Monday, May 4, 2009

Hostel territory

Here's a blog I originally posted on Myspace (remember Myspace?). I was inspired to put it up on here after reading a clever queer reading of Hostel on Camp Blood, an amusing site that reviews horror films from a gay perspective. (See the newly added link at right.) I've also been psyched since Eli Roth announced a new feature length film based on his brilliantly grotesque "Thanksgiving" trailer from Grindhouse. ... Just saw "Hostel" for the first time. Interesting movie. Fairly creepy, and disgusting as all shit at times. I found the movie to be fascinatingly rife with psychosexual implications, actually. The film, about three horndog guys backpacking through Europe in search of T & A, was both casually homophobic and rather homoerotic. One of the boys teases another for his "fanny pack" and suggests he and someone else at the club have "fannypack sex . . . and jizz all over each other." Their other friend Oli is constantly mooning people and showing off or referring to his "shaved balls." We also see a fair amount of the boys' flesh, and their sexual exploits seem contingent on a camaraderie with each other; in an early scene, we even see two guys in the same room, having sex with girls and banging their fists together. It's all reminiscent of some gay porn fantasy of straight frat guys who might just be open to playing with each other for lack of girls. The Dutch Businessman who is central to the plot also has a notable degree of stereotypical, urbane gay affectation, and freaks out Josh by placing his hand on Josh's thigh. Josh freaks out, whilst his friends tease him for "finally hooking up." Later, when Josh runs into the Businessman again, he apologizes for his earlier reaction. The older man tells him that he understands and that "for me, having a family was the right choice . . . but you have to decide what's right for you." It really does seem like he suspects Josh is in the closet and is encouraging him to pursue his own path. In the next scene, all three boys have sex with women in the same room, and Josh keeps looking over at Paxton; one has to wonder what the meaning of this is. Josh is ostensibly trying to get over an ex-girlfriend, and yet he seems more than a little sexually ambivalent. Eventually Josh settles down, as does Paxton, the girls riding them. They're the ones being f***ed here, not the girls, a dynamic that is echoed later when one of the girls declares "Now you are *my* bitch." The scene ends on Josh, enjoying the throes of orgasm; it revolves around his facial expressions, with the girl more like window dressing. Josh is objectified later on in the movie's first real torture scene, stripped to his boxers and tied to a chair. (Sadomasochism adds a perversity to this gory, disturbing film; the ball gag that Paxton is forced to wear is straight out of the Mr. S Leather catalogue.) There is an interesting dynamic to the interplay among the film's men; they either join in sexual highjinks together or inflict violent pain on each other's bodies. SPOILER AHEAD During the movie's climax, Paxton plays dead and is wheeled right next to Josh's corpse. Josh's lips are sewn shut, and he stares lifelessly (yet soulfully) at his friend, who is obviously shaken by this. SPOILER OVER Considering what I'd heard about director Eli Roth-- that he was suspected of being an asshole because he's homo repressed-- I wasn't surprised to see publicity shots for "Hostel" that depicted beautiful boys suffering exquisite torture. Although it purports to be just another demented, bloody horror flick, "Hostel" is heavily laden with all sorts of social and cultural messages-- about men, about youth culture, about the way Americans are viewed by the rest of the world and the way that we view (and often exploit) people from other countries. And it does seem like the kind of film a man ill at ease with his own sexuality and masculinity would make. The movie both pokes holes in and reinscribes traditional notions of what it means to be a man; Paxton in particular starts off as the standard alpha male, is made confused and vulnerable, and then asserts his manhood yet again, through the saving of a young woman and through numerous acts of violence against other men. SPOILER AHEAD Actually, he isn't able to stop that woman from killing herself, which may be another reason he takes such a brutal, eye-for-an-eye-- or fingers-for-fingers-- revenge on the Businessman. SPOILER OVER The movie is also infused with a fair amount of misogyny; all the women are either sex objects, treacherous bitches, or both. Like "The Devil's Rejects" and the original "Hills Have Eyes," "Hostel" depicts a world in which their are no clear heroes and the victims end up just as vicious as the aggressors. I think it means a lot more than Roth realizes, at least at the moment. After all, I just wrote a ton about the film-- I think there's probably a whole paper here, actually! In any case, I'm glad I saw it and found it a pretty effective little thriller, even if the Grand Guignol schtick got to be a little much. (As did Paxton's clumsily inserted "I didn't save a girl from drowning once" back story.) The characterizations were good and Hernandez in particular did a good job of making us feel for a character who isn't particularly sympathetic until his life is in jeopardy.

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