The new buzzword among fans of all things spooky is “elevated horror”, with the latest trend finding filmmakers focusing on character and atmosphere at the expense of abundant gore. The genre tends to move in cycles, though, and one of the most gruesome of all was kicked off in 2005 by the success of Eli Roth’s Hostel.
Riding a wave of unsavory headlines gathered by its unflinching brutality, the low budget effort netted $82 million at the box office on a budget under $5 million, with the phrase “torture porn” coined in direct response to the Eastern European-set tale of death and dismemberment.
Just like that, a new craze was born, with Hostel spawning a slew of imitators that took onscreen carnage and gnarly dispatches to increasingly stomach-churning heights. In fact, Roth even sought to top himself with Part II, but audiences had become so desensitized to its main selling point at the time that the second installment made less than half as much money from theaters despite more than doubling the production costs.
The torture porn fad has slowly petered out as horror placed its focus elsewhere, but Hostel and its sequel have nonetheless conspired to make a shocking splash at the top of the streaming charts. As per FlixPatrol, the first and second chapters have secured the top two spots on HBO Max’s global rankings, with subscribers evidently desperate for severed body parts and innards in the buildup to Halloween.
The Hostel resurgence is something we couldn’t have predicted, especially at the summit of a major streamer, but the cyclical nature of the artform meant there was always a chance it would happen.