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.
Just like Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later three years previous, The Descent is another British horror film that was both popular in the UK as well as the US producing an American sequel. Neil Marshall, director of Dog Soldiers this time takes on an all female cast that go caving and discover some more than unfriendly inhabitants. Providing thrills, jumps and shocks it truly lives up to its genre.
The film follows the character of Sarah (Shauna Mcdonald) who has just recently lost her husband and daughter in a horrific accident shown at the beginning of the film. Despite no longer being in the stage of grieving Sarah is obviously still suffering from her loss but however agrees to go on a routine caving trip with her friends to Boreham Caverns. The narrative has a side plot and a in group protagonist of Juno (Natalie Mendoza) after it becomes obvious she was having an affair with Sarah’s late husband. Juno, who’s planned this caving trip decides against the tourist options and take the girls to an unknown cave in the hope of them being the first to discover it but all this is unknown and a surprise to the girls.
When in the unknown cave system things start to go wrong and their entrance and possibly only exit becomes blocked, eventually a worried panicky Juno tells the group the truth. However they’re still far from knowing what they are getting themselves into, the cave is home to hundreds of blood thirsty monsters. These “crawlers” are fast, clever and hunt in packs for flesh and the group become top of their menu. Being hunted the group must try to escape the cave, however Sarah has other things on her mind as she sets of for revenge on Juno. The rest of film fuels on tense chase scenes, providing many jumps and scares. It also focuses on the transformation of Sarah and how troubled she really becomes, from visions of her dead daughter to extreme acts of violence.
The Descent is a very different and unique horror, for starters its all female cast is something we don’t often see and it strays from the stereotype. The “crawlers” are a new take on a monster, they however provide blood, guts and gore as they hunt the group down, creating just what we expect. The setting is also something new, however despite this innovation as a viewer you still get what you came to see, and that’s a thrilling, gore-filled horror. The acting despite not standing out is good and is something you come to expect nowadays, although Shauna Mcdonalds performance as Sarah is worth a mention. For me the editing and the graphics of the “crawlers” is something that deserves credit, they are realistic but at the same time horrifying and will really stay in your mind. The sound used also creates suspense moments, although mostly its natural diegetic score when long silences and stings are used its effective and well timed so be prepared to jump.
Neil Marshall definitely represented the British horror industry positively once again as The Descent is a great horror and its no surprise the Americans made a sequel. A film that’s somewhat discredited and underrated but for me it’s one to watch, a film very much accurate to its genre and good for a dark night.
Staring: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Christopher Eccleston
The British horror industry definitely got boosted when Danny Boyle released his post apocalyptic film in 2002. The film although low budget was a big hit in both the UK and US and even produced an American sequel 28 Weeks Later. The film starts in a lab, where animal testing on chimpanzees is taking place, when animal rights members break in to set them free it soon appears that the chimpanzees have been injected with something and are now all infected. We are given knowledge that the scientists have injected them with an “inhibitor” that causes rage, making the at first innocent and harmless chimps into blood thirsty killing machines. Ignoring warnings they free them only to be attacked and infected themselves, spreading to humans it then becomes a national pandemic wiping out the population and turning them into rage infested “zombies”.
Now knowing how the problem was caused the film focuses on the 28 days after and follows the life of Jim (Cillian Murphy) who has just woken up in hospital after a collision with a car when he was delivering a parcel on his bike. Unknown to him that his former life is now history and he’s about to walk out into a living hell he adventures across an abandoned London in search of life. However all he can find is dead, but the living dead? As he gets chased by a hoard he gets rescued by two over survivors Selena and Mark (Naomie Harris, Noah Huntley ). Held up in a corner shop they’re protected and have good and shelter and explain to a confused Jim what has happened.
Without ruining the film and giving away spoilers things go wrong when Jim searches for his family in what used to be his home. They then discover more survivors in a block of flats in a more rural London, Frank (Brendan Gleesan), a friendly cockney cab driver with a passion for wine and his daughter Hannah (Megan Burns), a 12 year old who knows how to change a tyre and hand-break turn. They set off for a “safe camp” a last resort in Manchester where they believe its safe and the military have a cure. After playing homage to Dawn of The Dead 1978 in a local Budgens they arrive in Manchester but is the answer to infection there? The rest of the film is set in an heritage countryside mansion but the zombies aren’t Jim’s only problem when he finds out the military have alternative motives.
28 Days Later is very different to other films of its genre, it takes a different approach on the “zombie” with the idea of rage, which at the time was a very common and talked about theory. I rate this film highly when looking on the technical side, for such a low budget film that used such underdeveloped equipment 28 Days Later has some remarkable shots. Danny Boyle captures the eye with an extraordinary opening sequence of a completed isolated London, something so rare and almost impossible to achieve again. He also makes it clear this is a British film unlike most others that play to the American audience and stereotype. The score and original soundtrack is also worth a mention, repetitively played throughout the film it creates a tense atmosphere but at the same time its refreshing and encouraging. Although a “horror”, 28 Days doesn’t have too many moments where you jump or gasp, it plays more on conflict between survivors and relationships. Despite this the film does have some gore and the bloody violence you would expect in the closing sequence.
Although its no classic compared to the Dawn Of The Dead’s it should be credited and for me it is one of the best British horror films in the last decade. Danny Boyle producing another must watch film as always.
Reviewing films and TV (sometimes other things) while doing a degree in Film and Literature. Find me elsewhere on tumblr: http://skruffreviews.tumblr.com Blogspot: http://skruffreviews.blogspot.co.uk Twitter: @SkruffReviews