Retro Review: HOSTEL (2005){0}

Both Hostels and all three Saws; I actually dig ‘em all. There must be something wrong with me, right? Possibly, but if being shocked and jolted by some “big boy” horror flicks is wrong, then I don’t want to be right. But just because I consider the original Hostel to be a damn fine horror flick, that doesn’t mean a new “double-dip” DVD is going to get a free pass — so let’s just see what’s new and on display as part of the Director’s Cut edition of the flick. We start off with a section of my original Hostel review…

Hostel is not a “boo!” sort of movie. It’s not about stalkers in dark corners or monsters that hide under the bed. It’s about the evil that men often do, if not necessarily in real life, then certainly within really nasty horror flicks like Hostel. It’s the kind of movie that leaves you walking out of the theater on a horror-high, but also quietly thrilled that you’re still safe, sound, and on your way home from a fun time at the multiplex. This is a grim, gory, and unapologetically grungy piece of “survival horror,” and if the flick takes its good, sweet time getting to the meat of the matter, it’s because Roth is having such a good time teasing you with the promise of inevitable unpleasantness.

Story in a nutshell: Three horny young guys travel to a hostel in the middle of Slovakia, a location they’re sure is just swarming with mega-hot babes with mega-loose morals. Turns out that this hostel is sort of like a human-sized roach motel. Horny bastards check in, but they rarely check out. Precisely who is doing the torturing and murdering to whom and why I shall not say, as Hostel’s second half doles out a few worthwhile surprises that, if you kept yourself spoiler-free, will come off as unsettlingly entertaining. Suffice to say it involves things like drills, pliers, saws, and massive torture chambers filled with former tourists strapped to metal chairs and nailed into place.

Yeah, it’s that kind of movie, which means that if you go see it and you get all offended, you’ve nobody to blame but yourself.

If the second half of Hostel is laden with grimy gore, sleazy slashers, and disturbing dispatches, then the first is more or less a mild remake of An American Werewolf in London, mixed with liberal doses of Porky’s-style boobiness. It’s during this stretch that we get to know our three semi-heroes: Josh is the sensitive guy, Oli is the goofy horn-dog, and Paxton is the petulant leader. Some might argue that the “non-horror” section of Hostel (which runs about 40-some minutes) is too long, leering, and indulgent, but I found that this section lulled me into somewhat of a “comedy” vibe, so when the gristle really started hitting the grills, many in the audience simply weren’t prepared for it. (Suckers!)

And if you bother to look for it, Hostel actually contains some fairly nifty subtextual themes. The three young men are ruled by their libidos to an almost satirical degree, and all they’re interested in is getting their hands (and other parts) on some fine female flesh. But there’s a satisfying turnabout that occurs once Hostel gets darker, because our three horny heroes are now the “meat” — and the way their own flesh is utilized by others is pretty damn alarming. In addition to being “about” nasty jolts, bare breasts, and goopy gore, Hostel is also about the ways in which we use the bodies of other people, and how it’s often not in a wholesome or unselfish fashion.

As far as the “director’s cut” moniker is concerned, the only thing different is the big finale, and if you’re a Roth fan, then you already know the content from the filmmaker’s interviews. (But it’s still nice to see.) The “director’s cut ending” is available as part of the film OR as a stand-alone supplement. (I think I prefer the theatrical cut finale, but that’s just me.) So basically you’re getting the unrated cut with or without the new ending. Moving on…

On disc 1 you’ll find a whole lot of extras … all of which have been ported over from the previous DVD. Those goodies are: an hour-long three-part making-of piece (called Hostel: Dissected) that’s really quite good; a multi-angle Kill the Car! featurette; and four audio commentaries: Roth alone; Roth and producers Boaz Yakin, Scott Spiegel, and Quentin Tarantino; Roth and producers Chris Briggs and Gabriel Roth; Roth and a colorful bunch of guest chatters. Also on the first disc are some previews for Hostel: Part 2, Vacancy, Blood and Chocolate, and Rise: Blood Hunter.

So far it’s not that great a deal, is it? An alternate ending is the only new inclusion. So with that in mind we look toward disc 2, which promises to be packed with all-new treats…

We start off with a quintet of featurettes: Music & Sound (12:17) is a visit with composer Nathan Barr and a quick trip to the recording booth; Set Design (5:05) offers some on-set insights from production designer Franco-Giacomo Carbone; Hostel Dismembered (30:07), which is sort of a “catch-all” behind-the-scenes piece that’s not nearly as good as the Dissected documentary, but a fine start for the newer fans; “An Icelandic Meal with Eythor Gudjonsson” (3:19) shows you how to eat a sheep’s head; and KNB EFX (11:11) takes you inside the vaunted gore factory.

Also included on the bonus disc are an audio interview between Eli Roth and film critic Elvis Mitchell (which is also included on the Hostel: Part 2 DVD), an extensive collection of photo galleries, and a 10-minute interview with legendary genre director Takashi Miike. So it’s your call, Hostel-heads: This upgrade will set you back about 15 bucks, and what you’re getting is a “new” ending, about an hour of previously unreleased featurettes, and a few extra bells and whistles. If you can snag a few bucks for your old edition on eBay (or maybe hand it off to another horror freak), then it’s a solid enough addition to your horror shelf — even if you still prefer the original ending.