Oh, Hostel sounds like "Hostile." Judge Patrick Bromley totally gets it now.
Do you feel lucky?
There are few movie genres more disposable than the direct-to-DVD sequel. It's particularly taken hold in recent years, as studios realize they can cash in recognizable titles with in-name-only follow ups to movie that didn't warrant them, but which might generate revenue on the basis of their familiarity without ever having to spend a bunch of money creating prints or advertising for a wide theatrical release. It's particularly popular with horror movies, which have always been the most sequelized of any genre, mostly because horror fans don't particularly care what a movie is about or who it stars as long as it's horror. Even more than standard horror fare, the direct-to-DVD horror sequel is nothing but product—a series of familiar beats and kills with some name recognition. So it's somewhat surprising that Hostel: Part III—the third in a series of already-maligned horror movies—actually makes an effort to be more than just forgettable fodder. That's more than likely because it's directed by Scott Spiegel, one of the writers on Sam Raimi's Evil Dead II and whose last effort as a director was another direct-to-DVD horror sequel, 1999's From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money. He's a guy who knows horror movies, and it shows.
A pretty standard group of guy-movie friends, including douchey Carter (Kip Pardue, Driven), obnoxious married guy Mike (Skyler Stone, Stuck on You) and sensitive Justin (John Hensley, Nip/Tuck) head off to Vegas for the bachelor party of Scott (Brian Hallisay, Bottoms Up). There's drinking. There's hookers. There's the Elite Hunting Club, a super secret organization that allows its members to torture and murder civilians for huge sums of money. Guess where this particular bachelor party ends up?
From its opening moments, Hostel: Part III is intent on subverting what you've come to expect from a Hostel movie. In most instances, that doesn't make it less predictable—especially once you figure out the game that the movie is playing—but I have to at least admire the movie for having to ambition to be a little different, rather than just a straight remake of the first film. Most direct-to-DVD horror sequels have little on their minds beyond repeating the formula, so I'll give Hostel: Part III credit for acknowledging the formula, then twisting it just enough to try and keep things fresh.
What that adds up to, though, is a horror movie that's really only about being different from the other Hostel movies. Though he's a polarizing figure and his films have their detractors, a case could be made that Eli Roth's two films in the series are about not just displacement, but about a particular kind of class warfare. Those with means are allowed to murder and get away with it because they have means; the rest of us (you might call us the 99 percent) have no value except that which the ruling class is willing to pay in order to torture and murder us. There are some of those ideas at work in Hostel: Part III, but not really; it's more concerned with distinguishing itself by transporting the Elite Hunting Club from Europe to Las Vegas. In doing so, though, it loses much of what made the first two movies scary—the sense of being displaced in a land you don't know, where you don't speak the language and don't know how to get help. In fact, there's barely an actual hostel anywhere in the movie; most of the "activity" takes place in hotels and secret back rooms where high rollers place bets on things like how long it will take victims to beg for their lives or invoke their own families as a plea for mercy. That's really the only wrinkle that Vegas adds to the series, and it's woefully underdeveloped. I like adding a gambling component to the Elite Hunting Club, but Hostel: Part III just introduces it and forgets it in favor of increasingly silly plot twists.
Though this is the "unrated" version (a pretty meaningless title, seeing as no "rated" version was ever released), gore fans might actually be a little disappointed with Hostel Part III. There are a few bloody set pieces (including a terrible one involving cockroaches that's a mess both in concept and in execution), but anyone looking for hardcore "torture porn" (a dismissive label that I can't stand) isn't going to get the red meat they're hoping for. Except for one graphic "facelift" and perhaps the best solution to tire spikes ever put on film, the movie is actually kind of tame—at least, by modern horror movie standards.
The movie arrives on DVD courtesy of Sony, which offers an adequate presentation with just a single bonus feature. The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer looks decent, opting for a slightly grainier, cheaper look than in the first two slicker Hostel movies. Colors are fine and black levels are consistent, with the image retaining a kind of sickly green hue that's obviously very much by design. The 5.1 audio track (offered in a half dozen different languages) is serviceable, keeping the dialogue clear in the center channel and reserving the surround speakers for background noise and the occasional shock effect. Hostel: Part III isn't really a movie that depends on sound all that much for its scares, so the audio track isn't asked to jump through any hoops. Still, fans of the movie will find it satisfying enough.
The only bonus feature included on the disc (beyond the requisite bonus trailers that play upon startup, because that's how Sony do) is a commentary track with director Scott Spiegel and star Kip Pardue. It's chatty and lightweight, worth listening to only because Spiegel is so well-versed in low-budget horror filmmaking and has some interesting things to say on the subject. The pair covers the basics of the production and offers a few pieces of trivia, making for pretty standard commentary stuff. At least it's done with energy and humor.
As wholly unnecessary direct-to-DVD sequels go, Hostel: Part III isn't too bad. It's hardly required viewing, especially if you're not already a fan of the first two movies, but devotees of the series will find plenty to like. I hope that Sony is smart enough to retire the brand before the law of diminishing returns tarnishes it forever, but I suspect this one is just good enough to commission another DVD sequel. Can't say as I'm too excited by that prospect.
It could have been worse.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Review content copyright © 2011 Patrick Bromley; Site design and review layout copyright © 2013 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.