Hostel is a puerile horror film which will most appeal to an audience the censor says cannot see it. The set-up is the stuff of teenage dreams: two American backpackers (Jay Hernandez and Derek Richardson) are told of a terrific Slovakian stop-over where the beer is cheap and the women are easy. They go and so it proves, but there's a dark secret hiding here, and lots of gory, not particularly imaginative brutality for both actors and audience to endure.
Writer/director Eli Roth made effective horror pastiche Cabin Fever and Hostel has fervent fans within the horror community. It was also a box office hit in America. Clearly, some UK filmgoers will appreciate it. Others may be repulsed by the blood, guts and torture. Still more might be bored. Because beyond its "How far can I go?" attitude to violence, Hostel has no reason to exist. And for all the talk of it being one of the harshest ever mainstream horror releases, the film pales next to the work of its primary influence, Takashi Miike (the Japanese director behind Audition and Gozu, who has a clunky cameo here).
So, if the shocks don't shock you, what is there? The pacing is off, the characters one-note, the dialogue witless. You could claim it's a reflection on our numbness in the face of brutality (from Abu Ghraib to Guantánamo), or an ironic comment on European attitudes to America, but that's a stretch. You're left with a shallow story, a bit of nudity, and a movie that, for all its blood, remains rather anaemic.