I always find it interesting which movies political groups and churches choose to protest against. There have been many stories about the reaction to Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain but relatively few about the #1 movie in the country this week: Hostel. James Pinkerton's column, which I found in Newsday, suggests that there is a larger cultural significance in its popularity. (On a side note, I never really read Pinkerton but I have been enjoying him recently. I really enjoyed his essay on Maureen Dowd's book, in which he compared her thoughts with Hugh Hefner's worldview.) Okay, so here's Pinkerton on Hostel:
Variety described "Hostel" as "unhinged gruesomeness." Director Eli Roth explained to Salon.com that he got the idea for the movie from a Thai Web site that purported to offer an online pay-for-kill experience. He said there were "guys out there who are bored with doing drugs" and bedding prostitutes. "Nothing touches them anymore, so they start looking for the ultimate high. Paying to kill someone, to torture them."
OK, but what's the social impact of such a movie? Will such a cinematic depiction convince some viewers that it's "normal" to have such thoughts? Will some be encouraged to copy what they see on celluloid?
And what of the larger social impact? The Web site horrormovies.ca observes, "It is merciless with the torture, the violence, & the sex. I guarantee you will walk out of this film trusting no one." That is, "Hostel" will make you hostile.
I just find it surprising that more religious groups haven't protested this film which will be seen, by my rough mathematical calculations, by about a gazillion more people than will see Brokeback Mountain.
Of course, maybe the larger story is that reporters don't think to ask religious groups what their feelings are about the movie. Perhaps they don't even realize there might be a story there because they don't realize how broadly religious morality extends. This review, from Catholic News Service, rates Hostel as "O" for morally offensive:
Lured off the beaten path by promises of carnal pleasures, they find their way to a hedonistic hostel in Slovakia, where they fall easy prey to a pair of temptresses and wind up in a chamber of horrors where wealthy sadists pay top dollar for the most depraved thrills.
Director Eli Roth ("Cabin Fever") serves up a steady stream of soft-core sex and hard-core gore, as gratuitously pornographic as it is mindless.
The film's stomach-churning factor is extreme by even the barrel-bottom standards of Quentin Tarantino, who is credited as one of the movie's executive producers.
Speaking of stomach-churning, can someone keep Paul Haggis away from a typewriter? The man doesn't write characters so much as one-dimensional cliche vehicles with which to pound you over the head. If I were to protest movies, I'm pretty sure Crash would be my first victim.
The fact that so many critics heap praise on that silly, silly movie makes me question everything they write. Okay, sorry for veering into GetMovies territory there, but I had to get it out.