Even John Carpenter Thought Hostel Took Its Horror Too Far

John Carpenter is a legend of the horror genre, blessing the world of cinema with the absolute classics like "Halloween" and "The Thing" and peppering in cult favorites like "The Fog" and "Prince of Darkness." Somewhat surprisingly, the however, man who practically created the slasher movie and embraced groundbreaking gore effects is reportedly not a fan of "Hostel," Eli Roth's ultra violent horror film that became one of the cornerstones of the "torture porn" wave upon its premiere in 2005.

Although "splatter films" showcasing extreme violence are nothing new (see: "Cannibal Holocaust" in 1980 or, to travel even further back to the exploitation films of Herschell Gordon Lewis like "Blood Feast"), the 2000's ushered in an era of horror that focused on shockingly graphic torture and gore. New York Magazine film critic David Edelstein dismayingly dubbed this style of horror "torture porn," denouncing the films in this category as "so viciously nihilistic that the only point seems to be to force you to suspend moral judgments altogether." Of course, as with any controversial leap in intensity, the torture porn movies of the 2000's built up a sizable cult following, namely with the highly profitable "Saw" series that became successor to the slasher franchises of the 1980s and 1990s.

'It's just too cruel'

Horror has a tendency to push the boundaries of what's considered extreme as time goes on, and what was once recognized as shocking may now seem quaint. That evolution is what brings in the genre's fans, who are fascinated with horror as a way to confront society's taboos.

Carpenter's films have participated in the symbiosis between horror and the dark underbelly of human culture. Michael Myers killed suburban teenagers in what was, for the time, an unusually merciless and cruel manner. "The Thing" was famously panned upon release for being just too gross to handle. Movies like "Hostel" succeeded Carpenter's films as even more cynically violent, receiving criticism from people like Carpenter himself for reveling in human suffering. The director said of the film back in 2015:

"...movies are like pieces of dreams, and we don't need to go into those dreams. Those dreams are beyond... Human suffering is a horrible thing in real life. I enjoyed the 'Saw' films because they had a sense of humor, but I watched 'Hostel,' and after a while I thought, 'I don't need this. I'm too old, and I've seen too much to go through this anymore.' It's just too cruel."

There's an argument that "Hostel" and its torture porn brethren focus more on the reaction of pain and misery than they do crafting actual scares. In short, disgust reigns over suspense. On the other hand, films like "Halloween" may have never been made if horror creatives like Carpenter weren't willing to challenge norms. Whatever side the personal pendulum swings on, it speaks to how brutal "Hostel" is that one of the masters of horror himself was too uncomfortable to watch it.