Here is the true story behind Hostel. Wanderlust, the strong desire to travel, has compelled many young explorers to traverse the world in search of thrills during their summer break. Thanks to Eli Roth, many of these globetrotters may think twice before spending the night in budget hotel accommodations. Today, we’re checking in to the true story behind the hostel, the classic horror film by torture porn auteur Eli Roth.
A Shot of Inspiration
Hostel’s writer, producer, and director, Eli Roth, says, the idea for the film came from a very creepy encounter with a certain website. In an interview with dread central, Roth said, quote,
It started with a conversation with ain’t it cool new’s, Harry Knowles. Harry and I were talking about sick stuff we’d seen on the internet, like that guy in texas who set it up so you could control a gun and hunt lions and wild game online.
Roth told Knowles that the FBI shut the enterprising hunter down. And his legal defense was that his goal was to make it easier for handicapped people to hunt. Roth mused, why wouldn’t they just put a human being in a room?
Knowles took a pause and replied, well, I actually found something like that.
Knowles went on to send Roth a link to a very disturbing website. In the interview, Roth described the site plainly, quote,
You could go to Thailand and, for $10,000, walk into a room and shoot somebody in the head.
Apparently, the site claimed that the person you were killing had willingly signed up for the experience and that part of the fee would go to the family of the deceased. The site boasted that it provided the thrill of taking another human life.
Well, this deeply disturbed Roth. He didn’t care whether the site was real or not. What bothered me most was that someone could be twisted enough to come up with a cash-for-life business.
Roth knew of people who couldn’t get high off drugs or climax with hookers due to overuse. Maybe, he thought, some of these addicts, hungry for a new thrill, could go as far as to kill someone just to feel something.
Roth recounts that he was so enthralled by the sight that he wanted to make a documentary about it.
However, in order for him to proceed deeper into the site, he’d have to provide personal information. Ultimately, that paywall was too high for Roth. He figured, quote,
These people kill for a living. I’m not going to find out.
Lucky for horror fans, Roth had a kernel of an idea. And he swam with it.
After the release of Roth’s freshman film cabin fever, he was awash in praise from several industry figures, including Quentin Tarantino, who placed the film in his top 10 of the year and immediately reached out to Roth in hopes of working with him on a future project.
Roth was flooded with offers to direct remakes of classic horror titles, like the last house on the left, the fog, and a new film in the texas chainsaw massacre franchise.
But Tarantino advised him to turn down those offers and to instead focus on creating an original horror story.
While swimming in Tarantino’s pool one day, Roth revisited the twisted concept of a cash-for-life enterprise. He pitched the murder vacation website as a film. And Tarantino loved the idea. He encouraged Roth to immediately start writing a draft that day, which later formed the basis for the hostel.
A Film Is Born
Hostel premiered at the Toronto international film festival in 2005 and stars Jay Hernandez and Derek Richardson, two backpackers who meet up with a friend for a euro trip that takes an unexpected and painful turn for the worse.
There are two endings for the film; theatrical run, which is reasonably gratifying. And the other, a director’s cut, which leaves things in a dark and open-ended place.
Whichever cut you watch, you’ll learn very quickly why Eli Roth is among the so-called splat pack, a group of independent filmmakers who since 2002 have directed, written, and produced r-rated horror films notable for their low budgets and extreme ultraviolence.
Hostel opened theatrically on January 6, 2006, in the united states and earned $19.6 million in its first weekend, ranking number one at the box office.
By the end of its run, six weeks later, the film had grossed $47.3 million at the Us box office and $33.3 million internationally for a worldwide total of $80.6 million.
While horror fans generally loved the film, critics were polarized.
One French film critic listed hostel as the best American film of 2006, calling it an example of modern consumerism.
David Edelstein of new york magazine saw the film a little differently. He believed it used excessive violence to excite audiences as if it were a sexual act. Thus, he coined the phrase “torture porn”.
Edelstein wasn’t the only one to have a problem with the film. Roth inadvertently offended an entire country.
Officials in the countries of Slovakia and the Czech Republic were both disgusted and outraged by the film’s portrayal of their countries as undeveloped, poor, and uncultured lands suffering from high criminality, war, and prostitution.
They firmly believed that the film would damage the good reputation of Slovakia and affect tourism. The tourism board of Slovakia went so far as to invite Roth on an all-expenses-paid trip to their country so he could see for himself that it’s not simply a grim landscape of rundown factories, ghettos, and kids who kill for bubblegum.
Tomas Galbavy, a Slovak member of parliament, offered his feelings to Roth, stating that the film offended him and that he thought all Slovaks should feel offended.
Defending himself, Roth said, the film was not meant to be offensive, arguing, quote,
Americans do not even know that this country exists. My film is not a geographical work but aims to show American’s ignorance of the world around them.
Roth has since repeatedly argued that despite the texas chainsaw massacre series, people still travel to texas. Regardless of Slovakia’s opinion, by all other accounts, the film was a success. And with the box office receipts to prove it, a sequel was greenlit.
The ill-fated second film takes place in the aftermath of the events of the first hostel. Titled hostel– part ii, it was again written and directed by Roth and executive produced by Quentin Tarantino.
This time around, Roth decided to up the ante and follow female protagonists. The film stars Lauren German, Heather Matarazzo, and bijou Phillips as three American art students studying in Rome who are directed to a Slovak village, where they’re kidnapped and taken to a facility in which wealthy clients pay to torture and kill unsuspecting victims.
If you think the plot sounds familiar, don’t worry. You’re not the only one who feels that way. Some critics found the sequel to be simply a rehash of the first installment. Still, other critics applauded the film’s improvement on its predecessor’s plot and production value.
Unfortunately for the film, though, the overall positive reviews couldn’t save its opening weekend box office numbers from pirates.
Hostel– part ii ultimately earned less than its predecessor at the box office. The film grossed $17 million in the Us by the end of its theatrical run. And remember the original hostel made $19 million-plus in its opening weekend alone. Roth believes the sequel’s dismal showing was due to a workprint of the film getting leaked onto the internet prior to its theatrical release.
One publication listed hostel– part ii as the most pirated film ever. Overseas, the film wasn’t getting much help either, as several countries banned it from theaters.
Rest assured that any film working in the torture porn subgenre will be rated r. But to be banned takes some truly twisted content. You see, there’s the famous Lorna scene that is so graphic, so bloody, and so torture-filled that distributors sent Germany an edited version. But even that wasn’t enough.
A court in Munich ruled that the release of the film in either its original or edited form would be punishable by law.
In New Zealand, meanwhile, the film was banned outright after the distributor refused to make further cuts in order to receive an r-18 rating there.
In the UK, the house of commons used stills from the film as examples of extreme pornography that could be illegal to possess under their proposed law. The film did have its defenders. Writer and attorney Julie Hilden fought against film censorship in her essay,
Why are critics so hostile to hostel– part ii?
Hilden argues that, quote,
many of the visceral depictions of violence in these types of movies conveyed strong messages that no viewer could miss. Ironically, these messages, especially in the hostel films, are typically anti-violence.
Regardless of how the rest of the world felt, Hollywood saw profit on its $10.2 million investment put the third film into production.
The Final Stop – Hostel part III
Hostel part III was released in 2011 and is the third and final installment of the Hostel trilogy. Directed by an executive producer of hostel I and II, Scott Spiegel, this was the only film in the series to not have Eli Roth involved in the production.
The film moved the elite hunting club from Slovakia to las vegas and centered the plot on four men attending a bachelor party. They are enticed by prostitutes to join them at a private soiree in the middle of nowhere. And, of course, the men attend.
The group quickly realizes that they are attending the most sadistic show in town and that they unfortunately are the main event.
Ultimately, the film never made a theatrical release and instead went direct to DVD and VOD. This was the result of the film earning low scores from test audiences.
While things didn’t end well for the franchise, Eli Roth’s two contributions to the trilogy catapulted his position as the splat pack frontman and led to further entries into the genre, like 2013’s green inferno and 2015’s knock-knock, starring Keanu reeves. This is the true story behind the hostel.