"Hostel" Eli Roth's Bloody Masterpiece


Eli Roth is one sick bastard! This is exactly why he is one of my favorite directors. He is a complete horror fanatic and it. His first film Cabin Fever is an instant classic which will be reviewed on this blog in the coming weeks. Both Hostel films carry the “Quentin Tarantino Presents” credit; which of course adds a little street cred to them.

This was one of the first movies, along with Saw, to carry the lame media label of “torture porn”. Extreme gore and sadistic violence used to shock the audience. Seriously, you know there’s going to be some sick disturbing stuff in this flick. So if that offends you don’t frickin’ see it! The story revolves around three college grads who are backpacking through Europe. These are really good guys, that you could actually see yourself hanging out with. They are played by Jay Hernandez (Paxton), Derek Richardson (Josh), and Eythor Gudjonsson (Oli). The first half of the movie is set up like a skin flick on Cinemax with lots of gratuitous nudity and debauchery. The guys start out in Amsterdam, enough said. Paxton seems to be the leader of the group. Josh is a little more reserved, as he was just coming off a long relationship. Oli (the king of the swing) is most responsible for the comic relief. They meet a local guy named Alex at a club. He directs them to Bradislava, Slovakia for all the hot women they can take. He states that with all the wars, there are few men for so many beautiful women. This scene makes a strong statement that most young Americans have no idea what is happing in the world today. As there actually haven’t been any wars in Slovakia for the past 50 years. This movie has a very strong social commentary on the youth of America. Americans seem to think they have a bullet proof sense of entitlement when traveling abroad. While many people in many other countries despise Americans and their cockiness.

On the train to Bratislava, a small picturesque town in Slovakia, they meet an older business man. The man strikes up a conversation and proceeds to eat a salad with his hands. Josh freaks out when the man touches his knee (a little homophobic) and the man excuses himself.

They arrive in Bratislava and check in at the local hostel. This place is quite nice but they will have roommates. When they get to their room they walk in on two hot foreign girls changing. These are the bait girls. They invite the guys down to the spa and they instantly pair up and that night party at a local disco. Josh goes to get some fresh air and is threatened by the Bubble Gum Gang, a group of local kids that extort the tourists. He is saved by Mr. Saladhands. Coincidence? The guys all end up sleeping with the girls, but as morning breaks, Oli is missing. The next night the girls slip something into the two guy’s drinks. Paxton gets himself locked into a supply closet, saving his life. While Josh doesn’t have such luck. Josh in brought into a dank, dark, dungeon like complex and is chained to a chair. Mr. Saladhands then has his devilish way with him. He always wanted to be a surgeon, but has unsteady hands.

Paxton’s search for his friends comes up empty and he eventually confronts the now less than glamorous women they been partying with that last few days. She leads him to an “art show” at this old factory, where we get a cameo appearance by legendary Japanese horror director Takashi Miike. This crumbling building houses the operations of Elite Hunting, a worldwide organization that offers the experience of killing for a price. If you want to kill a local its cheap, while killing an American will cost you. Paxton is able to escape his torture cell, minus a few fingers. He finds out his friends are dead and plans his escape. The clients of Elite Hunting are seen as regular people with regular lives. This is part of the plot of the sequel which will be reviewed next.

The Hostel films bring forth a frightening question. For wealthy adrenaline junkies that have traveled to world; what would be the ultimate high? Writer/ Director Eli Roth came up with the idea for this story from a foreign website that offered such services. Whether this site was legit is up for speculation.

"Let the Right One In" Simply AWESOME!!


Over the past few years, the public infatuation with all things vampire has become epidemic. In my mind, this little movie from Sweden tops them all. I do however like the True Blood show on HBO. Let the Right One In is directed by Tomas Alfredson and is based on the book Let me In by John Ajvide Lindqvist (he also adapted it into the screenplay.) There is also an American remake in production that should hit theatres next year.

We begin with Oskar, a twelve-year-old boy living with his mother in a suburb of Stockholm. His parents are divorced and Oskar usually keeps to himself. He is constantly bullied by a group of kids at school and dreams of revenge. He collects newspaper clippings of murders, and violent crimes, while also carrying a knife with him. Although he never acts on these violent urges, it simmers just below the surface. Oskar’s interests are peaked with the arrival of new tenants that move into to an adjoining apartment. Eli is a girl that looks to be about Oskar’s age, while Haken is the older man that accompanies her. Oskar and Eli meet outside at a jungle gym a few nights, both seem interested in one another, but their conversations are short. Eli is always barefoot and underdressed for the weather but is never cold. Haken, on the other hand, packs up a case of curious objects and goes into the woods. After this scene we begin to see what Hakan does for Eli, he kills people and drains there blood for her consumption. Haken has to abandon his kill at the risk of being found out by some hikers and a very inquisitive dog. Eli is not pleased by this and must take matters into her own hands.

There is also a secondary storyline that involves a group of locals who are also interested in the newcomers. They try talking to Haken in the local café, but he just brushes them off. Later that night as one of the drunken men walks under a bridge; Eli is able to get his attention by pleading for help. She then feeds on him and Haken discards the body. The real heart and soul of this movie is in the relationship between Eli and Oskar. You have to keep in mind throughout the movie that these are really twelve-year-old kids. Oskar is aware that Eli is different and doesn’t seem bothered by it. It only strengthens his curiosity. This really comes into play after Eli can’t stomach some candy Oskar gives her. As he hugs her she tells him “If I wasn’t a girl would you still like me?” Although he is not sure what she means, he doesn’t make a big deal of it. After another bully attack leaves Oskar with a bandage on his face; he shares his problem with Eli. She tells him to “hit back, hard.” Oskar does such a thing at an ice skating pond, during a school field trip. Oskar is punished but has renewed self-confidence.

We go back to Haken as he has a teen boy hung upside down in the school locker room. He is interrupted yet again by the boy’s friends. Haken does not want to be found out so he pours acid onto his face scaring him almost beyond recognition. Eli scales the hospital walls (in her Spider-Man scene) to Haken’s room. Feeling that he has failed her, he lets Eli feed on him before jumping to his death. It seems as if Eli has found a new protector and provider in Oskar, but is he really willing and able to do the job? I felt some of the scenes between Oskar and Eli were way above their age, although Eli was in reality over 200 years old. After Haken’s death, she visits Oskar at his window and he invites her in. She then undresses (off camera) and gets into bed with him. Oskar is surprised that she is so cold. There are no sexual implications with this scene, but it shows Eli’s growing trust and overall need for Oskar. In a further scene in the school basement, Oskar makes an effort to become closer to Eli. He purposely cuts his hand in the old “blood brothers” routine. At the site of his blood, Eli loses control and ends up licking the blood off the floor. Extremely embarrassed she asks him to leave. Eli then comes to Oskar’s place and lets him know “You have to invite me in” Oskar is defiant and asks “What if I don’t?” Eli takes a few steps inside and begins to bleed all over. Oskar freaks out and “invites her in.” The following scene is one of the more head-scratching scenes of the movie. As Eli cleans her self up in the bathroom, Oskar hands her some fresh clothes and takes a peak while she’s charging and it’s revealed that Eli is neither male nor female.

As the locals start to suspect Eli in the death of their friend, one of the men breaks into her apartment and finds her asleep in the bathtub. Oskar comes over at just the right time and shouts “No”. This gives Eli the time she needs to pounce on the would be assassin. She tells Oskar that she has to leave town. In the meantime, the bully from school has recruited his even more ruthless brother to get back at Oskar. In one of the films, final scenes at the schools swimming pool; Oskar is told to either hold your breathe for three minutes or lose an eye. The brother grabs Oskar by the hair and holds him underwater. Oskar starts to lose his breathe and panic. There is an intense commotion up above and a severed head falls to the bottom of the pool. Oskar is released as the arm holding him also starts to fall to the bottom. Oskar jumps to the surface to see Eli has rescued him. Thus completing Eli’s full need and devotion to Oskar. The final scene finds Oskar alone on a train with a large box, with Eli inside. Oskar has become the new Haken.

"All The Boys Love Mandy Lane" Controversial Teen Horror


This teen slasher flick has reached an almost urban legend like status here in the United States among horror fans. Just like the recently released Halloween horror anthology "Trick’r Treat". Mandy Lane was filmed in 2006 in Austin, Texas and surrounding areas. Directed by Jonathan Levine, whose follow up film The Wackness came out this summer. Although Mandy Lane did have a U.S. premiere at the South by Southwest festival in Austin in 2007, it has yet to make any kind of theatrical run or even a DVD release. However, it is available on DVD and Blu-ray in other countries (I got my copy from the U.K.). This leaves many fans wondering “What’s the frickin’ hold up?” If you ask me I would have to say money and politics. First, original horror movies, in general, don’t make a lot of money in theatres (I say “original” since it’s not a sequel or a crappy remake). Then you see that this flick only cost about a million dollars to make, which is peanuts compared to any movie in any genre. So you’d think they would have no problem making back there investment, right? This is probably where the politics come into play. Certain plotlines of this movie seem to draw a strong and uneasy connection to the Columbine killings. Although it doesn’t take place in a school per se, but a sprawling ranch. The center of everything in this story is Many Lane herself, played by Amber Heard. She is the hottest girl in school and as the title says all the boys love her. Mandy is the clean and pure picture of innocence. Her parents died when she was young and has been raised by her aunt. She is friends with a boy named Emmet, a sort of every man, not a jock, nerd, or any other stereotype. Mandy invites Emmet to a party held at the blond-haired “jock” Dylan’s house. Emmet is really not welcome there as Dylan constantly harasses him. While drinking on the roof Emmet proceeds to convince Dylan that if he were to jump off and into the pool that it would really impress Mandy. So the drunken Dylan jumps and comes up a bit short and hits his head on the edge of the pool, killing him instantly. Mandy cuts her ties with Emmet. The story flashes forward nine months, as a group of popular kids plans a getaway at a ranch. Mandy agrees to join them and this is really where the bulk of the movie takes place.

The rest of the cast does seem to fit into the regular character stereotypes for a horror movie. You have the ditzy blonde girl, the hot guy and of course the token black guy. Although Mandy is blonde and uber-hot, she doesn’t seem to fit any of the usual clichés. She is smart, well spoken, and seems fairly grounded. Bird (the token black guy) is the first one to put the moves on her, but it denied. At this point, we also meet Garth, the studly ranch hand, who lives in a shed near the house. After many, many drinks and many, many bong hits; the teens start to disappear. First its one of the guys, then the brunette, then Bird. Is it the mysterious ranch hand who is doing this or some other homicidal maniac? Unlike most teen slasher flicks when the killer isn’t revealed until the last five minutes. The viewer finds out with about a half hour to go. You would think this would work against the plot, but for some reason, it plays quite well as there are more twists to come.

This movie really keys into the intense emotional highs and lows of high school teens no matter what clique or group they belong to. The girls (and boys for that matter) all have body image issues and are always defending themselves. Many Lane is, of course, the hottest girl in school and she knows it. In a scene where that all go swimming Mandy plays the role of a tease absolutely perfectly. She can make any guy do anything she wants. Because you never know she might really like you. Not! This story is effectively grounded in reality, and the feelings it brings to the surface. There is no masked psychopath, no supernatural demons. This is a story that I’m sure most everybody can relate to in one way or another. There is a Mandy Lane in every high school in America. The question is what will you do for Mandy Lane?

"Chungking Express" by Wong Kar Wai


This amazing little piece of Hong Kong cinema, directed by Wong Kar-Wai, is a great example of a modern story told in modern times. This film effortlessly tells two different stories about four different characters in a very fast and kinetic pace.  Both stories bring forth the themes of coincidence, chance meetings, breaking free of routines and overcoming heartbreak. This all takes place as China is about to overtake rule of Hong Kong in 1997.

The first story involves Qiwu, a policeman who finds himself in a sort of personal and professional crisis. His girlfriend May has broken up with him and at one point he almost gives up on anybody calling him to work on a case. Qiwu is a good man, but a lonely man who seems to find solace in food and jogging. He buys cans of pineapple that must have a May 1st expiration date. This is his birthday and also a self-conceived deadline for May to reconcile with him. The storylines jump between this and one of a drug smuggling woman in a trench coat and sunglasses. She gathers together a bunch of Indian men in an attempt to smuggle a load of coke. These men have no respect or regard for the woman who pays them upfront. The men eventually bolt and she is left searching for them. She eventually finds them in a hostel and kills them all. After Qiwu eats 30 cans of pineapple (in one sitting) he ventures out to bar and proceeds to puke his guts out. He is now free of the memory of his five-year relationship with May and looks to move on. He starts to chat with the trench coat woman who pays no attention to him. They eventually share their sorrows and drink until bar closing. She eventually passes out in his apartment. Qiwu seems to be an insomniac as he watches two movies on T.V. while consuming four chef salads. The woman leaves without notice. She then leaves him a happy birthday message on his voice mail. Qiwu leaves us with the feeling that love is a can of pineapple that doesn’t expire.

We now go to a second story involving another cop known only as #663 (his badge number). He and Qiwu both frequent The Midnight Express, a local food fast food stand. #663 is often in his police uniform as Qiwu is always in plain clothes. A young free-spirited girl who is obsessed with the song “California Dreaming” starts working at the Express and has a crush on #663. After he has a fling with a flight attendant, #663 is once again lonely and talking to dish rags, stuffed animals and other inanimate objects. The flight attendant leaves him a letter and his apartment key at the Express, in which #663 refuses to pick up. The girl sees this as an opportunity to do some cheering up and possibly more. She sneaks into his apartment and does a little redecorating (and cleaning). She tries to shake things up for ole #663, to show him what he is missing in life. She is caught on a few occasions and is completely embarrassed. #663 has been “sleepwalking” through life and this girl is just the person to wake him up. In a twist, #663 finally asks her out, but she stands him up and goes to California. She leaves him a self-drawn boarding pass dated for 1 year later. After the year has passed she comes back to find that #663 has bought the Midnight Express and is renovating it. She is now a flight attendant and things have come full circle.