I have not seen Hostel, and why would I? The trailer, easily the most upsetting snippet of film out there, says that "at recent advanced screenings, paramedics were called in response to theater-goers' reactions to the film's intensity. You've been warned." This preview was approved for all audiences? Every time it blared before a feature in the last weeks, I buried my face in my friends' shoulders. I don't want to see a movie about a Slovakian torture chamber where paying customers have the privilege of slowly dismembering unsuspecting tourists. It's just not my thing, even after a couple of beers.
Evidently, it's everyone else's thing. Following in the footsteps of Saw and Saw II, Hostel was No. 1 at the weekend box office, hauling $20.5 mil. Assuming an average ticket price of $6.50, about 3.1 million people started their new year by wallowing in the gore and glory of torture. All this while various Cabinet officials tour the globe to assure everyone the United States doesn't torture detainees. We recoil in embarrassment and outrage when we hear the government tortures, but then we pay to watch torture. I think this is hilarious and insane.
The horror film genre is respected, enduring and, for the most part, sanctioned as art by academia and cinephilia. It seems to me, though, that there is enough difference between the intentions and methods of Halloween (for example) and Hostel to resurrect the question of merit. Halloween is all about a monster trying to kill people; the suspense is torturous. Hostel appears to be only about torture itself. Should it belong in the genre of pornography?
I'm not one to draw lines or inveigh against alleged artlessness; directors can make their movies as sick as they want, and people can delight all they want in the depths of the sickness. I'm just fascinated about this contrary correlation between the box office and the political climate. Again, I say all this without having seen Hostel. I'd appreciate comment, especially from crazies who have seen (and appreciated?) it.