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'Hostel (Unrated Widescreen Edition)'
(Jay Hernandez, Derek Richardson, et al / DVD / UnRated / 2006 / Sony Pictures)

Overview: Three backpackers are in Amsterdam where they get locked out of their youth hostel. They are invited into a man's house where he tells them of a hostel somewhere in eastern Europe where the women are all incredibly hot and have a taste for American men. When they get there, everything is too good to be true - the hostel is "to die for".

DVD Verdict: I may be one of the few people who actually enjoyed Eli Roth's first film, 'Cabin Fever,' despite the many inherent flaws to the story, direction and all-over-the-place feel. I never bought into the tagline for that film as once of the most horrific films this generation. I've been watching horror films for as long as I can remember and Cabin Fever doesn't even scratch the surface of what constitutes a great horror film. But it did show me that Eli Roth was serious about genre and acknowledges and honors his roots and influences. 'Hostel' is Roth's sophomore effort, and just like Rob Zombie with his second film ('The Devil's Rejects') he shows improvement as a filmmaker and continues to show that he respects the genre he's chosen to be in. 'Hostel' is an exercise in hate, pain and nihilism. There really are no sympathetic characters in the film. Roth instead shows just how debased, cruel and inhumane people can be towards each other. Whether its through verbal, physical and intellectual means. I must point out that this film is not the torture-porn that alot of media-types call it. The gore and torture really doesn't start until fully halfway into the film. Everything before the second half begins can be summed us as soft-core porn. There's alot of nudity and sex in this first half and sets-up the three characters played by Jay Hernandez, Derek Richardson and Eythor Gudjonsson. These three college students are shown as boorish, misogynistic, insensitive louts who wish nothing more from their European vacation than sex, drugs, sex, drugs and more sex. It's this behavior that lures them to a town in Slovakia. An Eastern European, Soviet Bloc-era town where the women are stunning and horny to do whatever with foreign men. So, the trio takes off for this haven of horny, easy, beautiful women and the soft-core porn sequences continues once they arrive. But intermixed within these sequences are small bits and hints of dread and uneasiness. There's a certain sense of decay to the town and its inhabitants despite the normal scenery. The second half promptly begins once they arrive in town and check into the hsotel. The gore mentioned by most reviewers are pretty graphic for what was finally given an R-rating. For people like myself and other horror aficionados the gore in 'Hostel' is something we haven't seen before. The gore and torture scenes are in-your-face and Roth owes alot of thanks to Takashi Miike's Audition in how the scenes are presented. Roth's style of directing Hostel really brings to mind Miike's cult favorite. Takashi Miike even makes a brief appearance in the film. One thing that I wanted Roth to do which he seemed to have pulled back from was going all-out in presenting 'Hostel' as a horror exploitation film. This film tries to emulate the gory exploitation Italian and American films of the mid-70's to early 80's. Maybe the MPAA had forced Roth to trim certain scenes to get an R-rating. In certain scenes one could almost feel and sense that something was left out. Roth's influences are plain to see, but he falls slightly short of reaching the lofty heights that Romero, Miike, Fulci, Craven (early), Hooper, Gordon and Argento established with their grand guignol works. 'Hostel' is a very good second offering from Eli Roth who really seem to like the horror genre and is constantly trying to pay it homage. His direction is much better and gone are the campy, almost comedic sequences from 'Cabin Fever.' The film does fail to convey anything original to the genre, but succeeds enough in honoring its bloody past. Roth went from a genre-hack to very promising horror auteur with 'Hostel,' but I am hoping his next project less of an homage to horror's past and adds to its future legacy. In truth, 'Hostel' along with both 'Saw' movies, have helped to redefine the aggressive sub-genre within the horror genre. People like the idea of their horror movies being actually horrific, and filmmaking minds like Eli Roth's will ensure that we get just that. As long as you can stomach the bloody, gruesome torture, coupled with blood-curdling screams and overwhelming sympathy for a guy in pain, this is the DVD you need to satisfy the horror you've been lusting after. Other than the mountain of commentaries, there's not a lot of bonus items on the disc. There is a cool multi-angle scene to fiddle with, which involves a group of kids that smash the living daylights out of a car. You can swap between three different angles of automotive destruction brought on by a band of pre-pubescent, stick-swinging, rock-hurtling punks. Once you've had your fill of that, there is a behind-the-scenes featurette to enjoy, entitled "Hostel: Dismantled." This featurette is broken into three parts - one for pre-production and two for the filming. The featurettes show the troubles of filming in Prague (which, as Eli Roth points out, include no water in the toilets, so you can "feel the heat off of your own dump"). The filming segments include the effects used to create the torture scenes, including the melted face of the poor Kana and the torture of Josh, the filming of the factory scenes and interviews with the local Czech talent. As far as behind-the-scenes featurettes go, this one won't win any awards but it may put your mind at ease to know that it wasn't a real toe that got chopped by those bolt cutters. All of this, combined with several previews, make the special features on 'Hostel' a decent and entertaining ride. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) and comes with the Special Features of:

4 Director Commentary Tracks
Director's Commentary with Eli Roth
Director and Executive Producers' Commentary with Quentin Tarantino
Director and Producers' Comentary
Director and Guests' Commentary with online critic Harry Knowles of
"Hostel Dissected" - Multi-Part Behind-The-Scenes Featurette
"Kill the Car!" Multi-Angle Interactive Feature
Subtitles: English, French
Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1)