Horrorfest 2016 Presents: Hostel (2005, Eli Roth)


Literally this is a nice homage/quasi remake of the 1974 classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, with some notable twists. A trio of friends travel to an Eastern European hostel and discover unknown terrors. Jay Hernandez is the main leader of the trio which also includes one other American and a guy from Iceland named Oli. Eli Roth lures us in with the first, quiet fun half, only to dive into a second, brutal act.

One scene that is blood curdling is when a man proceeds to cut a girl’s toes off. You don’t see it happening, though, and the scene is shot in a way that pays homage to the famous Chainsaw Massacre moment when Leatherface clubs someone and slams the door shut behind him. Another scene involves creepy and brutal torture, displayed in unflinching realism. Which is what the film got unfairly criticized for, along with other similar movies of that time period.

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I’m sure that better writers have dived into Hostel, Saw and other horror films that depict torture as being awful and morally wrong. Others, however, argue in favor of these movies being a mirror into American horror after 9-11 and the use of torture on terror suspects. I feel that such movies are, for better or worse, in line with the later. Particularly with the movies commentary on Americans, consumerism, and even class and social politics. Even if such thoughts are obvious or not quite well illustrated.

Despite this film’s flaws I think Hostel is an engaging slasher film with more bite than many of its breatheren. The slasher was mocked for being dumb so Eli Roth and James Wan, among others, decided to make the genre leaner, nastier and smarter. I think they succeded, and I would prefer more films like theirs than usual mindless fare, even though I do enjoy the dumb ones, too.

It’s Hammer Time Presents: The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959, Terence Fisher)


Look Peter Cushing is great as Sherlock Holmes and this adaptation is true to the book. Having Christopher Lee staring with him in a non Frankenstein or Dracula movie is a bit amusing and cool. Yet this film was too dry and not interesting enough, despite a good opener that sets up the film’s atmosphere. Also AndrĂ© Morell who plays Watson is rather dull, not properly serving as a foil to Sherlock. Considering that other actors have better embodied Watson its a bit disappointing, although I fault the writing in this film for not properly utilizing him. I suppose after the BBC Sherlock and the 1980s Adventures of Sherlock Holmes not to mention even the Guy Ritchie Holmes films I expect more from Watson. Then again though the original source material didn’t have him being this dull, either.

There is one thing I always like about Hammer Studios films though and that is how they often insert subtitle thoughts about class. Most of their films were set in the late 1800s, yet the fact that often it was lower or middle class people against rich upper class villains is an interesting contrast. Although I admit that many of the heroes were of high standing, too.

Still not all the movie is a complete waste, as its still entertaining and watchable despite its flaws. I liked the mine scene because its suspenseful and interesting. Too bad that Hounds is not more than an okay take on a classic novel. Especially with Fisher, Lee and Cushing involved; however this does not change the fact that Fisher was the most talented director out of all the ones who worked for Hammer Studios, and he was responsible for many of their best works. Also I will admit this is not really a horror movie at all, even though there are a number of scenes that come straight out of the best of Hammer Studios style Gothic horror.

Horrorfest 2013 Presents: The People Under The Stairs (1991, Wes Craven)


Young Brandon (Fool as he’s called) has a massive problem: his family is in danger of being evicted from their crappy apartment in the ghetto. Also his mother has cancer and his sister cannot provide for the family, so Fool goes along with Leroy’s (Ving Rhames in a typical quality and humorous performance) plan to rob the slumlord of the building. Rumor has it the man lives with his sister and they have gold coins, coins that would pay for Fool’s mom’s operation and also prevent the family from becoming homeless. So Fool desperately goes along with the plan, not knowing that it will lead to him becoming trapped inside a house of horrors, forced to try to survive in a hostile environment. After all there are People Under The Stairs.

Wes Craven’s second 90s movie is very 80s, particularly since it covers 80s America: its class and race divisions, the fact that white people were moving into the suburbs to avoid minorities. I liked this film even though Craven, like many other horror and non-horror directors doesn’t bother with being subtitle, as the film’s social, economical and political commentary is really obvious. Everett McGill and Wendy Robie’s creepy brother and sister slumlord duo are religious fundamentalists who hate minorities, the police, and anyone else they feel are not God fearing people. That includes the poor, who they are trying to drive out while still exploiting them to stay wealthy. Not to mention the fact that what they have trapped in the basement are, well…I won’t say but it’s not pretty.

Even though the last act is a bit heavy-handed (mobs sure pop up really quickly in movies) People Under The Stairs combines campy bleak humor with an eerie and freaky atmosphere. Also Roach is a weird yet also sympathetic character, someone who shows up in plenty of horror movies. McGill and Robie steal the film yet I was surprised that Brandon Quintin Adams was really good in this, as too many films have featured bad child acting. I found this to be one of Craven’s better movies, and I’m a fan of his because his movies never seem to be boring at least.

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