It's interesting that one of the most highly-acclaimed modern horror films (aka the previous marathon entry) was released in the same year as one of the most appalled. Eli Roth is not a very popular director, maybe even more so than Michael Bay, for good reasons. While Saw (2004) was the one that kick-started the torture film genre, many felt that it was Hostel that truly got the torture-boom going - and what a tasteless and superficial genre it is. It definitely marked the final nail in the coffin of the horror genre, an abomination that should've never been created.
That being said, it's hard to deny my guilty enjoyment of this film for what it is.
I watched a lot of horror films in my younger days, and Hostel was definitely not age-appropriate for me at the time. I was merely able to grasp the surface of the plot at the time, but for what I could remember, I found myself disturbed by the fact that underground crime rings of prostitution or worse are found in the real world... and on the other hand, as much as I hate to say it, there was just some level of fascination by the idea of somewhere you could fulfill your darkest and most twisted fantasies, if you could pay for it.
But calling Hostel a mere wish-fulfillment movie cheapens its value. Eli Roth's execution is often unpolished even with his best work, Cabin Fever, but he has admirable creative intentions such as this case. A bunch of dumb Americans flaunting their egos around foreigners without regards for respect or courtesy, it's a bit of an inaccurate stereotype in this day and age, but it serves decently as a cautionary tale, and more appropriately so when you consider that most kids dealing in sex and booze are punished in horror films anyway.
Of course, it's hard to overlook the shallow shock value of the story, even with the above considered. I like that there's a lot of set-up in showing that these guys are acting like a bunch of dicks in another man's country/culture. The problem is that torturing kids for acting like dumb kids is a skewed concept. I get that teenagers often get killed in horror films for committing "sins" of sex and booze, but torture is a whole new level in touchy subjects you shouldn't flaunt around in filmmaking (just a few notches beneath using rape as drama), as it will otherwise become tasteless and superficial when you don't have a strong enough point to make.
This is where Eli's unpolished skills as a filmmaker comes in. I don't think I've seen a film of his that I could genuinely, unironically like without calling it a "guilty pleasure" or feeling uncomfortable about it. While Hostel is not nearly as terrible as the slew of torture porn to come in the following years, mostly due to it actually trying to say something considerably meaningful, it's still quite shallow in its stride and doesn't provide anything new that true horror masters of Hitchcock and Carpenter haven't already done. And unfortunately, seeing the state of The Green Inferno, it's not in Eli's nature to improve any time soon.