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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Hostel (2005)

Genre: Horror

Director: Eli Roth

Writer: Eli Roth

Starring: Jay Hernandez, Derek Richardson, Eythor Gudjonsson

Rating: ★★★

Eli Roth’s Hostel became a mass talking point and a somewhat cinema sensation when it was first released becoming a real zeitgeist, it was even claimed to be “the scariest and most horrifying film ever made” making way for a new genre of horror labelled “torture porn”.  Hostel is simply a gore-fest and one which is filled with screams, blood, teeth, guts and even eye-balls. Visually disturbing it becomes a great horror with a somewhat average concept and acting as the man behind Cabin Fever does create a film which has a lasting effect.

Three young American backpackers Paxton, Josh, Oli (Jay Hernandez, Derek Richardson, Eythor Gudjonsson ) decide to travel to Amsterdam for a week of nothing more than sex, however when they arrive they realise how there’s more tourists than locals and no one is interested. After missing curfew and being locked outside their youth hostel a man invites them into his house where he explains and tells the story of a hostel in Slovakia where the woman are wild and have taste for American men.  Intrigued and hooked the group travel to Eastern Europe however they find to their horror that the described hostel is actually “to die for” when they see through a group who exhibit torture to a community, which pays to kill and slaughter.

Hostel has a simple concept, one which is seen throughout horror, a group of teenagers become isolated in a location they’re not familiar with and then encounter uncontrollable danger.  Eli Roth’s version works very well and in a sense is realistic. There is no real complexity but some scenes can be really tense but the main feature throughout is obviously the gore and the huge amounts of blood. Once the first act of the film is over, which consists of nothing more than perverted scenes and nudity, the action begins to unravel. We see torture although many of the killings are of screen; Roth sets the tone with a gruesome moment as someone gets both Achilles tendons cut and attempts to escape with their hills splitting apart. Aside from a few minor follow ups including someone labelled as “Edward Saladhands” everything is rather out of the blue and attempts to heighten as much brutality as possible.

Acting isn’t something Hostel attempts to thrive in; therefore it is only average despite some of the painful screams sounding and looking realistic and overall the main cast being fun and believable. What Hostel does attempt to thrive in and succeed in however, is their special effects and make-up.  Over 150 gallons of blood were used in the making of the film and that in itself describes just how much gore it contains. It was also reported that “the eyeball scene” make-up took more than three hours to apply. The make-up and effects are good as they do make you want to cringe slightly but being very overpowering and over the top it does take elements away from realism and subtlety.

Hostel is nothing more than a film that wants to create as much gore and brutality as possible with no other aspect being a highlight. The first viewing is horrific with scenes which do make you want to turn away but upon multiple viewings it really has no effect and becomes a very boring film. The first act of Hostel too is very droning and seems to drag with action and the main plot only really starting to take shape around the half-way point. It also seems to be filled with silly actions to heighten the gore, such as our main character choosing to turn back into danger and choose a hammer over a gun as a weapon. It is obvious that although horrifying it isn’t a classic which will last for ages due to the amount of flaws.

Eli Roth’s Hostel is a film which fulfils its proclaimed expectation, which is a gore filled hour and half with tonnes of blood, sex and violence.  It doesn’t have any special stand-out qualities other than the effects but nevertheless makes for a good watch upon your first ever viewing. With scenes that will stay in your mind long after the end credits, it is horrifying and a worth-while experience for horror fans.