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Feature: Hostel Parts I & II

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Make-up effects guru Greg Nicotero chats about his career and creating the onscreen horrors of Eli Roth’s Hostel franchise

For Greg Nicotero, creating an oozing bite mark in the skin of a zombie-attack victim or turning an actor’s features into a mask of gruesome prosthetics has been a typical day at work since the 1980s. Over the last 22 years he has worked in make-up and special effects departments alongside a Who’s Who list of Horror and Fantasy film directors, beginning with George A Romero in Day of the Dead (1985) and, more recently, with two of the genre’s most prolific injections of new blood; Eli Roth and Alexandre Aja. In 2006, Roth’s Hostel shocked audiences with its unflinching scenes of sadistic violence, leading to such terms such as ‘torture porn’ and gore noir’ being coined by reviewers for the director’s style.

“Eli really, really knows how to stage those gags, stage stuff so that the audience really gets their money’s worth and Hostel Part II certainly doesn’t shy away,” says Nicotero. “I think he’s certainly evolved it from Hostel to Hostel Part II and it’s amazing because I think every film that Eli does is more polished, and more professional than the film before. I really am impressed at watching him grow as a film-maker, and I’ve worked with a lot of people; I’ve watched Robert Rodriguez go from a guy who hated visual effects on From Dusk Till Dawn to being a guy who does Sin City; it’s a completely digital movie virtually, so its amazing to me.”

While most of the victims in the first Hostel – apart from one unforgettably horrific scene involving a blowtorch – were men, for the second part, the unfortunates are a trio of young women holidaying in Eastern Europe.

“Whether people want to admit it or not, there is a preconceived notion that women are more vulnerable than men,” Nicotero opines. “I thought that in Hostel you go, ‘Okay, there’s a bunch of guys backpacking and they’re trying to get laid’. There’s almost a little bit of you that goes, ‘Maybe they deserved it’, because they were a little bit sleazy, a little perverted, just out for themselves. Then, in the second film, you’re dealing with women who really haven’t necessarily antagonized anybody. They’re just there so it feels much more innocent when they are taken. What I like about the theme of Hostel Part II is that’s not necessarily true.”

While unlike one of her companions she is spared having her blood used as a beauty treatment for a woman to bathe in, one grisly shot sees Bijou Philips’s character Whitney strapped to a chair while she is tormented with a chainsaw.

“That was kind of a tricky gag because you had to convey the fact that the hair got tangled into the saw and pulls the saw right up to her scalp and tears a big chunk of skin off,” the artist reveals.

While Roth is happy to give Nicotero creative freedom while he works, the director apparently isn’t happy unless he is getting stuck into some of the creation process.

“There are some directors that you work with who’ll come over and say, ‘Well, I don’t really understand make-up effects’, or, ‘I’m much more visual effects’,” says Nicotero. “Eli loves coming to the shop. When we did the first Hostel, we actually put somebody in a chair, taped somebody to a chair and worked out- all the camera angles for when Paxton gets his fingers cut off. So, he and I kind of acted the whole thing out and that’s how he we were able to brainstorm ideas as to how to handle the effects.”

by Stuart Weightman

Read the full interview and more in
Shivers #135

Image © Visual Imagination Ltd, Hostel © Lionsgate
Feature © Visual Imagination 2007. Not for reproduction

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Shivers #135
November 2007
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