I'm convinced now. PG-13 is the new "R" (but they'll let anybody in), and "R" is the new "NC-17" (but they'll still let you in if your mom and dad bring you). 

And the very idea that anybody would bring children to see this? Hey, I was upset enough when my parents wound up seeing WOLF CREEK, but HOSTEL pushes the nasty business to levels even eye wasn't expecting. One moment in particular eye will remember as long as eye live. An "R." Still can't get over it. 

After all I said about movies like WOLF CREEK and extended torture sequences, I approached HOSTEL with near-reluctance, believe it or not. Sure, Eli Roth had scored a favorite-of-the-year hit with me with CABIN FEVER, but then again, William Malone stuck me with FEARDOTCOM as a follow-up to HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (another favorite in my book). 

But the alternative? I could have driven to the next town and seen BLOODRAYNE instead!!!! 

Screw that. I may be a completist, but something like that would have to be the ONLY game in town for me to risk it. Uwe Boll can wait for DVD. 

Well, I should have known. HOSTEL does, indeed, contain some truly horrific torture set-pieces (as I subtly hinted earlier). But it has much, much more to offer. 

The opening passages made me wonder--there's some awkward exposition and far-too-obvious setups for moments you know are on their way. Oh, and I couldn't get the EUROTRIP "hash bar" sequence out of my head, either. But Roth has once again put together a believable, likable cast of characters, and you won't WANT to see horrible things happen to them. 

Okay--for those of you who hated CABIN FEVER? You should know that Roth got plenty out of his system with that movie. The in-jokes are far less obvious, the musical references are restrained but no less inspired (the cover of the WICKER MAN "How Do" song couldn't have been better-timed), and there's no out-and-out "HUH?" material ("Pancakes! Pancakes!"). But HOSTEL, like its predecessor, takes place in a world in which only the locals know the rules--tourists beware. 

And yet you DO get plenty of surprises (not to mention sinister children, who are thankfully not present in the torture-chamber scenes). And more truly sick laughs, which is no small accomplishment. After what you're subjected to in the chamber scenes, the very idea that the film could provoke any sort of laugh at all should seem utterly impossible, but it manages to score both laughs (not of the mocking variety that some cretins in the WOLF CREEK audience provided) and even APPLAUSE for certain moments. 

I can say in all honesty that I was not ahead of the movie step-for-step, and that even though the horror elements made me cringe violently, I simply could not turn away because I had to see what was around the next corner. 

CABIN FEVER was a terrific "cover" tribute to early 70's horror. But Eli Roth has definitely grown up in the meantime--so if you've got the stomach, in you go.

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