Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Passing back the hood and Kissing the blade: An evening of exploitation

In lieu of my Giallo double feature (and in reaction to the bad taste left in my mouth from Paranoia) I had another sit-down with a couple horror flicks. Following a friend's recommendation, I rented Eli Roth's Hostel which I found appallingly despicable. Readers will probably file this either under the "no way" or "no shit" category, and I find the former reaction to be incredibly disheartening. There is nothing redeemable about Hostel, whatsoever. It is a dirge of a movie which substitutes pornographic mutilation for conflict. The first hour of the film is tediously dull, following three frat boys on a quest for pussy. There is no dynamism to speak of, no vitality, none of the humor that made the first 30 minutes of Roth'sCabin Fever so enjoyable. All one can do is sit back and wait... and wait... and wait for the inevitable. At least Roth was thinking about our contemporary fears. That I'll give him. Where horror should always manifest itself as the fears of our society, Roth makes his monster the foreigner. In our post 9/11 times, anything unAmerican is the enemy. This is obviously something Roth played upon while making the film. From a particular viewpoint, one could certainly view the film as a justification for all of the truly horrific things that we as Americans have unleashed upon the world. The American characters are infantalized considerably, yet it is a certain nod to the Abu Grhaib torture imagery that I found quite difficult to shake. Roth is, in a way, alleviating our guilt by handing the shroud back to the foreigners. As the torturers become the tortured, one may recognize the age old idiom, eye for an eye.

Hostel has precious little to offer - no Aja style choreographic violence, no huge plot revelations, and scarce is the sardonic dialogue that peppered Cabin Fever. Instead we're left with the image of a girl getting her eye burned out with a blow-torch. If this is what makes it to #1 in the box-office, than I should give second thought to becoming that which Americans hate even worse than foreigners - emigrants. Now there's a horror for you.

In an attempt to forget Hostel, I watched horror meister Dario Argento's Tenebre. Being a fan of his more (in)famous films (Suspiria, The Bird with The Crsytal Plumage, Deep Red, and Opera) I do expect a bit from Argento - at least from his early works (as most post-Opera are quite unwatchable). Tenebre delivered, sort of. The sets and camera movement were unmistakably Dario, as was the fabulous women's' apparel and requisite eighties electro-funk score. Argento muse Daria Nicolodi is given perhaps her most juicy part, as her screams fill the closing credits of the film far longer than any typical "woman in distress" would ever dream of. The best element of Argento's films, the plausible and hair-raising final twist, though slightly fulfilling here left a bit to be desired. One can always rest on how he fetishizes those objects which may slice, dice, blind or mame. They are never simply implements of murder. They are always depicted as treasures. In Tenebre, there's a scene where the camera returns to an empty hotel room and finds a sharp, crane-like sculpture, glinting in the suffused light of the room. 'This will come into play later', you tell yourself. That is doesn't is perhaps the best element to the film. You realize that we rest with it merely because it beautiful and destructive, and since we're in Argento land, so is everything else.


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