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.
There is one song shared between both films which epitomizes the moment before the fall. Roth borrowed Willow's Theme for Hostel, a murmur about the temptation of feminine wiles--played during the scene in Wicker Man where Howie struggles with his desires for the earthy and sensual Willow. This crucial song is an invitation to see "The things I'll show to you," and marks the first of many hurdles for the investigator, leading up to his demise.
In Hostel, the song was covered by the Sneaker Pimps and is played during the scene where Paxton and Josh have sex with the mysterious Russian women, Natalya and Svetlana, at the nefarious hostel. For Paxton this is just another moment of male bravado but for Josh it's a life changing experience. Josh is fussy, hates women who smoke, wears a fanny pack and just broke up with his girlfriend. We are first introduced to Josh as the cowardly one when the friends are out for a conquest at a brothel. He's also the one who is reluctant to stay at the hostel another night after receiving a bizarre text message about a missing travel companion. Before he becomes the cruel plaything at a secret club, he spends one night with Natalya. In that single moment, he is filled with the wonder and awe of his naive fantasies come true, making it all the more painful to watch him be tortured soon after.
Willow's Song has been covered by several artists, but the Sneaker Pimps actually got permission from Britt Ekland to use a sample of Willow's voice in order to credit the track as 'featuring' the artist. This is ironic considering Britt's voice is believed to have not been used for the track. Some believe jazz singer Annie Ross was the one who sang the siren song. My favorite cover of the song was done by Nature & Organisation (Death in June, Current 93 and co.) with vocals by the ever so awesome Rose McDowall. You can check out both versions of the song below and click here for the original scene in The Wicker Man.