By James Teitelbaum | December 30, 2008

At two o’clock in the afternoon on his twenty-fifth birthday, Ted (Gian-Murray Gianino) wakes up to find himself nearly alone in his family’s expensive Vermont ski cabin. Clearly, a good time had been had the previous night: Ted is surrounded by empty beer cans, liquor bottles, used condoms, panties, and yes, there is a cheese grater in his bed. He listens to his voice mail while playing back video footage on his camcorder: a sexy girl writhes around on his bed with enthusiasm (that’s a cameo from notorious New York call girl Natalia McLennan). A message from his mother reminds Ted that some of her friends are coming up north to use the cabin. In preparing to clean the place up, Ted finds that his closest friends (and all of the girls) are gone, but he does find two strangers passed out on the sun porch. One is a friendly and erudite Princeton grad named Paul (Airrion Doss), the other is a stoner named Craig (Alex Finch), who works in the nearby ski resort.

This is all shot in black and white, accompanied by some jaunty piano music. By thirty minutes into the movie, not much else has happened other than the set-up I have described. It isn’t really clear where the film is going by this point. It might be a comedy, but a random false scare leads one into thinking it might be moving towards horror. Either way, the movie is nearly half over before anything really happens. Ted’s main hobby, as he tells Paul, is competing with his friend to see who can get the most girls into bed, with each score evidenced by posting the videotaped results on the internet. The three men discuss the pros and cons of Ted’s predilection for posting his home-made porn on-line. Then, Craig starts discussing snuff films, and Paul starts giving slightly creepy looks to the camera.

Got the picture?

So does Ted.

He does a Kaiser Soze and a Travis Bickle back to back, and then attempts to throw his creepy guests out of the house.

The second half of the film is Ted versus Paul and Craig, all shot with an extremely shaky camera, outfitted with the shortest lens in history. From this jittery fish-eye perspective, a rather generic and pedestrian horror film develops. Ted pays for his rude behavior towards his girlfriends by starring in an entirely different sort of home movie, one he does not like appearing in at all.

The main problem here is that there just isn’t enough story to maintain the running time. Dailogue is repeated again and again, and some of the scenes go on for three times longer than they need to. There isn’t a whole lot of tension here. Paul’s “intimidating” diatribes never seem to end. He is like Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction, but on barbiturates and completely free of an editor. A scene in which Ted is tied up in a hot tub while Paul messes with his mind goes on for – seriously – half an hour.

Paul – Shut. Up.

Mr. Editor – Wake. Up.

Once Paul finally confirms what the audience figured out half an hour earlier – that he intends to make a snuff film starring Ted – the movie switches from black and white to color, and we see the point of view of Ted’s video camera filming his own demise.

Does Ted escape?
Who cares?
I was asleep by then.
Thanks, Paul.

Never has a thriller been so free of thrills, and never has something meant to be scary been so phenomenally dull. As it stands, Hospitality plays like the first act of a different and much better-paced film, stretched here to fill the running time of an entire movie. Watch it on fast-forward, it might be an improvement.

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