It's no secret that Eli Roth is a total fan boy. His 2005 film Hostel is littered with references to his favorite horror movies and tons of Tarantino flicks. There is one film that stands out above the rest--helping to cinch the mood and lure the viewer further into a seductive yet horrifying tale in a foreign land. Roth has stated that The Wicker Man was a huge inspiration for his film about a group of backpackers who fall prey to the idle hands of the sadistic jet set. It's easy to see parallel themes running between these mirror worlds--a duality in which much is to be revealed. Sexual panic, erotic rituals and sacrifice permeate both films and seal the microcosm of outsider and insider, sacred and profane, visible and unseen.
Hostel's Paxton (Jay Hernandez) and Josh (Derek Richardson) lack the moral character of Wicker Man's protagonist Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) as the epitome of American hedonism. Paxton is the fearless, sexual deviant and Josh his inexperienced, uncertain counterpart. Despite Josh's seemingly innocent underpinnings, both are homophobic (yet ironically 'homoerotic') and generally ignorant. The beauty of Roth's handling is his ability to engender empathy for these two unsavory characters--reminding us that they are as much a product of their society as those who eventually slaughter them. While their packages couldn't be more opposite, both the backpackers (I see Paxton and Josh almost as one figure) and the investigator share many common traits. Both are in hot pursuit of the 'other', which it turns out doesn't actually exist, and both contend with the embrace or struggle of their own unexamined moral precipice.