From 2005, Hostel drops three collegians into Amsterdam for a debauched vacation of pot and poon, only to accidentally become victims in a bizarre business in which the wealthy pay big bucks to torture the kidnapped in an underground warehouse. Roth spares nothing, leaving viewers to cringe at every slice of the Achilles tendon, snipped toe or protruding eyeball.
Two years later, he revisited the same physical territory for Hostel: Part II, but in no way is the film merely more of the same story. While the trio of guys is traded for girls this gory go-round, we also get to know two Yankee yuppies eager to exact pain and suffering, thereby letting us in on the inner workings of the franchise's "hunting club." Once again, Roth spares nothing; every guy watching will want to cross his legs at the climactic scene.
In both pictures, the European settings are employed to their fullest. The result is more than just production value, but proof that the director can indeed direct. Look in particular at the hot-springs scenes in Part II and tell me those shots aren't framed and photographed beautifully.
But back to the parts that deliberately are anything but beautiful: You're not just reacting to the grotesqueness of it all, but because the stories yield actual suspense. You could remove the scenes of extreme gore and both Hostel trips still would raise your pulse, but not to a nail-biting degree. The stakes simply wouldn't be as high. That's my defense of the violence, at least: It serves a purpose, however sickening realistic. You're supposed to be mortified.
What elevates the films above being a showcase for well-executed effects is that Roth's gallows humor from his 2002 feature debut with Cabin Fever returned in full force. Yep, for all his scripts' screams and F-bombs, the guy can write, too. For my money, he doesn’t work often enough.
If you've not seen either Hostel before, this double-feature Blu-ray represents an almost absurdly affordable plunge. The downside is they have none of the extras that the Lionsgate DVDs had. There's also a minor audio-sync issue in the last scene of the first film, but since there’s no principal dialogue involved, it’s not that big a deal. Not at this low price, at least. —Rod Lott
Hey! Read This:
• Hostel: Part III DVD review