because it is all done in flashbacks that include footage from the original film–from the near-rape of the kids’ mom, to Linnea Quigley in short shorts and no shirt, to a headless sledder.  I mean, every shining moment from SNDN 1 is there for your viewing pleasure–rendering the first film pretty much pointless.

Once you wade through that first thirty minutes you are now treated with the killing spree of Ricky himself.  Up to a point, it seems like Ricky might be some kind of unsung hero, as he murders only people who are hurting others.  Of course, then he gets a girlfriend, and all hell breaks loose because, as it turns out, she doesn’t like it when her boyfriend kills people–even if for good cause.  Sheesh.  I mean, what’s a guy to do?

After his girl leaves him, he’s approached by a man of the law who saw everything.  But before you can say “miranda rights,” Ricky manages to shoot lawman in the forehead with his own gun.  And now he’s off and running with a service revolver all his own.

Lucky for us, this leads to the greatest twenty seconds ever put on film.  See below.

As can be expected from a film of this kind, the best it offers is Eric Freeman as Ricky.  Good Lord, I have never been so enamored with an awful performance.  Every single moment he’s on screen is one to be adored.  Witness these gems.

“I don’t know what made ‘em stop.  Actually I do know.”

When questioned by the doctor how he could know something that happened in his infancy, he replies, “Because I was there.”

In response to “Do you dream, Ricky,” he says, “I… don’t… sleep.”

“No one heard him screaming, but I did.”

These moments plus the above “garbage day!” bit make SNDN 2 one of the greatest films of all time.  And I mean it when I say that.  Never have I seen such a mess, and you all know how I love messes.

Rent it, buy it, see it.  It’s a must-watch.

When I was finished watching all my Christmas must-sees, I decided to keep traveling down the horror path, and I’ll just have to be honest.  When I see that a movie exists called Pervert! with an actual exclamation point, then I am pretty sure it is a mathematical impossibility for me to not watch said film.

Unfortunately for me, however, Pervert! (2005) is a fucking awful movie.  I spent much of the ninety minute run time asking myself why I didn’t just take the damn disc out of the DVD player.  It was a stupid choice.  I mean, I could have watched Bitch Slap again, but no… I watched Pervert!

A young man travels to his desert home to visit his father.  When he gets there, he sees that his old, decrepit father has a hot, young girlfriend.  The two begin to have an affair not exactly behind his back, and when Dad finds out, ole blondie disappears.  Cut to the next day, and Dad has an angry, hot brunette.  And it isn’t even a whole day before this one is gone too.

Who is killing all these buxom beauties?  Well, I won’t keep you in suspense because the answer is really fucking stupid.

His penis.

Yes, you read that right.  His penis detaches from his body (in claymation anti-glory) and screws these women to death.  Our third woman actually has the penis come shooting out of her mouth.  And it probably shouldn’t surprise you that the claymation penis is a girl and has a face.  Or maybe it should.  Once you’ve reached that point in the film, I tend to think nothing will surprise you.

Now, I can understand why what I have just told you sounds like the best thing ever filmed, but I am telling you right now, it is the dumbest shit on Earth.  And you know it has to be bad if I’m saying that.

Please, just stay away.

Quick Cuts (The Hellraiser Edition)

•December 19, 2010 • Leave a Comment

This week, folks, I bring you a special edition of Quick Cuts.  As I am totally awesome and always finish whatever I start, I recently decided that I needed to have seen every single Hellraiser movie.  This is quite a feat, as there are eight films in total.  Who knew love of Pinhead spread so far?

Look, folks, I won’t keep you in suspense.  What I’m giving you here is an extra tiny review of a bunch of movies you should probably avoid watching unless you like having your eyes and brains stabbed repeatedly.  I mean, the Friday the 13th sequels are better than these.  I’m sure you get my meaning.  Granted, at least Hellraiser manages to have a totally different plot every time.  I guess that’s something.  Let’s hear it for… um… being able to come up with more than one stupid plot!

In an effort to be all science-y, I am going to rate each film at the end of the review, and I will use said rating to rank the films at the end of this post.  I do this not because math is my thang, but because I love you, and the fact that you are now making a girl do math means you owe me.  You also owe me for sitting through all of these movies.

I expect prezzies any day now.

(ASIDE: There is a ninth film in the works called Hellraiser: Revelations.  As this will not star Doug Bradley as Pinhead, I propose we pretend it is not happening.)

(ASIDE AGAIN: I am also not considering Hellraiser: Prophecy — the Hellraiser/Prophecy crossover film to be a true entry in the series.  Yes, I realize a similar argument can be made about Hellraiser: Deader, but I actually watched that one, and it stars Kari Wuhrer, and I like Kari Wuhrer, which means I am going to talk about it no matter what you think.  Mayhaps it is time for you to practice acceptance, no? Also, I cannot watch anymore of these movies.)

Hellraiser (1987)

Ah, the original Hellraiser.  What a glorious little movie.  Clive Barker’s meditation on pleasure and pain is still one of the greatest horror movies of the eighties, and it is certainly the best on Barker’s resume (though Candyman could give it a run for its money).

I won’t bother recalling the plot because we’ve all seen it.  (If you haven’t, what are you doing here?)  What I will say is that nearly everything in this first film in the series comes together to create a wonderfully creepy tale with some seriously barf-inducing gore.

The Cenobites in this first film are at their scariest.  You can’t do much better than Pinhead shouting, “We’ll tear your soul apart!”

Rating: 9 out of 10 scary, Spencer’s gift-y puzzle boxes.

Hellraiser: Hellbound (1988)

Holy mother of crap.  This went downhill fast.  While this film still features the lovely Ashley Laurence as Kirsty Cotton, there is much more to be desired from a film that takes place largely in Hell.

I mean, really, how can we be expected to fear Hell when it looks like that baby-chasing scene from Labyrinth?  And what’s with all the black smoke?  What is this?  Lost?  (Yes, I know that’s anachronistic.)

Phew.  This was a stinker.

Raiting: 5 out of 10 scary, Spencer’s gift-y puzzle boxes.

Hellraiser: Hell on Earth (1992)

In this anchorwoman-in-peril movie, Pinhead is trapped in an intricately carved column.  A skeezy nightclub owner frees him and tries to get him to submit to his will, but of course, when you release Hell on Earth, nothing goes as planned.

This was possibly among the worst offenders.  The acting and effects were just abysmal.  Please, please don’t watch it.

I am rating it slightly higher due to the presence of Shawnee Smith whom I like for some unknown reason because she really isn’t talented at all.

Rating: 3 out of 10 scary, Spencer’s gift-y puzzle boxes.

Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996)

Ah, we have now entered the realm of so-bad-it’s-good.  This space-centric sequel details where the puzzle box came from and who made it.  While this would be interesting, it largely ignores any information provided about the puzzle box in previous films.

No matter.  Everyone knows a shitty movie is rendered at least two points higher when it ends up in space.  Of course, the fact that it is told mostly in flashback mitigates this a bit.

Still, I love seeing a Cenobite on a spaceship.

Rating: 6 out of 10 scary, Spencer’s gift-y puzzle boxes.

Hellraiser: Inferno (2000)

This corrupt cop direct-to-video sequel was the worst movie in the entire series.  That’s right, I said it.  It was not a horror movie.  It wasn’t even a boring thriller.  It was… well, it was heartbreaking.  (This whole process has been heartbreaking, really.)

With an almost Pinhead-less sequel, I momentarily thought I had fallen asleep and was dreaming the most boring dream ever dreamed.  Alas, I was not, and this movie is as bad as it sounds.

Highlight: suddenly Pinhead does not actually arrive when you open the box.  Who knew?  Not I.

Rating: 0 out of 10 scary, Spencer’s gift-y puzzle boxes.

Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002)

While this movie was largely a senseless series of dream sequences that made me want to light a kitten’s face on fire, it did bring back the lovely Ashley Laurence (looking pretty hot, I might add) as a wronged (and possibly dead?) wife.  Dean Winters also appeared as the maybe insane, maybe evil, maybe not husband.

As a result of the inspired casting, the film is almost pulled out of the crap heap.  But that senseless plot just made me want to light my own face on fire.

Rating: 4 out of 10 scary, Spencer’s gift-y puzzle boxes.

Hellraiser: Deader (2005)

Here is a movie that was clearly never intended to be a Hellraiser film.  And had the original makers left Pinhead and his cronies out, it might have been an interesting little movie.

They didn’t, however, leave the movie slim and simple.  They overcomplicated it with a bunch of bullshit, and then they added boobs, and then they added Pinhead.

Even Kari Wuhrer could not save this.

Rating: 2 out of 10 scary, Spencer’s gift-y puzzle boxes.

Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005)

The final film in the series is actually a slasher film.  Lance Henriksen stars as the father of a son who died playing the Hellworld game online.  (Yes, you read that right.  This is that inevitable sequel that takes shit to the internet.  Blech.)  He gets his revenge on the kids he blames, but the joke’s on him because the Cenobites are real.

As a slasher film, this was fairly run-of-the-mill.  It fits the revenge murder plot formula perfectly.  But it was… shall we say (again) rather boring.

As a Hellraiser film, this, too, felt like Pinhead was an afterthought.  And by this time, Pinhead has definitely lost his purpose.  He’s no longer a demon and more a minion.  And that, my friends, is a bummer.

Rating: 1 out of 10 scary, Spencer’s gift-y puzzle boxes.

Final Ranking!
1.  Hellraiser
2.  Hellraiser: Bloodline
3.  Hellraiser: Hellbound
4.  Hellraiser: Hellseeker
5.  Hellraiser: Hell on Earth
6.  Hellraiser: Deader
7.  Hellraiser: Hellworld
8.  Hellraiser: Inferno

Thursday Guilty Pleasure: Week Five

•December 9, 2010 • Leave a Comment

We’ve reached the end of the road, kiddies.  After months of laboring over our own shameful secrets, B-Sol of The Vault of Horror and I are bringing you the final installment of the Thursday Guilty Pleasure.

This week I’ll be tackling that much-maligned Tarantino Grindhouse fare Death Proof, while B-Sol discusses his love for the ever-abysmal Saturday the 14th.  Get your judging on for this final week of the Thursday Guilty Pleasure.

Me Me Me of This Here Site on Death Proof (2007)

There are people in the world who could be identified by their status as Quentin Tarantino fans—people so rabid in their affection for the director that they’ll get borderline violent in their defense of his films.  Me?  I like him.  I like him a lot.  But he sure is an arrogant prick.  Still, even these folks seemed to turn their noses up at his Grindhouse feature Death Proof.

Many people cite Planet Terror as being the better of the two halves of the Grindhouse experience.  And I suppose I can see this perspective.  But where Planet Terror is a loving homage to Grindhouse films, Death Proof actually is a Grindhouse film.  And for my money, I would much rather watch an actual Grindhouse film than watch a movie that simply loves them.

In the past, I have heard people complain like crazy about the dialogue in this film.  They say it’s vapid and shallow and completely irritating.  And I suppose it could be, but what Grindhouse movie have you seen that doesn’t have throwaway dialogue that could have easily been cut?  This is Tarantino writing for people we don’t necessarily like.  This is him creating characters with much less depth than we’ve grown accustomed to.  This is him writing about women whose real power comes in the form of violence.

And let’s talk about that violence, shall we?  The first car accident in the movie is, for my money, worth the ticket price alone.  It’s a completely non-CGI splatter fest, and I found myself utterly gleeful while watching it.  Come on y’all, when that tire runs over Arlene’s face, it might just be one of those most shining moments in any one of Tarantino’s films.  It’s as memorable as two American soldiers pumping bullets into Hitler’s face, as special as seeing Bridget Fonda bored to tears while being humped by Robert DeNiro.  It’s a prime Tarantino moment.

But this isn’t the only quality moment in the film.  The last twenty-ish minutes of the movie are absolutely joy-inducing.  For once that tired old line “a white knuckle thrill ride for the ages” actually fits.  The chase scene with Zoe Bell being Zoe Bell and Kurt Russell being… well, I am guessing Kurt Russell (you would too if you’d seen Big Trouble in Little China as much as I have) had me howling with laughter.

And if that weren’t enough, you have the cast, which I am sure some of you are going to be surprised that I love.  To begin, you have Vanessa Ferlito looking hotter than she ever has and giving a lap dance that makes me wish I hadn’t levied all those arguments against strip clubs.  And then you have Rosario Dawson who, no matter how hard she might try, can never seem to make me look away.

But the real stars of the film are Kurt Russell and Zoe Bell.  Yes, some people seem irritated by that fact that Tarantino is so damned infatuated with Zoe Bell, but to that I say, “Aren’t you?”  Watching Bell do her thing might be the best time I have ever had in the theater.

And Kurt Russell is by turns creepy, ugly, handsome, and hilarious.  Even if I didn’t love the rest of the film, I would find it worthwhile just for the moment when he pours alcohol onto his gunshot wound and simply cries, “Why? Why? Why?” Let’s face it, friends, no matter what happens, we’ll always love a little Kurt Russell.

Okay, so there are stretches of boring in there.  Of course there are.  When is the last time you saw an actual Grindhouse movie?  Because I am sure I have never seen one that couldn’t have been trimmed drastically.  I applaud Tarantino for making a movie he loves—even if his fans didn’t follow in line.  I did, however, and I can’t help but watch Death Proof at least twice a year.

B-Sol of The Vault of Horror on Saturday the 14th (1981)

Much like TerrorVision last time, this is one that goes back to the early HBO days for me. Saturday the 14th–a bizarre horror spoof that some misguided Hollywood exec somewhere once thought was a clever idea–was in constant rotation on the fledgling cable network. And at the time, i just thought it was the funniest thing imaginable.

Mind you, I had never even heard of Friday the 13th at the time, let alone seen it. Which is probably for the best, since this movie has nothing to do with it whatsoever–despite the fact that its title was intended as a timely parody of the aforementioned slasher classic. Looking back, one even has to wonder why the film was even called that, but at the time I didn’t even bat an eye. Of course, at the time, The Electric Company was also my favorite TV show. But that’s neither here nor there.

The very talented Richard Benjamin, Paula Prentiss and Jeffrey Tambor are all in this clunker, which leads me to think that a lot of people must’ve once thought that this movie was going to be a really big deal. Well, as we now know, those people were dead wrong. Saturday the 14th is now naught but a footnote in the history of horror comedy. But it’ll always have a place in my heart, even if I can’t quite understand what I ever found so funny about it…

Tuesday Too Scared to Watch It Twice: Week Four

•November 16, 2010 • 2 Comments

We’ve reached the ends, kiddos.  This week is the last edition of the Tuesday Too Scared to Watch It Twice.  B-Sol and I have a treat for you this time around.  We’ve chosen the same film.  Gather ’round and pass your judgments, for we are terrified of Eli Roth’s Hostel.

To read previous week’s entries, please see the series page.

Me Me Me of This Here Site

I’m still not sure why I ever saw Hostel. It’s the very definition of torture porn, and I am ten thousand percent sure that there was never any chance I would like it, but I rented it and watched it in a dormer room in Southern Illinois. Mayhaps it’s that very Pokemon approach I take to horror movies: “Gotta see ‘em all.”

By now, it’s likely we’ve all seen this or at least know the story. A couple of incredibly irritating and offensive young Americans end up at a hostel in Eastern Europe where they think they will be able to bed many adventurous young women. (Though, I am relatively sure that any woman who sleeps with either of these jerkos should be kicked out of the women’s club forever and always.) Instead they become the victims of torture and abuse in macabre house of horrors.

When B-Sol and I were debating films to write about for this series, we both touched on the same theme in Hostel that makes it so hard to stomach. This is, without a doubt, the most hateful film I have ever seen. Even before the boys end up in the torture chamber, the movie is filled with hate. Primarily, our American tourists hate women. A more sexist mindset would suggest they love women, but they have no interest in women as individual people with identities all their own. They see women as tools designed only for their own pleasure, and within twenty minutes, I was sure I was going to hate this movie.

In addition to the hatred displayed by our protagonists, hatred is heaped upon them as well. As they become the victims of extremely brutal violence, each boy is made the object of Ameriphobic hatred. (I think I just made that word up.) It’s even stated that Americans fetch more money because everyone wants to torture an American. And really, who can blame them? If we are how this film represents us, I can’t imagine anyone wouldn’t choose us for the torture and maiming.

Ultimately what makes it such a horrible movie is the level of unbelievability. I mean, okay, so the woman’s face is all mangled, and her eyeball is hanging out. What do you do? You certainly don’t cut her eyeball off! This is just another moment wherein you are supposed to ingest male mutilation of the female body. And while I can watch a Friday the 13th movie with the best of them, I cannot intake this much hatred. There is wanton glee and disregard for the destruction of the female person and the female form.

As I am sure some of you will argue, there is also a great deal of abuse heaped on the male form. Yes, this is true. But none of it is with such disregard for the human being. The males at least have character and identity. The women exist purely as tools, and as a result of this, I cannot stomach ever seeing it again. The film has ruined me in a number of ways, but the one I am most grateful for? I now hate Eli Roth. I consider that a blessing.

And B-Sol of The Vault of Horror‘s Take

Watching Hostel was one of those watershed moments for me. One of those, “OK, am I getting too old for this shit?” kind of moments. I had long considered myself something of a gorehound. It was never my favorite kind of horror, but I took pride as a young horrorphile in seeking out the most depraved and nasty flicks I could get my grimy hands on. I didn’t realize how much I had changed, until the day I got those hands on Eli Roth’s Hostel.

It had been lent to me by a guy at work. You know the situation: “Hey, man. You like horror, right? OK, well, you should check this out!” So I did. As I look back on it now, that was a mistake. Because seeing Hostel was an experience that taught me that my tastes had changed, and even led me to slightly rethink what being a horror fan even meant for me.

Simply put, Hostel is an ugly film. A cynical, brutish movie that is depressing at its core. There is no entertainment value to be had, and it leaves the viewer with the urge to take a shower of Joan Crawford proportions. The plot is non-existent, and once we get past the boring and utterly odious “frat boys on vacation in Eastern Europe” portion, we get to something far more odious.

This film is the very definition of torture porn, containing scene after scene of unrelenting graphic violence put on display for no other reason than to shock and titillate. To some, that may be the clarion call to horror nirvana, but I have to say, it isn’t for me. It certainly isn’t now, and I’m not sure it ever was to this degree. This is a film that wallows in the very worst of human nature, and does so for no other reason than to get a few kicks.

I can remember sitting there thinking, “Why the hell am I even watching this?” And this is coming from someone who would jump at an opportunity to see Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Zombi 2 or Dead Alive back in the day. Reveled in them. But this? No thanks. Am I too old? I don’t care. Too real, too cynical, and not fun, entertaining or even thought-provoking in the slightest.

Call me a horror prude. Call me a stick in the mud. Call me out of touch. But I plan to never go near Hostel again, as it represents for me the very worst and lowest common denominator of what this great genre has to offer.

 
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