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Lions Gate presents
Hostel (2006)

"I always wanted to be a surgeon. But the boards would not pass me. Can you guess why? You see?"
- The Dutch Businessman (Jan Vlasák)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: May 02, 2006

Stars: Derek Richardson, Jay Hernandez, Jan Vlasák
Other Stars: Eythor Gudjonsson, Barbara Nedeljakova, Jana Kaderabkova, Jennifer Lim, Petr Janis, Keiko Seiko, Lubomir Bukovy, Jana Havlickova, Rick Hoffman, Takashi Miike
Director: Eli Roth

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (graphic horror violence, nudity, sexuality)
Run Time: 01h:33m:38s
Release Date: April 18, 2006
UPC: 043396138384
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A AA-B+ A-

DVD Review

With Cabin Fever, writer/director Eli Roth borrowed from a number of horror classics to create his own fan-friendly homage that did what it could to go against typical plot convention. There was a refreshing mix of dark humor and nasty gore, even though as a film it seemed to split horror fans into two distinct camps of love it or hate it. As a member of the "love it" team, I credited Roth with bitchslapping a tired genre, infusing it with a kind of much-needed spunk that tried to remind viewers that horror movies don't always have to follow the usual storyline progressions.

With Hostel, Roth has shown that he has evolved, moving on somewhat from the Cabin Fever mixture of dark comedy and horror, into a more base display of visceral terror. The story, which spends its first forty or minutes or so almost as a road trip movie, offering Roth's vision of a pair of backpacking American college students (Jay Hernandez, Derek Richardson) and their Icelandic friend (Eythor Gudjonsson) screwing and smoking their way across Europe. It's kind of a dirty trick that Roth pulls, because this thematic tone is like a Valium, effectively numbing audiences so that what's to come will be even more jarring and unsettling. There's plenty of wacky hijinks, frequent nudity and sexual activity, and a general sense of "ain't life grand", even as naive nice guy Josh (Richardson) is a bit reticent to partake in all the joys of the flesh. While carousing in Amsterdam, they get a hot tip from a shady Russian about a hostel outside Slovakia, a place that is supposedly wall-to-wall with willing hot Euro-chicks eager to jump the bones of Americans.

Of course this new hostel isn't exactly what it seems, and to give more away more would be something of a disservice. The sense of dread builds as the new, slightly desolate fantasyland (wow, lots of nude women who enjoy sex with strangers) becomes something completely horrific, and when things suddenly get rolling Roth tilts the playing field so we know he's dead serious about not going through the usual "survive-crazed-killers" machinations. Roth mercilessly plies our concern for a character, and then dispatches him brutally, imbuing things with an anything-can-happen sense of unease.

Hostel comes under the production banner of Quentin Tarantino, whose name was more prevalent during the television ad than Roth's during its theatrical run. Tarantino was never one to shy away from sudden bursts of great violence, and that same explosive bloodletting remains here. The atrocities that occur involve all sorts of tools—scalpels, drills, chainsaws, hooks, guns, blowtorches—and this unrated version presents them in all their gory glory. Severed fingers, dangling eyeballs, crushed skulls and bodies run over by cars and trains occur with great frequency, and the severity of the abattoir that Roth paints gets a great reveal during a scene where a character is being dragged down a dark, dirty hallway and we are given quick glimpses into some of the horrors in the other rooms. It ain't pretty.

There are similarities to other films, and Roth even includes a cameo from Audition director Takashi Miike as a sort of an inside hat tip. For all its intensity, I don't know if I would necessarily classify this a "scary" film as much as I would call it "uncomfortable", but that is not a back-handed compliment, by any means. Seeing appendages nipped and hacked off is very much a nails-on-the-chalkboard kind of thing, and Roth thankfully proves that he is not willing to go the easy way out.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Even though the color palette is occasionally a bit dreary (albeit intentionally), the 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is excellent, with color reproduction strong and solid black levels throughout. And during the second half, where much of the film is set in the bowels of a dark warehouse, the level of detail remains sharp and well-defined. No apparent compression issues, and the source print is very clean.

Very nice.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is provided in a fairly booming Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, and while it has some wonderfully effective rear channel cues—especially during the film's dark second half—main character voices tended to get a little overshadowed during some of the early scenes. It is during the second half of Hostel where any of the preceding voice level issues are forgotten, because it's here that the mix becomes more immersive and eerily mood-enhancing.

A French language Dolby Digital 5.1 track is also included.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
8 Other Trailer(s) featuring When A Stranger Calls, Silent Hill, Underworld: Evolution, The Cave, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Boogeyman, Ring Around The Rosie, The Fog
1 Documentaries
4 Feature/Episode commentaries by Eli Roth, Quentin Tarantino, Boaz Yankin, Scott Spiegel, Eythor Gudjonsson, Barbara Nedeljakova, George Folsey Jr., Harry Knowles, Chris Briggs, Gabriel Roth
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Lions Gate has issued Hostel in an amaray case inside of a slightly embossed slipcover, and the disc is cut into 28 chapters, with optional subtitles in English or French.

As with Roth's Cabin Fever—which came with five commentaries—the DVD for Hostel has a whopping four tracks: all feature the director, either by himself (commentary number four) or with a variety pack of participants. Sure, there's a little bit of overlap, but one thing that is constant, like with Cabin Fever, Roth is never at a loss for something to say, and the constant flow of background info and wacky anecdotes is knee-deep across the board.

The first track is the "executive producer" set, with Roth as well as producers Quentin Tarantino, Boaz Yankin and Scott Spiegel. Track two has Roth with actors Eythor Gudjonsson and Barbara Nedeljakova, editor George Folsey Jr., and movie rumor reporter Harry Knowles; for what it's worth Gudjonsson (who's funny as hell) and Knowles appear via phone on this track. Number three has Roth with producer Chris Briggs and documentarian Gabriel "Eli's brother" Roth, and the fourth track is Roth gone solo. And for all the fun nonstop chatter—especially from the always over-caffienated Tarantino—I think my personal favorite is the solo Roth track, because the guy is just so contagiously effusive about the filmmaking process.

Next up comes a multi-part doc called Hostel Dissected, which is split into Part I (26m:54s), Part II (14m:29s) and Part III (13m:56s); it's available with the Play All mode, and I'm not entirely sure why it needed to be split in the first place. Full of the your standard issue behind-the-scenes-in-Prague kind of material intercut with interviews, the unique thing here is the undercurrent of wacky humor, which begins with Roth discussing in great detail some funky toilet issues.

Kill The Car! is a multi-angle feature, highlighting a scene where a group of young children destroy a vehicle. It was shot with three cameras, and this segment gives you the option to toggle back and forth.

Also included is a full set of spooky trailers for When A Stranger Calls, Silent Hill, Underworld: Evolution, The Cave, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Boogeyman, Ring Around The Rosie and The Fog

Extras Grade: A-


Final Comments

While maybe not always a "fun" movie to watch, Hostel revels in some very ugly things, uncorking some very uncomfortably bloody and graphic moments on its way to being another genre-tilting experience from writer/director Eli Roth. I lost count at the number of severed body parts, but maybe it was because I was too busying focusing on the drills and chainsaws.

Highly recommended.


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