Unfairly dismissed as torture porn by many critics, this terrific horror film plays off audience expectations and takes them on a terrifying ride you cannot predict where it will go. The story revolves around a group of three Americans traveling through Europe, staying in hostels. Two are obnoxious party-boys and one is the nice-guy character. When one of the obnoxious guys is lured away by pretty girls, the two remaining become suspicious of what happened and begin to investigate. All the while, since the film opened with images of horrific implements of torture in a dark, dank torture chamber, the audience has already had seeds planted in their minds of what really happened. Writer/director Eli Roth does an amazing job of playing against horror film tropes and audience expectations, particularly (SPOILER ALERT) when he kills off the nice-guy hero of the film Marion Crane-style and the audience is left without a safety net. After that, it feels as if anything is possible, which has the impact of creating genuine suspense now that we've seen that all of the characters are expendable. Roth really knows his horror films (his first film, "Cabin Fever," was a slasher film without a slasher, and it completely worked), and he uses that knowledge to surprise the audience throughout. When the nice-guy is killed, it's as if all bets are off and anything can happen. It also helps that the film doesn't feature and name actors, because when you cast Brad Pitt in your film, you know Brad Pitt isn't going to be killed. This tension is olstered by Roth establishing early on in the film that he's not going to cut away from the violence and that he is going to show the audience the full bloody graphic horror of what's happening (and it's extreme!). As with the best horror films, "Hostel" has an interesting subtext about America's interventionist nature around the globe and how that's received by the rest of the world. American arrogance is a ripe topic for a revenge-like thriller, especially when it's framed around an underground Eastern European business that caters to the depraved murderous desires of wealthy men who want the exotic adventure of torturing and murdering attractive youth without consequences.This film is credited (or accused) of ushering in the "torture porn" horror subgenera, which it most certainly did. Extreme horror films, like "Audition" or "Ichi the Killer" had been around Asia Cinema for awhile, and Roth rightfully gives a not to those film with a cameo appearance by Takashi Miike, the likely the originator of "extreme" horror films. "Saw" did come out the year before, but it relied more on traditional implied horror instead of showing all the graphic violence (unlike it's subsequent sequels). Roth also provides other nods that horror fans will likely pick up on, such as the slow tracking shots of the door at the end of the torture hallway as a nice homage to the menacing door at the end of the hall in "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." Overall, "Hostel" is a film that is not intended to appeal to a wide audience and not even to all horror fans, but for horror film fans of a hearty nature, this film is amazing!