Saturday, February 11, 2006

Sweet Valentine

EvEr SiNcE wE stalked each other on Xanga
You gave me anon. eprops; filled my
Dreams with kaleidoscopic manga,
I've wanted to buy you dil-shaped balloons.
Now you will call me yo babydaddy, yayy!
And me you snookums. Hug, kiss,
And stop traffic with aww-inspiring PDA.
Common bayyybee shake that kundi
I'll be your munda, you my mundi.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Hostel: Slasher rehash (spoiler alter)

If The Saw has taught movie audiences anything, it is that horror movies without suspense are about as scary as wathcing back-to-back Discovery Channel series on heart transplants over dinner. In the post- Scary Movie world where every horror-movie cliche has been parodied to its premature death - gore is at best the new kitsch. However, this insight seems to have eluded Eli Roth and the rest of the makers of Hostel entirely, who work under the assumption that packing in gratuitous amounts of blood, gristle and gore into 90 minutes of celluloid is sufficient excuse for a horror film.

Jay Hernandez and Derek Richardson play stereotypical American college students Paxton and Josh visiting Europe with the sole aim of sowing their wild oats throughout the old world one last time before getting back to the grind of the real world and careers. Jaded by all that even Amsterdam has to offer, Paxton, Josh and their Icelandic drifter buddy Oli take up the suggestion of a mole-lipped Russian teenager who promises them what is virtually one unending orgy in an East European hostel that is off all standard tourist guides. As the plot unfolds, the Americans discover that the hostel with its hypersexed Slavic denizens is actually a honey-pot to lure young tourists who become passive victims of acts so depraved that it shocks even these itinerant thrill-seekers. It comes as no surprise to anyone that the mole-scarred Russian and the East European girls were well in on the real operation the whole time.

The greatest untapped potential of Hostel lies in its premise - that sexual depravity is no longer sufficiently edgy for the MTV generation. Satiated as we are by the universality of sex in popular culture, the film steals a glance into the bottomless pit of human degradation; into the very macabre and the fear that stems from the knowledge that as humans, we are right at the edge of this chasm. It is a fear that owes its existence in some measure to the irrational acrophobic desire to step off this precipice. However, belying the promises that the trailers and promos make, director and writer Eli Roth misses out on the tremendous potential for a true psychological horror here. Instead, the movie degenerates into one long disgusting abbatoir scene with rusty surgical paraphernalia and a perverse game of guess-the-part-to-be-mutiliated-next. 

It is the sleepy small-town setting of Silence of the Lambs or Texas Chainsaw Massacre that makes their deviant killers real. But Hostel's plot takes us far from the American heartland to a modern day Transylvania mired in post-industrial decay where the deviants are hammy social outcasts whose motivations for perversion are left unclear. There are too many half baked explanations about art and of experiencing flesh in its most basic form, and a repeated insistence in the script about how the perps are trying to get their edge, but the premise is still left without adequate grounding. Displaced in their physical and psychological settings, the events unfolding in the Hostel seem implausible, and by implication the horror and suspense of the film remain remote to the audience. Your stomach might churn but you won't get any scary dreams after you watch Hostel.  

This is the last time I go to watch a movie with the same expectations as 'Kill Bill' merely because Quentin Tarantino 'presents' it. While Kill Bill and Pulp Fiction were highly stylized paeans to a variety of genres that have influenced popular culture and film, Hostel is just another slasher flick that recreates the most trite of set-pieces to ever populate a film. It reaches back to the oldest morality play in a high-school horror flick - all debauching fornicators must face the deadly consequences of their sins. And evil comes to haunt our hormonally charged trio as well. Throw in some Cold War stereotypes of scowling East European men with a fondness for black leather trenchcoats and immoral Soviet-bloc whores and you have what is fundamentally a combination of every horror flick you have ever seen on cable TV. Ultimately Hostel disappoints because it builds none of the suspense and dread that viewers have come to expect in a modern horror film.