Saturday, June 09, 2007

Some thoughts on "Hostel part 2"

(There are some mild spoiler-type things regarding Hostel part 2 in this entry)

The country went through some exciting and (ominous) trials last week. The Congress decided the current immigration system should remain in place for a little longer. The president went to the G8 summit to encourage (but also stymie) international efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Two military judges poked big holes in the Bush administration's military commissions for trying the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay. CIA agents were tried in absentia for violating laws in the course of carrying out the extraordinary rendition of a Egyptian man. A deputy national security adviser was appointed to be the "czar" of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At least as important as any of these stories, though, at least if the people, blogs and websites I am acquainted with are any indication, was the release of Hostel part 2.

I haven't seen a lot of the new generation of horror movies. I have no interest in the Saw movies, and I thought the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake was just awful (I haven't seen the sequel, or either of the Hills Have Eyes remakes).

I liked Hostel a lot, though. It scared me, for one thing. For another, director Eli Roth struck me as unusually astute (or pretentious, if you prefer). Some of the photography (of both sex and violence) really worked on me. Hostel also had a clever political subtext. The movie played out like a subversive allegory of the United States and the Global War on Terror. Were it not for all the the drug use, sex and gore Hostel might have been Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld's new favorite movie.

The sequel is much more broadly satiric than I recall the original being (the movie's ridiculous sense of humor reminded me more of Roth's Cabin Fever, which I did not care for as much as Hostel). I did not read Hostel 2 as being about about international security so much as a very domestic sort of insecurity: it's an elaborate, violent take-off on the anxieties of middle-aged, white-collar men. Its satire of patriarchal emasculation might be what Eli Roth was hinting at in his interview with Rob Nelson of the City Pages, when he called Hostel part 2 "a feminist horror film." In spite of their reputations for sadism, the Hostel movies are actually great fun for the audience. More summer movies should care as much as this one about pulling off good surprises.

I don't see what the anxiety, not the mention the anger, over this movie was (or is) all about. Its Metacritic score, as of Saturday night, is 43. The Austin daily paper's movie writer spends more time pretentiously shaming Roth and his cast than analyzing the movie. My friend Mark has been posting reviews of bootlegged DVDs (this one rather mean-spirited and silly) and online feuds about the film.

The rhetoric of these unfavorable reviews tends toward the condescending and patronizing; as if the writer is performing some sort of anthropological research, rather than deigning to admit they actually wanted to see the movie in the first place. It's like Anthony Comstock's obsession with pornography. The man for whom obscenity laws were named spent a huge portion of his time looking at things he considered indecent and immoral. It's sick and disgusting for everyone else to look at; when I do it I'm defending the culture. I'm sure Eli Roth will be able to buy another car (or make another Hostel) with all the extra money he'll make off people seeing the movie just so they can be indignant.

Everyone can relax, and just worry about seeing the movies they might like (personally, I'm avoiding Surf's Up). Western civilization is not going to crumble because of anything that can be seen at the Barton Creek Mall.


Viejo Charly said...
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The Fire Next Time said...

I guess what confounds me the most is why THIS movie? People have been making these kinds of movies for decades. Is it because it's so financially successful? Is it because Eli Roth himself seems so nice and sincere, and not the stereotype of what someone who makes "those" kinds of movies should be? And from what I understand, some of the most violent aspects of Hostel 2 aren't even original. Caligula graphically portrayed a snipped penis being thrown to dogs 30 years ago. (And Paul Verhoeven showed a woman using scissors to cut off a penis in one of his movies as well; forgot which one.) And frankly, I can think of far worse ways to torture and kill people than are shown in Hostel, and I don't think I'm crazy or some kind of misanthrope. For my money, I was far more offended and outraged by "Braveheart" than I was by Hostel. And that film has been lionized beyond all recognition. I can't wait to see Hostel 2!! I'm not ashamed.