(Thanks to Peter T. Chattaway for noting this so quickly.)

A movie that gives audiences the opportunity to watch human beings tortured, decapitated, having their throats cut, their heads smashed in, parts of their body chopped up and thrown in a furnace, shot point blank, their eyes dangling from their sockets and eventually cut (to relieve the pain), poked full of holes with a drill, having digits snipped off, throwing themselves in front of trains, having their chest cavities opened for more torture….

…. is #1 at the box office this weekend, according to early numbers.

In fact, Eli Roth’s hyperviolent Hostel looks like it not just defeat, but overwhelm both Aslan and King Kong at the Box Office.

Brokeback Mountain is getting all kinds of flack from conservatives beyond the boundaries of Christian movie reviews. But it’s nowhere near #1. It’ll be interesting to see how many “culture-watchers” sound an alarm over America’s embrace of a movie that even mainstream critics are calling “horror porn.”

I don’t want to just write something off because it’s violent. I’ve defended a lot of violent films as worthwhile and redeeming, from Saving Private Ryan to A History of Violence. But in those cases, the violence has served a meaningful purpose, and I’ve provided plenty of cautions about the content, qualifying that only discerning and conscientious adult viewers should proceed.

And in a sense, the description above bears some similarity to Dante’s L’Inferno. But L’Inferno is a dead-serious work of art about the nature of hell and the wages of sin. Is Hostel serious about anything?

Some critics think so.

Still… what’s being advertised? Human suffering, as entertainment. And lately, it seems there’s a contest on to see who can serve up the most taxing and extreme display of grotesquerie and bloodshed.

I invite anyone who sees Hostel to post a comment and defend the film here, if they’ve seen it. Since I haven’t seen it, all I can do is pass along what I’m hearing. (Please don’t misunderstand this as an exhortation to go see it for yourself, though. I suspect the nay-sayers are right about this one.)

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