Director's Cut

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Jay Hernandez, Derek Richardson, Eythor Gudjonsson
Director:  Eli Roth
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio:  Sony
Features:  See Review
Length:  94 Minutes
Release Date: 
October 23, 2007

“I get a lot of money for you…and that make you MY bitch.”

Film ***

I feel I should start by pointing out that my three star rating is for HORROR FANS ONLY.  If you’re not one of those, you should probably stop right where you are and check out our review for Zathura instead.

When reviewing Eli Roth’s first film Cabin Fever, I remarked that I thought he had a lot of talent, and had a great horror film in his future.  That one wasn’t it, but with Hostel, he proved my assessment was correct. 

This is a grisly, shocking tale of torture and murder.  As with Cabin Fever, Roth proves he’s a master of imaginative gore, but unlike his first film, there’s a real story to go along with it, and characters with whom we’re invested in the outcomes.

It’s the kind of movie where I can’t really describe what happens in it, which may or may not be a disservice to our readers.  If I went into plotlines, I could deprive first time viewers the shock of the true nature of the picture (and if you don’t yet know, don’t try to find out before you watch it).  On the other hand, a descriptive review would really separate the true fans from the casual ones, and let you know exactly if this is the kind of film you want to spend your time with.  Instead, I’ll just have to ask you to trust my warning…and this is no hyperbole.  If your constitution is delicate, stay away.  Mine isn’t, and even I found it almost too much to take at times.

The story centers on a pair of American students backpacking through Europe, Paxton (Hernandez) and Josh (Richardson), along with an Icelandic adventurer Oli (Gudjonsson) who joined them along the way.  They’re kicking up their heels in Amsterdam, where drugs and sex are plentiful, and it’s good to be young, handsome and have money.

They make their way into Slovakia on the advice of a stranger on where to find gorgeous uninhibited women.  But soon Oli disappears without a trace.  And that’s just about where I want to stop the plot outline.

Suffice to say, what follows is gruesome and horrifying, both in the nature of the violence and the nature of the story.  Eli Roth has a most twisted imagination, but he certainly knows how to put it to effective use.  He’s really evolving into one of our most talented young directors, even if the pictures he makes aren’t for all tastes.  His sense of rhythm and camerawork and the ability to get the most out of his solid young actors all serve to prove he’s no fluke.  We’ll be seeing even bigger and better things from him in the future.

I gave it three stars because I’m a closet horror junkie, but it would be difficult for me to describe the movie as entertaining.  It’s a real razor line walk on the dark side of human nature…unrepentant and unsettling.  It may keep you up at night.  It may make you sick to your stomach.  It may make you shrink away in sheer terror.

Sounds like a recipe for a damned effective horror flick to me.

Video ****

Sony keeps knocking ‘em out of the park…the anamorphic transfer for Hostel is absolutely brilliant from top to bottom.  From the gorgeous outdoor locations in Holland to the dark, dreary locales…um, in other places, this digital effort always renders cleanly and clearly, with strong colors, sharp details, and no undue grain or compression getting in the way.

Audio ****

We all know how important sound is in horror, and this 5.1 mix delivers the grisly goods with lots of impact and dynamic range.  In places where sounds seem to echo eerily, you’ll definitely feel the full effect of your front and rear stages closing in on you.  Dialogue is well-delivered throughout as well.

Features ****

Commentaries galore…Eli Roth likes to talk, and he offers a wealth of information.  The best commentary for me was him by himself, because he speaks mainly to those who have dreams of making movies and what his experiences have been like.  There is also one with Roth, his editor and some of his actors, one with his producers, and one with his executive producers, including Quentin Tarantino.  There is also a three part making-of featurettes and plenty of previews.

That's the first disc...the second disc contains featurettes on the music, set design, KNB Effects, and an Icelandic meal with Eythor Gudjonsson, plus a radio interview with Eli Roth, an interview with director Takashi Miike, and an international television special.


Don’t say I didn’t warn you…if you really love your horror dark, dreary and gruesome, if your idea of a great night in with the DVD player is to have your nerves unraveled and your stomach churned, then Eli Roth’s Hostel is just the place for you to visit.

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