I wasn’t expecting anything from Eli Roth’s Hostel (Lion’s Gate, 1.6) except gore, torture, sadism, et. al. In other words, I was expecting to sit through a typical deranged, dumb-assed horror film. But to my surprise, I didn’t hate it. It’s appalling but not stupid. I didn’t like Roth’s Cabin Fever that much, and this struck me as better…for what it was. Hostel is not a “good film” but is moderately watchable if you watch it with the right diseased attitude, which is to say the right kind of hip-movie-geek detachment. Roth says he doesn’t see the representations of violence in his films as anything but enthusiastic movie fakery…somewhat realistic on a certain level, perhaps, but not crafty enough to truly penetrate the emotions or the psyche. And now Roth has taken his opportunism and merged it with the insights of one Harry Knowles. I mean that the idea for Hostel literally came from Ain’t It Cool’s Knowles telling Roth about an alleged website about Asian snuff houses, in which desperate people (men mostly) have agreed, the story goes, to be killed by clients of these snuff houses for the sum of $10,000 or so, which will go to their families to help them get out of debt or poverty. The idea of even one poor Asian man or woman meeting death under these circumstances strikes me as one of the saddest and most revolting things I’ve ever heard, and yet Roth turns this premise into gore confetti. He sets it in Slovakia, uses 20-something kids (standard-issue lambs to the slaughter) to replace those penniless breadwinners of Asia and…well, it’s pretty damn ugly. And ludicrous. The idea of regular Slovakian Joe’s pulling down a weekly paycheck working as guards in a slaughter factory…sure thing! But all this said, I didn’t despise it. The acting and dialogue in the non-horrific first act aren’t bad, I liked that menacing gang of little zombie kids and lead actor Jay Hernandez (crazy beautiful) has presence and conviction. Sorry, haters…I hear you but I didn’t think once of leaving. If it seems to be self-aware and more or less in command, sometimes a crap movie just slides right in.