Does seem there are things worse for bands of American teenagers than having their car break down somewhere in the Smoky Mountains, and that is traveling and partying through Eastern Europe. The type of demented running around the villages and forests of Belarus or Romania make the hicks in the backwoods of Georgia and Mississippi look like a bunch of happy Mormons. In 2008’s Train, directed by Gideon Raff, is just too reminiscent of 2006’s Hostel to not bring it up at the beginning of things here. It is obviously inspired by Eli Roth’s film and at times inspiration seems to blend into simply redoing the film in some ways. But it is not really a rip off film as far as I am concerned though fans of Hostel will see the similarities in the films atmosphere, general story line and intense gore and violence. The film was shot in Bulgaria and is supposed to take place in the Ukraine, where an American wrestling team has traveled for some sort of tournament. Among the wrestler is Alex, played by the usually capable Thora Birch. She does well enough here but I had some problems with her, though I loved her work in films like American Beauty and Ghost World. And my problems is not that she did badly at all, but that she seemed really too good to be in this film. Lot of hostility towards the film online as far as reviews goes. Actually hard to find a few that were favorable. And while not a great film, and not one for the squeamish or people not on psychotropic medications, it is not really a bad horror film in terms of story, direction, photography, acting and special effects. People who hate the way CGI effect looks should be happy since the effects here seem to be all old school special effects. And they are done very good and at times they were more than a bit unnerving. I seem to have gotten a hold of the unrated version of the film which includes quite a few scenes trimmed by Lionsgate to get an R rating for some limited degree of commercial distribution in the States. The gore and violence in this thing is simply over the top and I cannot recommend this one to everybody. And of course, that is probably going to make more people run out and check it out.
This is all just torture porn of course. Much of the gore and violence is gratuitous and deliberately over the top. Gore hounds should not be disappointed. I have seen plenty of gore films in my day and while not a fan of the genre I like to check it out here and there. I enjoy well done violence in films and have to say, again, that the effects in this one are pretty convincing. Much can be said about the cinematography as well and music score. Over all the film is very well made and acted. The problem of course is with the rather lowbrow story that, like Hostel, makes Eastern Europe look like some sordid hell hole of sleazy discothèques and neo-Nazi types with nothing better to do than stalk tourists. Hell might be true for all I know, but it just seems like the formula of lost/stranded/stalked city teens was transplanted from rural USA to the Ukraine. But to be honest, I sort of like that twist. And for whatever reason a lot of films are being produced and shot in East Europe anyway, though the location is sometimes supposed to be the US still. This was the case with Amusement (reviewed here a few posts ago) and with the upcoming review of The Hills Run Red. I am not sure why this is though I suspect saving money is somehow involved. So far have not found information online why studios prefer former communist bloc nations to the heartland of America, but it seems to be a trend. If anybody has insight to this please let me know.