Monday, March 12, 2007

Movies: Least pleasant Web site in recent memory.

Read this whole thing before clicking any links. I don't want to be blamed for you calling up any weird crap while your boss is looking over your shoulder and anything like that.

Ok? Ok.

In what might end up being a Blair Witch like example of promotional materials being better than the film they're promoting, and online ad site for the upcoming Hostel 2 is as creepy as anything seen in the first flick. The entire site seems to be a collection of security cameras placed throughout one of the torture-franchises several institutions. With some random background sounds (they don't appear to be sync'ed with any particular scene) or real discernible gore, we watch the everyday workings of this hellish place. It is all the more chilling for its banality – looking like some cross between a factory, a cheap gym, and a POW camp. This magnifies the most powerful aspect of the film, the creepy way in which money turned torture into just another job, and creates a horrible vision of human meat as cheap commodity.

That said, it doesn't free the Hostel franchise from its most glaring moral failure: sympathy with the torturers, rather than the victims. In fact, the site distills the aesthetics of the first film into its essentials and lays bare the flicks cheap, exploitative core. The victims are literally nameless and voiceless and the entire site is a celebration of the total and institutional process of turning their pain into entertainment. This is site is the closest thing to the Platonic form torture porn you're likely to see.

I don't know that there's anything literally NSFW, exactly, but I can't imagine that it would be appreciated at any office.


spacejack said...

Well, at first glance it doesn't appear to be much different than the kind of thing you might come across in a Quake video game or something like that. It is creative I guess, in a marketing sense, that it has no obvious relation to the film and doesn't let you navigate. And there's also the added touch of the European domain name.

I'm not getting my hopes up too high for Hostel 2. Though I believe it's Eli Roth directing again, if it's just Hostel 1 with more torture and less character, then I think I'll pass.

I don't think the first movie sympathized or identified much with the torturers. It allowed us to spend some time with them - the guy on the train, the American deciding on his torture device, and the sirens that conspired with them - and allowed us to stare into the abyss for a while. But I didn't really feel the film wanted us to sympathize with them.

CRwM said...

I don't know, man. That dude in the top center square gets his stomach opened up and an electronic personal safety device applied to his innards. Quake was violent, but I don't remember anything like that going down in the game.

The issue of sympathy is a tricky one. For me it comes down to the fact that Roth's main interest in his characters seems to be in torturing them. The tension of Hostel comes in watching how far Roth will let his torturers go, not in whether or not the characters survive. Whether the main characters live or die depends on the whims of the director and, therefore, is dramatically inert as an issue. When the last American gets free, it is essentially by accident. We can see Roth saying, "Enough. Let's move on." When the Japanese tourist is freed, we see later it is so he can reprise that actresses bit in The Suicide Club, as a sort of in joke for horror fans. The characters are irrelevant, compared to the pain and suffering Roth can heap on them. And in this, Roth's sympathies are with the torturers.

The flick's called Hostel because those torture chambers are its real stars.