"WITH MY TORTURE FILM/DRIVE A G.T.O..."
Town this afternoon was totally overrun w/ Crusties...sorry, Hedge Monkeys. Thousands of the scrawny little fuckers, singularly or huddled together conspiratorially in small groups: begging, sleeping, playing tin-whistles really badly, curled-up in foetal positions as they rode out crippling come-down stomach cramps...I'm not joking: there were dozens of 'em, everywhere. Yeovil is a bloody tiny town and this afternoon (a sunday) the Hedge Monkeys outnumbered the Civilians 10:1. Frankly, it beggars belief...(sorry, couldn't resist it.)
Sat in Cafe fucking Nero while the loudest, most obvious smack deal in the history of drug dealing went down outside, in broad daylight, right outside the window. So hamfisted and hilariously obvious that there were a dozen comedy-sketch opportunities inherent in it, yet I seemed to be the only one who noticed...am I the last of the non-Crusties left in town? Everyone else seemed to be coming down off some monstrous sat. nite heroin binge that I wasn't invited to, except the girl behind the counter in the cafe and, come to think of it, even she had a beard and a mange-ridden dog-thing on a piece of washing-line. Some Health and Safety issues there, surely?
And were those rocks of crack I saw in the sugar bowl.
Anyway, enuff of my booojwah moanings; I'm gonna stop before I start sounding like an outraged hernia-riddled Daily Mail reader or Col. Penman of Leamington Spa.
In the caff, I glanced thru the Sunday Telegraph for a laff; the only bit worth reading was the piece about "Hostel" that featured a short interview w/ Tarantino and Eli Roth. Now, I finally got round to seeing "Hostel" a couple weeks ago and I thought it was okay...loads better than Roth's first feature "Cabin Fever", but that's not saying much...(The Torygraph hilariously described "Hostel" as a slasher flick wh/ shows they're as almost in touch w/ the film world as they are w/ music ("The James Blunt LP doth surely rock, methinks..."))...but, like "Cabin fever" (wh/ I think was probably savaged by the studio to get a teen-friendly rating) it suffers from poor pacing, and particularly comes unglued at the end. Roth is so concerned w/ cramming in so many tribute vignettes & references to his fave 70's/80/s Splatter/Giallo movies that the film ends up full of micro-zigzags that futz-up the forward flow, but, to be fair, this is still early in his career so it'll be interesting to see if he can shed this tendency towards referenciality that he shares w/ his mentor Tarantino and evolve his own style. I mean, what was the point of having that Japanese girl in the film, apart from running what was basically a personal tribute to the "Guinea Pig" films; there was no sense of her existing as a person, just a one-dimensional torture-object (okay, I know, facile criticism). When he's re-run his Jap Torture Film tribute scene, Roth loses interest in her; he doesn't know what to do w/ her, so he 'throws' her away, like a discarded toy, and there's something about that wh/ is as coldly dehumanising as anything done in the film w/ a power-tool...
He does, however, make great use of the foreign locations; the film has a ruff, rundown, ramshackle Post-Industrial look to it wh/ fits w/ the "Cheap Holidays in Other People's Misery" riff/motif that he gets going...are neo-'realist' horror films like "Hostel" (or the "Saw" franchise) the cinematic equivalent to Bashment, I wonder (or, rather, Hollywood's appropriation of Kino-Bashment, ie Japsplatter or no-budget handicam Art/Gore garage-shockers like "Slaughtered Vomit Dolls", etc (more on SVD in a few days, I promise))...? But, at least Roth didn't come up via MTV, like half of the new fucking directors do these days and who end up making overlong CGI flashfests: glorified pop/rock videos meet arcade-games...I blame it all on "The (fucking) Crow".
Another problem w/ Roth is that he talks too good a fight: he hyped up "Cabin Fever" so spectactularly well in pre-release interviews on the Net and in Fangoria, The Dark-Side, etc that there was no way it could be anything other than a major disappointment, and I've probably never forgiven him for that. As an Uber-Nerd-Film-Fan like Tarantino, he knows what buttons to press when he does interviews; he knows what the fans want to hear, because he's still one himself. And I bet he's great in pitch-meetings too; no wonder his career has been meteoric. Still, "Cabin Fever" turned a reputed profit of $100million from a budget of, I dunno, around $1.5million and Hollywood looooves numbers like that. I think "Hostel" made about $20million on its US opening w/end from a budget of about $5million (opens in the UK in April, I think)...if he can just resist the temptation to helm a $50million budget film, he's got a glittering (or should that be splattering) career ahead of him.
Also hilarious to hear Tarantino describe it as "the scariest film ever made" (well, he would...as Executive Producer, he's prob. got money invested in it)...it's not. But it's certainly disturbing in places. (What's most disturbing is the perverse, ghoulish, voyeuristic fascination that it brings out in the viewer...why do we watch these fucking things? Why do we (like the club members in the film) pay to watch people being tortured to death? Ambulance-chasing as a form of entertainment. What does that say about us as individuals, as a species...) The gritty, grimey, mockumentary/travelogue style of filmmaking combined w/ the oppressive east European locations are intended to imply that this is all real, or that it could be real, that, like "Wolf Creek", this could actually happen to the unwary...the fact that this was a poorly-recorded bootleg copy (you can hear people in the audience cough nervously as limbs get shredded) added to the sense that you're watching some sort of deconstructed/reconstructed Post-Snuff Movie thing... the blurier, the more distorted the picture, the less you see, the more your imagination takes over to fill in the details...your attention becomes focused on trying to figure out what exactly it is being gauged/sliced/hacked, and, when your conscious mind catches yourself trying to do that, that's when you start to freak yourself out...the real horror in this film comes from suddenly identifying your own fascination w/ acts of anatomical brutality, rather than indentifying w/ the victims.
The filmakers, like the current American administration, are very obviously exploiting Joe America's fear of the world outside itself (= the world outside the victims' bodies), that foreigners are alien and different, that they are not to be trusted..."Hostel" feeds on the fear that America is hated/envied/whatever and the World outside its own cultural parameters is scarily unpredictable and capable of causing harm to unwary travellers abroad (which is why it, the World, must be pacified and brought in line w/ what we Westerners know and understand; it needs to have its cultural values overwritten by ours... which makes "Hostel" a sort of unconscious advert/apology for globalisation. Roth: "I loved shooting in the Czech Republic. The people are amazing. It was bizarre to hear about how their lives changed 15 years ago when communism fell. Suddenly they had access to all these American films...") Interesting to consider, then, how this film might play to foreign/non-Western audiences...or, rather, how some Americans might imagine it would play to those audiences (Iran...The Far East...France?): foreign folk whoopin' and hollerin' everytime an American gets offed...
Also, interesting that this fear, this self-created American Neurosis, has now itself been recognised & commodified: The Spectacle is relentless in its ability to recontexturalise Reality, to fold everything and anything back in on Itself.
And, of course, there's a whole invisible subtext here that's trying to force itself to become more 'real': the acts of torture/the quasi 3rd World location/the graininess of the film quality seem also to almost equate w/ pictures/footage of prisoner abuse in Guantánamo Bay, or the appalling narrowband footage of brutal Jihadist beheadings of Western hostages...and perhaps that's where the true horror of this film lies, in its subliminal decoding and recasting of the world we have created around us.