Hidden References in Eli Roth’s Hostel (2005)

Eli Roth wanted to make a big claim to the cinematic community with his 2005 release of Hostel; he wanted to make it known that he is an expert of his genre, a well-knowledge film-maker and an admirer of the all time classics. Hostel very much entertained the typical zeitgeist audience when released with its mass gore and special effects, but for the cineastes and genre fans he played homage to many films and included references to others keeping them occupied and a part of an “in-joke”.

The master that is Quentin Tarantino presented and produced Hostel and his name appearing on the opening credits wasn’t his only involvement within the film. As the three backpackers check into their new Slovak hostel in the background Samuel L Jackson’s iconic speech from Pulp Fiction is being played on the TV. It is also suggested how our antagonists stalked the halls of the slaughter house whistling could be a link to Tarantino’s Kill Bill.

Eli Roth also referenced the Kubrick and horror classic, The Shining. The boys are given room 237 which is the same hotel room which is forbidden in The Shining, something which is obviously not a coincidence. Alongside one classic is another as the film uses the same score from Hitchcock’s Psycho. The closing credits to Hostel plays homage to the opening credits of Psycho using the same style score but slightly giving it a modern twist.

Wanting to state his knowledge and ability to recognise his background, Roth referenced two very small but classic British horror films. The sex scene between Josh and the Slovak roommate is a direct link to the sex scene within The Wicker Man 1973 as our priest gets seduced through a wall by a form of witchcraft. It is referenced by the iconic music played over the top. Film of the same year, Don’t Look Now 1973 is also referenced clearly, the final scene in Don’t Look Now sees our protagonist chase a figure in a red coat, in Hostel Josh and Paxton looking for Oli start to chase a guy wearing the same Orange coat, the two scenes follow the same structure and even have similar settings.

Eli Roth also chooses to have many cameo’s including himself. In a bar scene at the beginning of Hostel, Eli Roth can be seen smoking and smashing a bong whilst laughing. Japanese director Takashi Miike also plays a role as the guy who Paxton asks “what’s it in like in there” too as he stands outside the unknown slaughter house. Extending his knowledge to that of Japanese Film finally the last reference is that to Suicide Club. The end scene which sees a Japanese woman jump in front of a train is a clear homage especially to shots where we see fellow passengers sprayed with blood, it is also the only reason Roth made that very character Japanese.

Did you spot any of these references?

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The Exorcist (1973)

Genre: Horror

Director: William Friedkin

Writer: William Peter Blatty

Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Linda Blair

Rating: ★★★★

The Exorcist is still regarded as one of the best horror films ever made alongside its prestigious status as an all-time classic that furthermore shaped its genre. Studying Friedkin’s creation I felt it was a must to share my thoughts and review what I believe is still a very entertainingly disturbing film despite its somewhat old release date.

Chris (Ellen Burstyn) is a visiting actress in Washington D.C, however whilst staying in her luxurious home she notices changes amongst her 12 year old daughter Regan (Linda Blair). It soon becomes apparent that her young little girl has been possessed by a demonic power forcing dangerous behaviour out of Regan scaring her body and innocence. Meanwhile young priest Damien Karras (Jason Miller) at the nearby Georgetown University is having problems with his faith whilst he deals with his mother’s terminal illness. Eventually bringing it all together is a suffering, frail old priest Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) who recognises the necessity for a show-down with an old demonic enemy as he and Father Karras attempt to give Regan an exorcism.

The story and approach towards The Exorcist is brilliant, the opening sequence establishes everything that is needed to understand the plot whilst the mixing between three characters problems merging into one is very well-executed. There are certain scenes within The Exorcist which are most likely amongst the most popular in film history, especially regarding horror. Some are truly scarring but what is best about this film is how it is paced and how the horror within builds and builds for a haunting climax. It all starts when a confused changed Regan urinates herself in front of her family party guests, it then builds to fits and spasms which sees the bed levitate. However the pace beyond the half-way point is excellent and thrilling which leads to one of the most disturbing scenes ever witness as a possessed little girl masturbates with a crucifix, and her head rotating a full 360 degrees. It is horrific. Something which at the time really crossed a line and made The Exorcist brand it’s genre.

Despite the overload of gore and even psychological horror displayed for me what was truly terrifying was the score and soundtrack. Friedkin’s classic consists of a mixture between silence and overpowering roars of sounds, as an audience it keeps us on edge yet intrigued. There’s a moment when everyone jumps, carefully listening to a recording being replayed by Father Karras the phone then rings, interrupting our thoughts and the silence, The Exorcist at many times throughout makes us jump just by sound. The famous soundtrack of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells is something that too adds to this film, its eerie presence in a way just gives me the shivers and it is certainly a tune which sticks in your mind.
The Exorcist surprised with its cast, especially its inclusion of many real-life priests and members of the church. Aside from the exorcist of the title, all other priests among the cast are non-actors and living catholic priests. The standout for me was of course Linda Blair who handled such a dramatic task of playing Regan very well and balanced such innocence and evil so well. Something which I found great was how the voice of the demon was very natural, and even the sounds displayed were all recorded naturally and most of the time from insects buzzing.

The effects and making of The Exorcist is something very interesting too, apparently to achieve a cold atmosphere the bedroom of Regan was actually frozen and air conditioning allowed the crew to achieve temperatures of 40 below to film in. The make-up was also a very big highlight too as they changed Regan into a scared and branded possessed character which physically horrified.
The flaws for me in this film were limited, the inclusion of the rattles and movement within the attic were very unnecessary and took away elements of horror whilst the vomiting didn’t transfer very well when watching the film in the modern day. My only other criticisms is how Father Karras resulted in punching the demon out of Regan in a sense, something very confusing considering the demon’s strength in other scenes of the film.
The Exorcist is undoubtedly a classic and for me a film which is very horrifying, disturbing but strangely enough entertaining. I could only wish and envy those who saw this upon the big screen when it was released as it then would have been shown in all its terror and glory. The acting and performances were great alongside somewhat brilliant sounds and effects work from both departments whilst the adaption from Blatty’s novel transferred excellently. Friedkin’s The Exorcist is film which doesn’t leave your mind and definitely deserves its status as a piece of shocking cinema.