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Fun Joel's Screenwriting Blog


-- On Screenwriting and Related Topics

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Location: Los Angeles, CA

I moved from NYC to LA in October, 2003. And though I still think NYC is the greatest city in the world, I'm truly loving life here in the City of Angels. I'm a writer, reader, and occasional picture-taker.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Movie Review: Hostel

Who ordered the gore, with a side of tits?

Because that's what you get in Hostel, writer-director-producer Eli Roth's follow up to Cabin Fever.

I saw the film at a Creative Screenwriting advance screening a few weeks back, and even wrote up a review the very next day, but alas I lost it somehow before posting. Don't worry, no spoilers here. Just a few random thoughts.

First off, most importantly, the film is very good if it is the type of film you're looking for. This is one of the sickest, most disgusting movies I've seen in a long time, and that's a good thing for most horror movie fans.

I wouldn't, however, really call this a horror movie. I mean, maybe I'm being nitpicky, but I see a difference between slasher movies, gore movies, and horror movies. I understand that Roth disagrees, as I believe I heard he said that Silence of the Lambs was a horror movie. I disagree, and not just because of the amount of money it cost or made (which was the claim I heard attributed to him). There are different conventions involved.

To me, since through a large part of this film we know what is happening and it becomes a major torture-fest. Then again, I'd admit that this is much closer to horror than Silence is. After all, if Cabin Fever was Roth's Evil Dead, then this film might be seen as his Texas Chainsaw Massacre, though it is a much bigger departure from what I see as a major inspiration, than Cabin Fever was from its.

And the major point of departure is in the film's one truly clever invention, the unknown setting and plot point around which the film has been built (and no, I won't reveal what it is). Roth's film centers on a truly sickening and cleverly inventive conceptual element that adds more depth and resonance on top of the typical torturous gore elements.

What can I say about the writing? Well, one thing I realized is that (no insult intended) in horror/gore/etc., the writer's contributions are much more secondary than in many other genres. This is not to say that the screenplay was weak. Just that it was nothing outstanding in itself. It was the balls-to-the-wall relentless directing, as well as the gore effects that made it work as it did. As far as the writing goes, I think it is just about committing to your script 100%.

What else? I'll say Roth knows his audience well. He takes his time building slowly into the more horrific elements of the script, and I have absolutely no problem with this. But there may be some people who just want to see the blood already. Thus, he ensures he'll keep his audience's attention by soaking the early scenes heavily in nudity, sex, and some ganja smoking (as well as some fratboy type comedy), all elements which may be likely to appeal to his target market. Not that I minded watching it the least bit! ;-)

Lastly, I wanted to point you back to my post on Test Marketing that was inspired by the Q&A with Roth, post screening.

Bottom line? If you dig gore and (quasi-)horror, run out to see Hostel ASAP. This one's a winner, aimed squarely at you as a demographic. If not, run as quickly as possible in the other direction!

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Blogger Steve Peterson said...

I'm a horror fan, to the point of watching all those trashy micro-budget things you see on DVD rental shelves, but I stay far away from stuff like Hostel, Saw, Saw 2, and would have avoided the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake had I known it would fall into the same group.

Both my step-mother and sister also like horror movies, but they won't be going to see any of that crowd. So I wonder if these films *really are* targeting the same audience as THE RING (or even CABIN FEVER, which I liked much of), or if they're targeting the Faces of Death audience -- which has some overlap with the horror audience, but perhaps not as much as one might expect.

10:54 PM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Yeah, Steve. I should have said Texas Chainsaw remake, actually. That's where the torture stuff is. I hear there's a lot in Wolf Creek too.

That was kind of my point -- not a "horror movie" per se. A different market. certainly not the same people who are into The Ring (but that's not so much horror either). More of a subgenre within the overarching Horror genre.

10:58 PM  

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