Do you feel lucky?
Year of release: 2011
Directed by: Scott Spiegel
Source: DVD (Rental)
Average IMDb rating: 4.8
Average Rotten Tomatoes rating: 22%
The first Hostel was not my cup of tea, even though Eli Roth showcased an amazing amount of gore. Hostel II was a little better, as far as story went and had even more gore, which always help in the world of horror. When I heard there was going to be a third Hostel coming out, I was a little hesitant for three big reasons:
- Eli Roth was not attached as either the Director/Producer/Writer. What?
- It was coming straight to DVD. What?
- The film’s setting is no longer in Eastern Europe, but in Las Vegas. WHAT??????
I am a big fan of Eli Roth and he lives the life that many of us horror fans would dream to have. He built a successful horror franchise that, for the most part, fans and critics have embraced as quality films. Sure he has haters out there, but who in Hollywood doesn’t? (Except for Kurt Russell of course. How can anyone hate on him?)
I decided to risk $1.29 and rent Hostel III from the local Redbox and see if this movie could live up to the first two films and I am pleased to say that I was pleasantly surprised with this entry.
WARNING!!!!!! SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!!!
The movie opens with four friends, Scott, Carter, Mike, and Justin, going to Las Vegas for a bachelor party. After the guys meet two female escorts, Nikki and Kendra, who invite them to an exclusive party across town, things quickly begin to go from bad to worse. After a night of partying, Mike and Nikki are missing and the group of guys and Kendra must find them quickly. What they don’t realize is that they have been captured by the Elite Hunting Club, a sadistic group of rich men and women who gamble on how their victims will die. One by one, the group falls into their trap and is subjected to various forms of torture. Will they escape, or will they all be another notch on the belts of the Elite Hunting Club?
Hostel III is like the nerdy, sheepish girl with glasses in high school who has two very hot sisters. Hostel is the 5’2” older, thin, blonde cheerleader who likes to tease you and trick you into doing her biology homework for her. Hostel II is the 5’5” brunette with nice curves who plays volleyball and can hang with the guys for a round of beers. Now you look at the abashed sister, Hostel III, and on the surface you think to yourself “wow she’s nowhere near as hot as her two older sisters, but I bet if she puts her hair down, takes the glasses off, and puts on a little make up, she could be just as hot as the other two. I mean, she’s already got the great personality, she just needs the looks to match, right?” This terrible analogy sums up how I feel about Hostel III: it’s nowhere near as pretty as the other two, but damnit it has some personality.
Hostel III’s biggest strength is its personality, or its story. Well, most of the story anyway. The writer, Michael D. Weiss, gives us a refreshing new twist on the Hostel franchise: the scary possibility of being captured and tortured against your will is no longer just in Eastern Europe, it’s now back home, in America’s playground of debauchery, Las Vegas.
Weiss hits us with not one, but two curveballs that break the “typical Hostel formula.” Presented to you is my non-scientific Hostel formula, awaiting patent by the US Patent Office and the Horror Blogger Alliance:
Young American kids + hot bamboozling European women + booze/drugs – proper judgement x torture divided by Rich people = Hostel
First curveball: The first scene gives us the classic formula: We see a young American man going into a hostel to stay for the night. He shares a room with a young Eastern European couple who offer him drinks from a questionable bottle of vodka. The young man refuses and offers them beer. The girlfriend then undresses in front of the young man and gets in the shower. As I was watching this movie, I was thinking to myself “oh great, same old, same old as the other two. The kid is going to get drugged or kidnapped thanks to these two Europeans” But then BAM!!!!, director Scott Spiegel throws a Mariano curve at you: it turns out the young man has spiked the beer and has lured the young couple into the hands of the Elite Hunting Club, who then kidnap the young couple. Not only that, but we find out that the young couple are actually foreigners who are vacationing in America.
Second curveball: The guys meet two very hot young women, Nikki and Kendra, who tell them that they know of a cool strip club they can all go party at. The only thing is this place is off of the strip and in an abandoned warehouse. Again, I’m thinking “great, back to the same old formula where the two hot chicks are paid by the Elite Hunting Club to lure young guys to this abandoned warehouse to get tortured.” But then, Spiegel throws us a wicked Halladay curve: it turns out the girls were right the whole time, that the place is actually a strip club and they party with the guys. But soon after that they both fall victim to the Elite Hunting Club as well, becoming notches on their sadistic belt.
Where Hostel III succeeds is its fresh, new concepts to an already tired formula of movies. Also, the film has a very quick pace and the story moves along really quick, getting you right to the Elite Hunting Club and its extracurricular activities off of the Vegas strip really early in the film.
While the film has great personality, it has several huge flaws. The first being the films budget. Hostel was made for $4.5 million. Hostel II was made for $10 million. This film was made for ?????. I couldn’t find any info on the budget but my guess is that it was exceptionally less than the original film’s $4.5 million. Had the film received a bigger budget they could have incorporated practical effects for the torture scenes instead of the ridiculously laughable CGI gore we got fed in this one.
For example, one of the girls is tortured by having lots of live roaches crawling down her throat, Creepshow style. What we got were CGI rendered roaches that looked ridiculously fake which completely destroyed the moment and caused me to laugh. Another scene had the Elite Hunting Clubs building get blown up, to cover any evidence, and we got some of the worst looking CGI fire that I have ever seen.
For this being a Hostel film, the gore is pretty light. Most of the torture scenes do not show a lot of blood and some of the deaths are performed off camera, forcing our imaginations to think about what’s really happening to these poor people. That may work in a supernatural film or a Hitchcock film, but this is Hostel!!! The whole point of watching these movies is to see some dumb Americans get cut up and drenched in blood. Which goes back once again to the light budget. If the budget was higher we would have gotten some really good death scenes.
The budget also limited hiring quality cast members. The most well known actor in this ensemble was Kip Pardue, who is the best man Carter, best known for playing the quarterback Sunshine in Remember the Titans. The hero and future groom, Scott, played by Brian Hallisay, was stiff and reminded me of Tom Welling from Smallville if he was cast in a horror movie (wasn’t he in that crappy The Fog remake? Crap. Scratch that last statement). John Hensley, best known as Matt from Nip/Tuck, who plays the crippled Justin was ok, but not great. Skyler Stone, who plays Mike, was trying too hard to be the comic relief, a la Zack Galifinakis in The Hangover. (This film felt like they were trying way too hard to be like The Hangover mixed with a horror film)
To me, the biggest weakness was the exclusion of Eli Roth, the man responsible for the first two. If Roth was involved, there would have been practical effects, lots more gore, and definitely a bigger budget, which would have lead to a bigger and better cast. I don’t know why Eli Roth was not included for this project but he could have at least produced or been a creative consultant or something.
Hostel III was surprisingly ok. I was expecting this to be a god awful straight to DVD film like Hellraiser: Revelations which tried to pull in an audience based on the name alone. You really have to give the director and writer credit for this one: they took something old and gave it a new, fresh take on it. While it may not be as good as the first two, it’s still worth watching, especially if you’re a fan of the franchise. Overall, the story was very good, but the CGI effects, bad acting, and lack of gore really weigh this film down. Going back to my analogy, the shy, mousy girl has a lot of potential to be hot, but she ultimately can’t be as pretty as her two other sisters, no matter how hard she tries.
Until next time,
Matt De Luna, the De Lunatic.