Monday, 5 March 2012



I know it's fashionable to sneer at the so-called torture porn genre. Certainly in the snootier circles of broadsheets and late-night arts review programmes you'll never hear a good word said about the Saws and Hostels, and even within horror fandom I don't think there's a massive love for them. Well, I don't actually have a problem with torture porn films; I just have a problem with bad torture porn films. I rather like the Saws - yes, they're empty and they don't mean anything other than shrieking and sadistic gore, but they're stupid and funny and every instalment's variations on its predecessors' themes, and the impenetrably convoluted back-story makes them more interesting than films that are essentially just remakes of the original (such as the Friday The 13ths). Similarly, I do have a fondness for Eli Roth's two Hostel movies: they're actually well made movies that deliver on their promise.

Hostel Part III, however, is basically a fan fiction film: it has that "based on characters created by" credit at the start that means the idea has been farmed out to other hands, and it marks the sort of quality downturn you'd get if Eon sold off the Bond franchise and ITV picked it up. And not only is it a Hostel fan film, it's a Hangover fan film. Four buddies get together for a stag weekend in Vegas and become the prey for the Nevada branch of the Elite Hunting Club (something of a misnomer as they don't really do much hunting; presumably they wanted to call it the Elite Dismemberment Club but the name was taken): they and a couple of top escort girls are captured, due to be placed into a sealed room and butchered in front of a live studio audience of rich bastards gambling on how long they take to die.

You could make the argument that the makers are suggesting audience complicity: we rented a Hostel movie to watch half a dozen sadistically gory death scenes, so in what way are we horror audiences different from the sickos who pay to watch people die at the EHC? To which I say "Phooey!" We rented a horror movie, we didn't pay thousands to actually watch someone brutally murdered. We know the difference between fantasy and reality. Additionally: for torturers they're not very good at it. Like self-proclaimed great lovers, there's a lot of build-up that this is going to be a special and momentous - but it's a damp squib, nothing new and over very quickly. I know stuff all about torturing people but even I, incredibly squeamish and with a conscience, could probably take a good half hour taking one of these EHC douchebags apart.

There's a sense that "this sort of thing" cheapens horror cinema, that it's gratuitously sadistic with no entertainment value and no cultural value, that it's just plain sick and that it's boring. I don't agree: there's nothing wrong with "this sort of thing" when it's done well and I maintain that the first two Hostels were nicely made and shot and delivered the yuck and screaming in an unexpected manner. A nice opening scene that cleverly subverts your expectations apart, this is a pretty uninteresting movie: flatly made, nowhere near vicious enough (even though it's an 18 certificate) and you really don't care about any of the characters - you may not want to see them die horribly but you don't particularly want to see them live either. Whether or not Hostel Part III gives horror movies a bad name, it certainly gives Hostel movies a bad name.


This sort of thing:

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