Don’t feel bad Hostel. It’s ok. You’re in good company. It happened to Hellraiser. It happened to Pumpkinhead. It happened to George Romero’s “of the Dead” flicks as well as Return of the Living Dead, Re-Animator, and Candyman. I’m shocked it didn’t happen to Saw. It will probably end up happening to Paranormal Activity. Hell, if the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street series had started 15 years later it probably would have happened to them. It’s not as big of a deal now, and it doesn’t carry the same stigma it did a few years ago. You aren’t the first franchise to start out in theaters and then have the later sequels go direct to DVD. Yes folks, the third in the series is coming to DVD next week, and while it doesn’t match up to its predecessors in some ways, it does hold its own.
Apparently the Elite Hunting Club has taken to franchising, as they now have a branch in Las Vegas. You know, if I had to think of somewhere in America where a place like that could exist, Sin City would be it. Good Choice. Anyway, four buddies meet in Vegas for a bachelor party. At the casino they meet up with two lovely ladies who invite them to a mysterious club far from the strip where things get “a little freaky.” Do I really need to go any further? Yeah, didn’t think so. We all know where this is going.
The first thing that strikes me about this movie is how is has a completely different atmosphere than the first two Hostel flicks. The first two had an exotic feel during the early part of the proceedings, and a grimy, dimly lit, dungeon like atmosphere once the killing got underway. By relocating it to Vegas, they traded the exotic quality of the previous vacation destinations for Sin City sleaze. While the other countries were otherworldly, Vegas is familiar. It feels even more like something that could actually happen to you. In contrast, the dank, gritty realism of the underground torture chambers is replaced by a new, modern, high tech, swanky facility. This time instead of taking place in the dark, the nightmares are neon lit. It has become a spectator sport, with wealthy gamblers betting on things like how many arrows it will take to kill someone or what the victim will say when they beg for their lives. This gives the proceedings a completely different flavor, and fits perfectly with the relocation to America. It also has a little bit of a futuristic, dysopian feel. While I really dug the style of the first two, I like the fact that this, the first Roth-less film in the series, forged it’s own identity instead of following the formula too closely. That’s a quality some of my favorite franchise flicks (F13 6, NOES 3, Bride of Chucky) have shared.
The first two were both deeper and shallower (I looked, yes it is a word) script-wise than this one. Let me explain. While a lot of reviewers said that the first two were nothing but a showcase of violence, that isn’t entirely true. Just below the surface were metaphors about the sanctity (or lack thereof) of life, criticism of American foreign policy, commentary about capitalism, etc. There was a lot going on there that people, for the most part, couldn’t look past the gore to get to. That being said, the stories themselves were very straightforward and didn’t have a lot of twists. This movie is the opposite. While you could apply a message about the nature of American entertainment and the victimization of society by the rich elite, that would be a little forced. What this film lacks in deeper meaning compared to the first two it makes up for in story. There are a few very well done plot twists in this one. It’s more story driven, rather than being effects driven (Hostel 1) or character driven (Hostel 2).
The other main difference, and the only one I really don’t like, is the violence. Those who decried the first two as just…(DISCLAIMER: I hate this term. It’s dismissive, pejorative, and just plain idiotic. We as horror fans, and reviewers in particular, need to rise up and stomp out its use. I only use it here because this, along with Saw, was where the term gained prominence and to discredit those who have used it. Know that I spit it out with the same contempt as the name of Fred Durst)…torture porn will be happy to know that the torture has been toned down. I don’t get that. This is an unrated DVD, so why tone it down? The violence that is there is sometimes inspired, but the execution isn’t very explicit by Hostel standards. The torture is more “high concept,” which some will find lessens the impact and others will find more intriguing. It’s all about taste on that issue. What can’t be disputed is the terrible CGI. When are you people going to learn dammit? It looks like shit! Go practical. They did do some practical effects, and they all look pretty good, but when they resorted to CGI it just looked bad. For example, there is one scene involving Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches, who are always welcome (I love my Maddys), but at one point they animate them and it becomes laughable. They also aren’t carnivorous, but I’ll let that fact slide. There is also a scene at the end where they go for an effect that was clearly WAY beyond the budgetary limits, so they completely animate it. It looks horrendous. A message to filmmakers; if you can’t afford to do an effect right, rewrite or figure out a way not to have to do it at all.
As far as the characters go, they’re somewhere in the middle between the obnoxious “would you just die already” douchebagery of the first and the well drawn, sympathetic cast of the second one. The characters aren’t exactly fleshed out, but they are all distinct and actually have motivations. All of the actors do a good job, although they all have that generic prettyboy/girl look. Can we not find some interesting looking actors and actresses folks? The performances are above the usual direct to DVD standard though. John Hensley (Teeth, Nip/Tuck) is particularly great as Justin. The wisecracking cripple has some amazing lines, and is probably my favorite character out of the whole series.
Random Thought #1: That DVD cover is stupid. Just stupid.
Random Thought #2: I love it when sequels use the word “part” as part of the actual title. Hostel Part 3 is so much cooler than Hostel 3. I don’t know why, that little touch just makes me smile.
Random Thought #3: There is a GREAT kill near the end involving a car. It’s something I’ve never seen before, which is commendable. It’s also just plain mean, and the way the actor committing it plays the scene had me laughing out loud. It’s ruined, however, by the godawful CGI. Whoever came up with that idea; you deserve extreme props. Whoever actually executed it; you deserve an extreme kick to the dangly bits.
Overall, Hostel Part Three falls down in the gore department, but delivers in the story department. It’s more of a thriller based around a torture facility than a torture flick. Whether you liked it better the other way, like this way better, or appreciate both (like me) is up to you. The acting is good despite the actors being, for the most part, run of the mill. I would like to see the series continue like this, showing us an Elite Hunting facility in a different part of the world each time and tailoring the flick to that country’s culture. It’s as competently directed as you would expect from Scott Speigel. I wouldn’t say it’s as good as the other two in the series, but taken on its own merits it’s better than the majority of the DTV pack. The only thing I can really call it out on is that horrible CGI. Looks like sometimes what happens in Vegas stays on DVD and Blu-ray. One and a half severed thumbs up. Nathan says check it out.