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Hostel (Unrated Widescreen Edition) Print E-mail
User Rating: / 8
Written by Ray Casta   
Friday, 11 January 2008

"Hostel" DVD - Severed Cinema

Directed by: Eli Roth
Written by: Eli Roth
Produced by: Chris Biggs, Mike Fleiss
Cinematography by: Milan Chadima
Editing by: George Folsey Jr.
Special Makeup Effects: KNB EFX Group
Music by: Nathan Barr
Cast: Jay Hernandez, Derek Richardson, Eythor Gudjonsson, Barbara
Nedeljakova, Jan Vlasák
Year: 2005
Country: USA
Language: English
Color: Color
Runtime: 95 min

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Video: NTSC R1
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Audio: Dolby Dolby Digital 5.1
Official Website:

The theme of torture has been popular lately with mainstream horror, seen in "Saw”, “Saw 2", last year's "The Devil's Rejects" and "Wolf Creek".  Here is "Hostel", Eli Roth's follow-up to his debut in 2002, "Cabin Fever".  It's a film about two American kids, Paxton (Jay Hernandez) and his best pal, Josh (Derek Richardson) who finished college and are now about to enter the corporate world.  The two have decided to go backpacking across Europe before their lives drastically change back in the states.  They are backpacking in Europe, tagging along with a crazy and wild Icelander, Oli (Eythor Gudjonsson).  Amsterdam, a place any college graduate would vacation given the chance, is where the trio are in the opening scenes.  There, they smoke weed and meet all kinds of beautiful women, who are quick to pleasure them in any way.  One night, they are locked outside their hotel and they meet friendly Alexi (Lubomir Silhavecky), who informs the trio how Slovakia makes Amsterdam pale in comparison.  After telling them about the hostels there, they make their way to Slovakia.

From this point on, the bland "Eurotrip" beginning makes way for a Miike-inspired second half.  The inspiration for the material is even more amusing than the movie itself.  After Harry Knowles (Ain't it Cool News) sent Roth an email about a Thai website which sold the opportunity of shooting a fellow citizen in the head for the sum of $10,000, the movie was born.  Originally, Roth planned to make a documentary on the subject to explore if the website was real or not.  Upon his extensive research, Roth realized, after all, he didn't want to run amok the makers of the site if it was the real thing.  He discussed the work with friend Quentin Tarantino (who would later become "presenter" of "Hostel"), who urged him to write a first draft right away.  His motivations for the characters was how they act in foreign places, wanting to comment how Americans feel they are superior to lands alien to them, etc.  It's unfortunate however, his themes do not develop.  If it would have been successful, the film would have packed a genuine punch.

In his well-written review of the film, critic Jeremiah Kipp wondered the same thing I did: "I'm not sure how much thought Roth put into how we the audience should feel about the characters in Hostel.  I assume he simply thought Paxton and Josh were funny.  His movie is deliberately free of subtext, and there's no deep hidden critique of the free-spirited American abroad."  It's true how the characters are so thin and poorly sketched, we simply think of them to be "funny".  Thus, the killing and torture sequences are impotent.  If we do not care about them, where is the effect?  If we aren't feeling an emotional connection to their suffering, what is the point?  People can generally relate to Josh and Paxton.  People, on the other hand, are more unique than characters -- and I wished Roth would have realized how clichéd and shallow his characters were.  Facial expressions say more than words sometimes.  If only the actors realized this fact, it would have helped characterization.  There is an arc Paxton reaches, where he is supposedly capable of evil, yet it is unconvincing.

The most flawed bit was Slovakia's "Elite Hunting" torture dungeon, where people torture and kill for a price.  Ideas are certainly interesting, but all Roth has in his head are ideas.  Actual insight and a truly no-holds-barred look into the club and Slovakia's conspiracy is the key.  The point is lost because Roth is too busy trying so desperately to make his movie "shocking" and that is where the movie is also a disappointment.  I am well aware "Hostel" is a mainstream movie, but Roth is afraid to strengthen the torture aspects in most ways.  Paxton is tricked by the beautiful Natalia (Barbara Nedeljakova) who receives a reward for the capture.  He is dragged down the hall of the dungeon, where he peeks into several rooms as he passes them.  Viewers are treated to glimpses of grisly torture and suffering.  I am disappointed not because I want to see torture in every scene, but because of how Roth himself promised graphic violence.  The story indeed calls for that type of confrontational violence, but it does not deliver on its promises.

Capabilities of making "Hostel" as shocking as hyped are present, but when the chances come, Roth holds back and plays it safe.  Josh's torture, for example, is too safe -- the goriest bit is his Achilles heel being sliced open and to its credit, the scene rivals the one in "Pet Semetary".  When a drill is shown being driven into Josh's leg, the pay-off is nonexistent.  Torture and violence is something we have seen before, not only exploitation fans but even mainstream fans also.  Maybe Roth can't even realize how seasoned most horror fans are that will see his movie.  Hyped as "scariest movie of the decade", tension and terror is nonexistent.  Atmosphere is well captured, the torture sequences are mildly effective for what they do actually show, and the set-up is efficient.  After the build up, all momentum runs out.  My favorite scene is when Paxton enters an "Elite Hunter" room, complete with their body suits and assorted gear.  Rattled from his experience so far, Paxton realizes he isn't safe yet.  He needs to escape.  Rick Hoffman plays The American Businessman, who walks in and talks to Paxton.  His dialogue is so twisted it is darkly humorous.

I wish Roth would have explored the theme of violence deeply plaguing a person, haunting their thoughts, and then the person becoming jaded after they experience violence themselves, to the point where they are able to cause the same suffering they felt.  Josh's captor is The Dutch Businessman (Jan Vlasak), and motivation for his killing is empty and insipid.  Social commentary is attempted, on how corrupt Slovakia really is.  The idea of a foreign country protecting its citizens from a torture ring is profoundly scary.  Roth probably didn't have time to explore any of his ideas and themes, which is a shame because this is an opportunity missed and wasted.  The ending, which I won't spoil, is satisfying if only to tie up the loose ends -- as a result, the conclusion feels anti-climatic and tacked-on.  It leads me to believe how appropriate its original ending would have been in place of it.  Roth intended for an inspired ending he should have kept, which had the possibility to cause a controversy, but at least "Hostel" would have ended on a haunting and shocking note.

Though "Hostel" is a major disappointment, it isn't a total loss.  I at least give Roth credit for growth and maturity since "Cabin Fever".  The same humor in his debut isn't present here, and as far as his filmmaking goes, he shows improvement.  Nathan Barr's unique score, Milan Chadima's striking photography, and the homage’s (Paxton's disfigured hand recalls "Audition", and the "train" scene at the end recalls "Suicide Club") are amusing.  The most visceral scene, by far, is an eyeball hanging out a woman's socket and it being snipped off by Paxton.  It's surely a gutsy shot for Roth to take, and if he continued to take these types of shots, the end result would be superior.  Only a few seconds, I hear, were cut directly from the scene.  I admire Roth for keeping the integrity of the scene, as I am surprised it wasn't severely butchered by the MPAA.  I prefer it over most mainstream horror yet I can't help but find "Hostel" awfully flawed.  No matter how I think about it actually, "Hostel" had full potential to be great if Eli Roth took his material more seriously than he did.


2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
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Dolby Digital 5.1
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- Audio commentary with director Eli Roth
- Audio commentary with Eli Roth, executive producers Quentin Tarantino, Boaz Yakin, & Scott Spiegel
- Audio commentary with Eli Roth, producer Chris Briggs and documentarian Gabriel Roth
- Audio commentary with Eli Roth, actors Eythor Gudjonsson & Barbara Nedeljakova, editor George Folsey Jr & online movie critic Harry Knowles
- "Hostel Dissected": Making-of Featurette
- "Kill the Car" multi-angle interactive feature

Fans will definitely get a kick out of the uncut DVD for "Hostel", which includes a good "27 seconds of extra eye goo", as Roth puts it. In the supplemental department, the DVD delivers for fans, but I was particularly disappointed the original ending (with Paxton kidnapping The Dutch Businessman's kid) wasn't included. With four commentary tracks to listen to, "Hostel" fans got their hands full. A track with Roth by himself, one with Roth, executive producers Quentin Tarantino, Boaz Yakin, and Scott Spiegel, one with Roth, producer Chris Briggs, and documentary filmmaker Gabriel Roth, and the last is with Roth, actors Eythor Gudjonsson, Barbara Nedeljakova, and editor George Folsey -- Harry Knowles joins them to chat about the movie. Since I'm a Tarantino fan, I listened to the track with Roth and the executive producers. This was a fun and entertaining listen, which made me wish Quentin had more for his films. Not only is it fun, the track is informative about the making of the movie and its inception.

Running at an hour long, "Hostel Dissected" is a 3-part behind-the-scenes featurette. It shows gore FX, interviews of the cast and crew, and on-production shots in Prague. "Kill the Car" is essentially a multi-angle featurette with the "Bubblegum Gang" destroying a car and causing mayhem. Can be fun for some people, I guess, but it was a complete waste of time to me. Trailers include: "When a Stranger Calls", "Silent Hill", "The Cave", "Underworld: Evolution", "Exorcism of Emily Rose", "The Boogeyman", "The Fog", and "Ring Around the Rosie".

Hostel - "This ain't no Aftermath"

Hostel - "I See Tits"

Hostel - "Little Bitch"

Hostel - "S & M?"

Hostel - "Saw"

Hostel - "Silent Night"

Hostel - "How 'bout this?"

Hostel - "Asian snip"

Hostel - "Asian Eye Goo"

Hostel - "Puddle"

Hostel - "Harvey Dent"

Hostel - "Caught in the Shitter"

Hostel - "Sliced and Strangled"

Hostel - "Looks Are Deceiving"

Hostel - "Torture?"

Hostel - "Miike Bandwagon"

Hostel - "Autopsy"


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danielle willis  - n/a     | |2008-08-15 23:28:45
Both "Hostel" movies benefitted from a lot less time spent introducing
the vacationers and waching them do dumb, touristy things and more time
exploring the inner workings of the Elite Hunting Club and its patrons.

2;\\\\\\\\\ 2;\

Andrea  - Best Actress Winner     | |2011-08-08 01:46:15
Hostel was one of the scariest movies I've ever seen in my life. Good job,
guys! I'm looking forward to seeing Hostel III and Hostel IV. By the way,
James and Leigh are already on Saw VIII. What's the hold up? When Hostel III
and Hostel IV come out, I'll see them on their opening days! Love!
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