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HOSTEL/HOSTEL PART II
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Jay Hernandez, Derek Richardson, Eythor Gudjonsson
Director:  Eli Roth
Audio:  DTS HD 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio:  Sony
Features:  None
Length:  189 Minutes
Release Date: 
October 9, 2012

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

Hostel ***

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.

Hostel Part II (zero stars)

But...the well sometimes isn't as inviting the second time around.

When I told a friend of mine about having to review the Hostel movies for the site, he asked me to tell him what they were about.  I did…briefly…and his response was, “Why would anyone want to watch something like that?”

It turned out to be a good question.  While I gave Eli Roth’s Hostel a cautiously favorable review, I felt no such inclination with Hostel Part II.  The original film had at least some element of surprise.  For the sequel, having established the premise previously, Roth felt no need to delve into character development or plot this time around.  That’s not always a critical flaw for horror.  What is a critical flaw is when it’s not the least bit scary.

I didn’t care for his directorial debut Cabin Fever, but I thought the work still showed some promise.  I felt Hostel had delivered somewhat on that promise.  But with this sequel, I feel like I’ve sent the jury back to deliberate on the merits of Mr. Roth.  Maybe I gave him too much credit.  Maybe he really is just a gore fanatic without any clue as to what makes a horror film truly frightening.

We are back in Europe, where a group of American students soon find themselves picked out and victimized by the hostel, where as a business foreign tourists are captured and provided for well-paying clients who enjoy torturing and killing them.  So no, those who go in for the experience don’t get to exit through a gift shop.

You don’t get close to any of the women…I don’t really remember any names.  What you really remember is how they get dispatched, and, I suppose, in an attempt to be clever, do some dispatching of their own.  It’s a grisly tale of suffering, brutality and bloodletting without a single redeeming quality to make you feel like this is a film crafted by a real human being with a soul.

I’m not squeamish, but my idea of entertainment is not some large production version of a snuff film.  I like to be scared out of my gourd, but not endurance challenges that make me feel like I must have lost a bet or something.  Indeed…why WOULD anyone want to watch something like this?

Video ****

Sony keeps knocking ‘em out of the park…the high definition transfers for these movies are 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 DTS HD 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 (zero stars)

Two movies, one disc, low price...nothing else.

Summary:

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 Blu-ray player is to have your nerves unraveled and your stomach churned, then Eli Roth’s Hostel movies are just the place for you to visit.

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