Hostile Hostel

It was darkly illuminating to attend the latest example of commercial mass-media cinematic slaughter – the film, Hostel – in a local mall-attached movie house. The lights went out and the audience found itself immersed in a series of degenerate dens from the pot-smoking variety to houses of prostitution and finally into a charnel house of torture chambers. The audience consisted mostly of the standard teenage and young-adult crowd that frequent horror films. That is also to say – standard for R rated films – a giant portion of the audience was under 18, including the usual smattering of school-age children, whose parents persistently haul them to the nastiest nightmares ever conceived by man.Of course, most responsible adults have no idea what kids are filling their minds with these days. Most adults have not spent time in front of video games such as Grand Theft Auto, or worse. Most also have no idea to what levels of social pathology the genre of mass-media horror films has “evolved.” Filmmakers who push every possible envelope of decency and sanity have been at it for decades now. They have chipped away at our collective sensibilities to the point that suburban malls feature entertainment venues where young people have opportunities to view every type of brutality conceivable by the world’s most twisted imaginations. The sights and sounds of murder, torture, and mayhem splayed at mammoth scale across wide-screen pop-culture emporiums has been standard horror fare for many years. These films are also awash in sexuality and combinations of sex, cruelty, and violence once found only in abnormal criminal psychology texts.You may think you are aware of this because you have seen some of the “slasher” flicks from decades ago in which nubile teenage girls and their paramours are mutilated and slaughtered at the hands of natural-born or supernatural serial killers. You might even be aware that the bloodiest and cruelest scenes are often peppered with humor, which reinforces a sort of childish glee regarding viewing acts of murder and psychotic violence.Today, films like this have been pushed to unspeakable limits by the kind of edgy one-upmanship that drives participants of contemporary culture toward increasingly anti-social and psychologically unstable mindsets. The success of the film Saw pushed the demented voyeurism cultivated in mass audiences by years of incremental desensitization over the top. In this film, we are turned into voyeurs of ingenious murderous behaviors and mechanisms – but still, the creator of these horrors is portrayed as a psychotic criminal.The important difference introduced to mainstream culture by Hostel is the notion that we are entertained by the fantasy of wealthy businesspersons paying thousands of dollars to an underworld syndicate for the opportunity to torture human beings to death. Instead of the agents of horror portrayed as social misfits who have somehow avoided incarceration for the criminally insane, we are shown “respectable” citizens acting in the same ways as have the worst human butchers in history.I will end this unsettling train of thought in a few moments. My intention is simply to speak directly about this film – which, by the way, has taken the number one spot in box office earnings this week!What concerns me most about our culture is the fact that we have allowed sociopaths and psychotics (aka bleeding-edge creative types such as artists, directors, producers, and marketers of culture) to sit in the drivers’ seats for so long that the worst of them have arrived at the lead positions. What we have in Hostel is a director and an executive producer taking advantage of a unique moment in history to brutalize mass audiences by springing their most deviant and demented fantasies upon them – subjects unsuspecting and unprepared for the psychological battering to which they are being exposed. There was a palpable sense of this situation when the lights came on in the theater. The audience was rendered speechless for a few moments. No one had expected this…

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