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Starring Jay Hernandez, Derek Richardson, Eythor Gudjonsson, Barbara Nedeljakova, and Jan VlasÃ¡k
Directed by Eli Roth
Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Bad reputations. Unless you’re a complete goody two-shoes, we’ve all gotten them for one reason or another. You know what I’m talking about: I don’t like this one because of that one, blah blah blah. Such is the case with director Eli Roth. Having surfed many a horror themed message board over the years, I’ve read plenty about him. Some people really dig what he’s trying to do while others hate him about as much as any one person could another. And why? Because he’s proactive in the genre? Because he’s a very visible and colorful person? In truth, the guy’s just doing his thing. He’s living the dream, and I am willing to bet that if any of us were in his situation, we’d be doing the exact same thing. But people are fickle. Some will prejudge Hostel sight unseen just because it’s an Eli Roth film. What some folks fail to realize is that it takes hundreds of people to make a movie, not just the director. A film should be judged on its own merits, not just on who worked on it. That’s exactly what I’m gonna do for you guys: offer you an honest opinion of a film and DVD without buying into the myriad of idiotic hype that can sometimes surround a project.
Amsterdam. Who wouldn’t love a place that indulges in just about every sin known to our society — and legally at that? Marijuana is the herb of choice, and prostitutes are as easily available as Monopoly games are at the local toy store. People, especially young twenty-something people, are apt to get into a lot of trouble in a town like this. Enter Paxton, Josh, and Oli. They’re on vacation in the land of sin and looking to party. After getting locked out of their hotel, or hostel if you will, they are taken in by a local pimp named Alex. Before you can say “Nice tits”, Alex sends our trio out to a place where the chicks “will fuck you just because you’re foreign.” Let’s face it, most men think with their dicks. I don’t know of any one guy that would resist such a chance. However, as we all know, it doesn’t ever pay to think with our little head.
Our protagonists arrive at their destination, and as promised, the babes are in abundance and more than willing. Maybe a little too willing. One after the other, Oli and Josh disappear, leaving Paxton to sort out what happened. After voicing his concerns to the local police and hitting a brick wall, Paxton decides he can accomplish more by doing a little legwork. He tracks down the -ahem- whores they were with and demands to know what’s going on and where his friends are. He’s then informed that, “They’re at an art exhibit“. Having had enough of the nonsense, our hero demands to be taken there. Art can sometimes be grotesquely beautiful, and for Paxton things end up being worse than he could ever have imagined.
Hostel‘s story packs quite the punch because it seems plausible. Somewhere in this world I am sure that shit like this really happens, and that, my friends, is a truly horrifying prospect. According to Roth in one of the special features (more on these in a bit), Hostel began its life as a documentary. Upon doing research for it, things started getting a bit too crazed for comfort so it was decided that telling a fictional account of these occurrences would be better, not to mention safer.
What we have here is a very dark and disturbing tale. Hostel works on two levels: The opening of the film plays almost as if it were an homage to the teen sex comedies of the early Eighties. Truth be told, characters like the insatiable and outrageous Oli (who, by the way, steals much of the entire first act of the film) are torn directly from that genre. Things move along at a lighthearted pace with funny jokes and lots of T and A filling the screen to the delight of horny teenagers the world over. But then things take a frightening turn. A very frightening turn. The final forty-five minutes of Hostel are the stuff of nightmares. Bodies are tortured, torn, and thrown away like yesterday’s trash. Every reason we’ve ever had to be afraid of the dark is brought to life in a relentless and gut-wrenching manner. Normally I don’t see how these vastly different types of film could blend into one, but Hostel pulls it off while pulling out all of the stops seamlessly.
And hey! Look! On the box! It says Unrated Widescreen Cut right across the top! Is this version of the film sicker and more twisted than the theatrical cut as promised? Well, yes and no. Let’s cover the no side of things first, shall we? Honestly, the average person probably wouldn’t be able to detect the differences between this and the version we saw in theatres. There are no extra scenes, and there’s certainly nothing that we didn’t see already. There are just longer looks at what was originally there. That being said, we as horror fans are not the average person. We want the gore, slime, and pus. We want every bit of it that was filmed, and we want good fucking looks at it as well. This is where the unrated version of Hostel delivers. The gore level is indeed high up on the splatter scale, but to be honest, I still wanted more. What can I say, I’m jaded. While the added stuff may only end up being a few seconds worth of splatter here and there, it’s still good to see; and this unrated cut is definitely the only way Hostel should be viewed by fans.
Okay, so we got some extra gore. What else is this DVD packing? Say what you want about Eli Roth, but he makes sure his home video treatments are packed with goodies for the fans. Included is about an hour’s worth of behind-the-scene footage, presented in three parts, that chronicle Hostel‘s journey from pre-production to its wrap; and I have to say it was damned entertaining! Roth is a showman with a strong personality, and his crew was comprised of very like-minded individuals as well. The result is an often hilarious look at what it is like to make a horror film in a foreign country from beginning to end. Also included is a special feature entitled Kill the Car! All this really ends up being is a multi-angle look at the scene in the film in which the street kids wreck the villains’ car toward the end of the movie. Why it’s here I do not know, but hey, I guess it’s better than listing Scene Selection as an extra.
Kind of average stuff, but there is one area of special features on this DVD that does stand curiously out. The commentaries. There are four of them. Yep, you read it right: four of them. While it is nice to hear from a lot of the principals involved including Quentin Tarantino, George Folsey, Jr., Scott Spiegel, and of course Roth himself, I can’t help but feel that four commentaries for any movie is a little on the masturbatory side. The good news is each is vibrantly funny and way entertaining. One thing disheartens me a bit though. During each commentary track the several different endings for Hostel are discussed, and there’s also brief discussion of them being included on a different DVD release. Will there be a sufficient reason to double-dip down the road? Who knows? If there are a few more episodes of The Rotten Fruit included, I just might.
As is this is a very good package for a very fast paced and torture heavy horror film. With all the talk about folks hating remakes and PG-13 horror films, Hostel should fit the bill very nicely for the horror fan seeking a near over-the-top amount of violence. Check your preconceived notions at the door, sit back, turn down the lights, and enjoy this nightmarishly sexy ride down the blood-soaked hallways of the best little gorehouse in Prague.
I am so glad I shaved my balls for this!
Audio commentary by director Eli Roth
Audio commentary by director Eli Roth and executive producers Quentin Tarantino, Boaz Yakin, and Scott Spiegel
Audio commentary by director Eli Roth with producer Chris Briggs and documentarian Gabriel Roth
Audio commentary by director Eli Roth with actors Eythor Gudjonsson and Barbara Nedeljakova, editor George Folsey, Jr., and online critic Harry Knowles
Hostel Dissected behind-the-scenes featurette
Kill the Car! multi-angle interactive feature
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