Reviewed by: JimmyO
What's it about
Two American backpackers looking for sex and drugs in Europe get more than they bargained for when they find themselves at a Hostel in Slovakia. Along with their Icelandic friend Oli, they soon realize, they are the ones who are at the mercy of people who consider torture “fun times”.
Is it good movie?
Eli Roth knows horror. His first feature, Cabin Fever was a wildly brutal yet campy homage to such films as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and other horror cult classics. But this time around his inspiration seems to have come more from Hitchcock and DePalma. There is some damn good filmmaking here. Early in the film, Josh (Derek Richardson), Paxton (Jay Hernandez) and their Icelandic friend Oli (Eythor Gudjonsson) are enjoying the finer things Amsterdam has to offer; hookers and drugs. The sets are bright and colorful and the actors are all about the excitement of being a stranger in a strange land. But soon into the second act when they find themselves at a hostel in Slovakia things begin to change. Yes, the women are beautiful (and naked) and it seems like their dreams have come true. But they begin to realize that their dreams will soon be nightmares.
If you are a self respecting horror film fanatic you know what happens here. But Mr. Roth takes this a step further by giving us time to get to know these characters. I’ve heard other reviews call these people unlikable… but frankly, these “dudes” are just collage age kids who are getting their wild side out. Paxton and Josh are real people who are doing things that many will find juvenile but why do people go to Amsterdam in the first place? For fine art or museums? No, they go to get high and to get laid. The irony here is they become the whores. In a brilliant bit of dialogue, Josh questions the idea of going into a room and paying someone to do whatever they want. These two actors do fantastic work and are both very likable. Although it takes awhile for us to see the decent side of Jay’s character; when we do, we are able to identify with him. They give very strong performances giving us ample reason to care about their fate.
Other actors that stand out are Mr. Gudjonsson who adds mucho comic relief as Oli. Gotta love his unrepentant misogynist attitude because he is just a guy that loves women and loves fun and there is not an evil bone in his body. Good show. And speaking of evil, Barbara Nedeljakova is absolutely stunning as the, "is she or isn’t she" a bad girl. She can be sexy and playful and then be cold and brutal. Wonderful performance and I hope to see more of her (although you do see quite a bit of her, if you know what I mean). Also of note is Czech actor Jan Vlasák as the Dutch Businessman who finds interest in Josh. Jan gives a very inspired performance. Eli has a talent for casting the right people and he continues that trend here. There are several different languages spoken and no sub-titles used. This is a great tool, keeping the audience as an outsider and thus sympathy remains with Josh, Paxton and even Oli.
Not only are the actors great and the script involving but there is a nice amount of gore. This is not a “gore fest” but it will keep most audiences squirming. And this being the “unrated cut” we get the usual extra few seconds of gore. This is a brutal, freighting journey, that takes time to delve into the hell that our heroes ultimately face. And along the way, they are treated to great pleasures only to fall victim to some of the most brutal pain you could ever imagine. The way the atmosphere, the make-up and the set design deteriorate during this journey makes for a pretty brilliant film. This Hostel is worth checking in.
Video / Audio
Video: A terrific looking 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen.
Audio: Dolby Digital Mastered in High Definition sounds great especially for a flick that relies pretty heavily on sound.
For a single disc this is not bad at all. Most of the goodies come from the four Commentaries including the Executive Producer commentary with Eli Roth, Quentin Tarantino, Boaz Yakin and Scott Spiegel. This has to be one of the most entertaining executive producer commentaries ever. They talk about everything from shooting in Prague to Eli’s chest hair. They have a blast and are a whole bunch of fun to listen to.
Then comes the “Actor’s Commentary” with guests including, Eli Roth again, Barbara Nedeljakova, Eythor Gudjonsson, editor George Folsey Jr. and finally Ain’t it Cool News’ own, Harry Knowles. This is not really a commentary but more like a set of interviews during the film. The most interesting is Mr. Folsey. This man knows everyone and has done everything as an editor and a producer. He has a wealth of information to pass on. After his “interview” we get to hear Barbara and Eythor who are both very interesting and seem quite genuine. And finally we get to hear the real story as to how Eli Roth and Harry Knowles came up with the idea for Hostel.
Next we get the “Producer Commentary” with, you guessed it, Eli is back with Chris Briggs and Documentarian (and Eli’s brother) Gabriel Roth. This is also a fun listen where the spend most of the time talking about the locations used. They have fun with this and make for yet another good time listen.
And finally we get the “Director Commentary” with… who do you think? Eli is a becoming a major force in the horror community and he has a lot to say. He comes across in all the commentaries as a very sincere dude who would be a blast to sit around and just hang with. He’s smart and he has a love for horror. He’s going to be around for awhile. This is a “must listen” commentary for anyone who wants to make films. He offers a very telling and informative view of filmmaking. I also have to give kudos to Mr. Roth for calling out the ridiculous practice of “testing” movies because I for one don’t want a test audience telling me what I want to see.
The next extra we have is Kill The Car! Multi-Angle (2:25) which is a terrific feature for DVD and it is seldom used where you can watch the same scene from a different angle. This is a fun feature yet I wish we could have had a couple more scenes done with this feature. But hey, at least the used it.
We are finally treated to a fantastic little “behind the scenes” called Hostel Dissected which is separated into “Part 1” (26:53), “Part 2” (14:29) and “Part 3” (13:56). This is a fun and informative look at the making of Hostel. You want Star Wars Jedi talk? You got it. You want drunk actors? Yep, that’s here too. They had a blast making this movie and it shows. But it also shows the struggle of making this kind of movie. Well worth your DVD purchase.
And of course, Sony wants you to buy other movies so we get Previews for “When a Stranger Calls”, “Silent Hill”, “Underworld: Evolution”, “The Cave”, “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”, “Boogeyman”, “Ring Around The Rosie” and last and very much least, the lousy remake of “The Fog”.
Eli Roth has created a stylish, brutal and disturbing trip into a brutal world which may or may not exist (pretty bloody likely that it does). The acting, the look and style is far better than most of the horror movies churned out by Hollywood. Along with Rob Zombie and his brilliant feature The Devil’s Rejects, Hostel is one of the best horror features in recent years. No MTV quick flash editing, no hip song to make sure you have a “rock video” in constant rotation. This is old fashioned horror that takes time with character yet still delivers the bloody goods and tit shots. This is a true horror fans wet dream.