Does ‘torture porn’ exist? Not in mainstream cinema, if you ask me. The point of both of these recent horror movies is that you’re gunning for the victims to escape. And if there is any violence onscreen, it’s hardly protracted. Horror films work off the odd flash of a gruesome sight – the fundamental basis of the genre being the power of suggestion. Even Cannibal Holocaust, with castration and impalement on the agenda, don’t linger too long on the special effects. Ok, so it did linger on the native chick with the pole through her fanny for quite a while, but that was only because the special effect was so bloody good. And anyway, Cannibal Holocaust isn’t mainstream cinema.
Vacancy and Hostel Part 2 are two very different beasts that have been placed willy-nilly in the same ‘torture porn’ cage. ‘Torture porn’… it’s a complete misnomer. Granted, I haven’t yet seen Captivity which, from recent reviews, may well fit the tag, but I’ve recently had a gander at these two and any sadist hoping to have one off the wrist over the nastiness within will be sorely disappointed.
Understatement is key, and though many critics might lambast Hostel Part Two in particular for violence against women, it’s pretty liberal with its use of power tools and blades if you ask me. And what really surprised me is that, for the sequel, Eli Roth decided to use a plotline. In fact, two plotlines that meet in the middle. Which is a step forward from the first instalment which was an exercise in linear pedestrianism. Having said that, it doesn’t stray too far from the formula, meaning the teenagers who went to see Hostel One will get their shocks. Personally, I felt that I’d seen it before. The element of surprise – the hell the innocents were being taken to – was no longer unknown. It drained a massive part of the element of terror. The action sequences were slicker though and, most impressively, the dialogue didn’t sound like it’d been written by a frat boy with a hard on (which is essentially what Eli Roth is – and probably proud of it).
Vacancy is different to Hostel Part 2 and a world away from the visceral violence of the films it got lumped in with. In fact, it has more in common with stuff like The (original) Hitcher (except it’s much better) and also shares a bloodline with Spielberg’s Duel. It’s not even, to my mind, horror in the perceived sense. It’s a tense, taut thriller with little in the way of violence. It piles on the suspense and relies entirely on our sympathy for the main duo – and it got that sympathy from me. It’s a very old fashioned date movie that happens to have used the fear of starring in a snuff film as a very basic grounding for the shocks to float off.
Both are worth seeing, but if you’re a psychopathic misanthropist, don’t worry too much about getting the Kleenex out.