Monday

THE DEVIL'S REJECTS vs. HOSTEL


HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES was my least favorite movie of 2003. So why in the hell did I waste my time with THE DEVIL’S REJECTS?

1) I like Rob Zombie. The style he puts into his music, videos and concerts is hip and entertaining.
2) The reviews for this movie were way better than CORPSES. (In fact the films Metacritic average is 53, a hair above the middle.)
3) Two thumbs up say Ebert & Roper
4) I liked the idea of taking horror movie characters from the first film and making an action showdown of evil vs. evil. And I liked the trailers.
5) Unlike with CORPSES, there was no studio interference this time. So this would be the first real film BY Rob Zombie.
6) Anyone who makes a terrible movie debut has to make a better 2nd film because you learn from some of your mistakes…right?

Well, you know what they say about fooling me twice…shame on me.

Yes, THE DEVIL’S REJECTS is a better film, but that’s because Zombie’s aim is lower this time. CORPSES was an attempt to make a scare fest along the lines of 70’s classics like THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. This film recreates the cheap-o, drive in, schlockfests that Zombie grew up on. So why do we praise him for successfully recreating the feel of a whole junk pile of terrible movies.

And he’s got the moves down cold, right down to the overdone dialogue and bad acting. Raise a glass everyone. This is what makes Tarantino a genius. He grew up on these movies, but is such a good filmmaker on his own that he transforms crap into crystal. Zombie just polishes the crap and presents it as a fresh gift to the fans.

Let me get past the fact that Zombie still can’t write dialogue that sounds believable, create characters that feel real, or direct. (Although he obviously discovered how to use the freeze frame this time.) What killed the movie for me was the tone he took towards the characters.

I seriously believe Zombie wants you to identify with these outlaw rebel killers, but he takes their dirty deeds too far and completely turns the audience against them. Thrill killers like in NATURAL BORN KILLERS, I get. But this lot is detestable and will laugh while they stick a gun down a woman’s underwear. They’re proud about their sexual molestations as well as their casual killings. I found myself rooting for the sheriff to gun them down.

But not really because, except for the dusty locations, the film never feels real. It’s a bunch of people playing dress up and vomit. And the worst of the bunch is (no surprise) the director’s girlfriend, Sheri Moon Zombie. Now Sheri’s a good-looking gal, and Mr. Zombie has a fascination with showing us her butt. That’s because it’s the only thing she has to contribute to the movie. At least her cohorts feel like they did some time in prison before this film. Acting is the only bad thing she seems capable of.


A few days ago I attended a special screening of HOSTEL, the new horror film from Eli Roth (CABIN FEVER.) The film is not completely finished and has not been rated. I’ll tell you right now, the version I saw was NC-17 without a doubt, and it will take a lot of work to get this an ‘R’ rating. It’s possible, but it would be cheating the exact audience that would be interested in seeing it.

Here’s the official press release on the movie, and it’s the only plot I will divulge.

“HOSTEL is about two American friends who go on a trip to Europe, and they’re looking for excitement, girls and drugs and all the stuff that you can’t find in America. Someone tells them about this hostel where there are tons of beautiful girls who’ll have sex with anyone who’s a foreigner. So these two guys and their Icelandic friend go to this place, and it turns out to be true; but they find themselves in a whole lot of trouble.”

The film is contains heaps of nudity and gallons of gruesome carnage. But Roth has an opinion about the material, and knows that eventually it all goes up on a 40ft. screen for an audience to watch. He never holds back, but he never rubs your nose in it either because he wants to keep your attention. He wants you to like and hate the characters and the situation, not the director who is making you watch. While this film is far more adult, it gets the tone right and I had a good time.

I have to admit, I liked CABIN FEVER, but I'll never defend or recommend CABIN FEVER. the tone is all over the place and the film runs out of story about an hour in. But I loved the original idea of the villian being a flesh eating virus and scenes like when the diseased guy tries to steal their truck and spews blood all over the place.

HOSTEL is a huge improvement over CABIN FEVER. (A discussion group following the screening unanimously confirmed the same.) One reason may be that good ol' Quinten Tarantino helped Eli with the script on this one. (In exchange the film is being "Presented" by Q.T., much like HERO was.) So the tone is much more even. Plus there's actual acting this time.

HOSTEL is a very special type of horror movie. It’s not all that scary, and while the film is ridiculously violent, it isn’t trying to be gross like DEAD ALIVE, RE-ANIMATOR or the EVIL DEAD movies. Roth doesn’t keep the violence off screen, but he doesn’t try to make you vomit. Of course, everybody has their own level of what they’re willing to watch, but most of the discussion group felt that the movie was extremely violent and gory, but not excessively so. My opinion is that it’s one of the most violent and graphic movies ever made, but, unlike THE DEVIL'S REJECTS it didn’t cross the line into bad taste.

So what type of horror film is it? HOSTEL achieves its terror by creating a great amount of unease. This film really exploits the “stranger in a strange land” feeling of being in a foreign country. A lot of the Europeans in the movie seem just a bit off center. Not all out David Lynch weird, but quirky. And Roth’s best trick here is the way he makes you feel uneasy while he slowly springs his trap.


There is a jaw-dropping amount of nudity in the opening half-hour. This movie is gratuitous product placement for breast implants as nearly every scene in the opening section has some form of nudity (the specialty being a topless girl, but the film isn’t lacking for ideas and combinations). And this isn’t artistic or gritty nudity. It’s silicone-enhanced, in your face, casual rampant nudity.

So the film wins points for sheer brazenness even if it ensures that only a small group of people will actually want to see it. What finally won me over is the story. You see as the plot shows its secrets, HOSTEL unveils a truly unique idea. Roth makes you wait for it, but it’s a great revelation. I was feeling like the sadism was pointless and aimless, and I thought in the end the whole structure would collapse in a heap of meaningless violence. But, HOSTEL has a reason for being, and in that reveal the film immediately became something I would recommend.
[In the Discussion Group, everyone’s favorite aspect of the film was its originality.]

In interviews, Roth states that HOSTEL is a tribute to one of his favorite filmmakers, Takashi Miike (pictured with Roth above). Having seen a lot of Miike’s work, the comparison fits. (Miike even makes an interesting cameo in the film.) If you know of AUDITION and ICHI THE KILLER, then you might know what to expect here. And if you’ve seen either of them (or if you thought SAW was too tame) I would feel safe recommending this to you. Otherwise I suggest you stay far away. In a recent Ebert & Roper, Roper called THE DEVIL’S REJECTS “the sickest, most depraved and twisted movie we’ll see this year.”

Roper didn’t know that HOSTEL was coming.

[For The Record: of the 25 people in the Discussion Group 8 said they loved it, 14 said they liked it. 22 said it was better than they were expecting.]

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm not usually into horror/gory movies, but i really want to see this movie. and i'm not the type of person who ever wants to go and see movies. weird.

2:22 PM  
Anonymous Kingpin Of The Midwest said...

Well, I just happened to HEAR "Presented By QT" as the TV teaser/flash teaser flew by and looked up quickly enough to see the words "HOSTEL, NOT what you will expect." or the like. The initials QT (or UT for that matter) will ALWAYS bring me to any film. In particular after reading the comments about 'The Devil Rejects vs Hostel' by the author. Well written!
I do appreciate this genre of film style and have found the Japanese know how to pull it off well. I'm not nearly as deeply 'into it' as I would like to have the time to be, but I am getting there.
As I write, "The Grudge" is playing. Now here is where I would draw the line. I happened across "Ju-On" and was stunned at it's ability to grip with fear me and my subtitle reading ability (the ONLY way to experience a non-American film) Then, of course, it was Americanized by the same director and producers, I believe. I have steadfastly refused to allow my eyes to view a single frame of "The Grudge" for fear of ruining my experience w/"Ju-On". I was dead on..,

7:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All of you, get help for your passive-agressive disorders, seriously. Sure, I hate Christians as much as the next atheist but: Aimless sadism is aimless sadism.

Those that dig 'Hostel' obviously would enjoy trying some of this stuff out one day. Don't even pretend you're not thinking it. You obviously want to. Admitting your denial is the first step to rehabilitation.

For me, call me crazy, I didn't like it. Strange as it may seem, regardless of the fact that I'm fully aware that it's "all fake", my nerves are unflinching, and my stomach is made of titanium alloy, I just don't get my rocks off watching frightened vomiting hostages get their arms, legs and eyeballs cut off because I deal with my personal issues in a more effective way.

People that enjoy this egocentric self-indulgeance prove that we will live through many more Nazi Holocausts, Armenian Genocides and Hiroshimas to come.

It's called "problem-solving", people. When you all deal with your empty nihilism, the profit for these idiot movies will plummet. I don't want to have to shoot you people down in self-defense.

8:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw both of these movies, and I myself prefered The Devils Rejects. Where Hostel was disgusting, The Devils Rejects had a better plot, it was a tale of revenge and it wasn't tits being flashed every moment Rob Zombie had a chance. It was also a good finale to the series, and that's the way I like my movies, with only two movie sequels.
Now while Hostel had a good plot, as well as a good ending, it just dragged on for too long and made me feel stupid with the two stupid bitches. I just also thought that they over amped people over the gore, making it seem worse than it actually was, in which, compared to some of the shit I've seen, the eye removal part would have been mild at most.
Besides the Firefly Clan was so cool. Plus Otis is a sadistic son of a bitch, and I love him for that. Baby was a bit too barbie-ish, but I still liked her. And Captain Spaulding, well shit the bed, he is great, best character out of the whole damn series.

9:44 PM  

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