Eli Roth’s Hostel and Hostel Part II were far from masterpieces. They did, however, influence a new wave of cinema. For better or for worse, they ignited a new hunger in mainstream audiences. People started to pay for gore; the bloodier the better. But although some of the desire is still there, the fact this third instalment in the Hostel series is a home entertainment exclusive may suggest that we are reaching the end of this wave of pain and sadism.
The first two Hostel instalments were competently made. Roth clearly has intelligence when it comes to directing, and his skill at composing a shot and exploiting it for pure nastiness is remarkable. This third picture in the series is helmed by Scott Spiegel, a director who has brought us a cluster of straight-to-video movies while also appearing as an extra in a long CV of films. Sadly for him, Hostel: Part III doesn’t prove he has much talent either side of the camera. It is a horrible, pointless and, above all, boring piece of work that bears little resemblance to the first two films.
The main difference is the change in format. Instead of a group of ignorant American twenty-somethings visiting a European country, here we have a group of ignorant American thirty-somethings partying it up in Las Vegas. They are on a stag night (or, as they call it in the USA, a bachelor party) and go looking for booze and women. Ah, that’s something that hasn’t really changed since Parts I and II. Women still remove their clothes at every opportunity.
All the young men are rather obnoxious. A large portion of the film is devoted to following them round on their adventures in the city of sin while they make misogynist, racist and homophobic jokes, gamble and consume a lot of alcohol. The idea of adultery, or cheating on one’s fiancée, is also handled with distasteful flippancy.
But distasteful is the name of the game in the world of Hostel, and before long we are being treated to a man having his face peeled away from his skull while rich business men and women pay to watch. It isn’t pleasant, but then again, it isn’t supposed to be. There’s no point pretending that this type of scene is not the very reason people watch this kind of film, and as the violence increases, so does the tediousness. There’s something empty and tired in the torture scenes that wasn’t apparent in the previous films. Perhaps this is the most disturbing aspect of all.
The only scene that offers anything remotely interesting to think about occurs towards the end of the film when the ‘corporation’ controlling the blood-letting decide to arm one of the tortured so he can fight the man who has caused him so much pain. It is a curious scene, as it switches the tone of the film completely. Suddenly, the sadistic pleasure the viewer may be feeling from watching the violence is legitimised. Self-defence is acceptable, right? We can feel good about this, can’t we? He deserves it, doesn’t he? The film offers no easier answers, but it certainly raises some interesting questions about viewer participation in onscreen brutality.
Leaving this small, fleeting moment of intelligence aside, Hostel: Part III utterly fails to evoke the stylish, visual excitement Roth brought to the horror genre. It combines lazy characterisation, poor acting and repulsive gore. And that’s not a very attractive mixture. To add insult to blood-soaked injury, Sony’s blu-ray disc release for the film contains perhaps the worst HD transfer a film has ever received in the UK. If the movie was a modern classic, I’d be furious. In this instance, however, I can’t be bothered to waste much emotion on a work so artless and insignificant.
Hostel III (2011), directed by Scott Spiegel, is released on blu-ray and DVD by Sony Pictures, Certificate 18.