Wednesday, December 28, 2011


(US - 2011)  Directed by Scott Spiegel.  Written by Michael Weiss.  Cast: Kip Pardue, Brian Hallisay, Thomas Kretschmann, John Hensley, Chris Coy, Zulay Henao, Sarah Habel, Kelly Thiebaud, Skyler Stone.  88 mins.  Unrated.

And now the HOSTEL franchise gets demoted to the world of straight-to-DVD, several years after the torture porn subgenre has faded to little more than a horror footnote.  I didn't mind the first HOSTEL, but I have to give it up for HOSTEL PART II, with its affectionate homages to 1970s Eurocult classics like TORSO and NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS, and cameos by the likes of Ruggero Deodato, Luc Merenda, and Edwige Fenech.  PART II had a lot more going on than one might've thought, and it works just fine as a standalone feature.  Eli Roth makes it very easy to find Eli Roth annoying, especially now that he's firmly ensconced in the Quentin Tarantino posse, and much like his hero, feels the need to be a terrible actor.  But Roth brought his A-game to HOSTEL PART II, and if he has a masterpiece, that's it.

As expected, Roth has nothing to do with HOSTEL PART III other than a cursory "Based on characters created by..." credit.  Directing chores have been farmed out to HOSTEL co-producer and longtime cult-movie fixture Scott Spiegel, who gets a lifetime pass for co-writing EVIL DEAD II, but really hasn't had much success otherwise.  He wrote and directed 1989's maniac-loose-in-a-grocery-store cult classic INTRUDER, co-wrote the much-maligned 1990 Clint Eastwood-Charlie Sheen vehicle THE ROOKIE, and later directed the straight-to-video FROM DUSK TILL DAWN 2: TEXAS BLOOD MONEY (1999), while getting bit parts in most of his buddy Sam Raimi's movies and moderating assorted DVD commentary tracks.   Spiegel and writer Michael Weiss (himself no stranger to DTV sequels, having written US SEALS 2, I'LL ALWAYS KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, and THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT 2 among others) have fashioned HOSTEL PART III as essentially a torture porn version of THE HANGOVER.  Groom-to-be Scott (Brian Hallisay) is taken to Vegas by best man Carter (Kip Pardue), who used to go out with Scott's fiancee (Kelly Thiebaud).  In Vegas, they meet up with two other buddies--sensitive, disabled Justin (John Hensley), and the obnoxious, loathsome Mike (Skyler Stone), who never stops bitching that his wife has put on 30 lbs since they got married.  It isn't long before Mike disappears with an escort and Scott is drugged, and the next morning, no one knows what happened or where Mike is.  Any chance that all roads lead to a secret Elite Hunting facility where filthy rich gamblers place bets on how much torture an unwilling subject can withstand?

Of course, there's a twist which you'll see coming long before the other characters do, and the gore is plentiful (though not as over-the-top as you might imagine).  But it's all just so tired and stale.  Spiegel is a competent enough director, and might've been able to fashion something if the writing had been a little better.  Weiss' lazy script basically has characters yelling "What the fuck?!" and "You sick fuck!" over and over, and it takes less than ten minutes for someone to say "What happens in Vegas..."  Come on!

The Vegas exteriors look to be second-unit work, as most of the film was shot in Detroit, of all places (Spiegel, like his friends Raimi and Bruce Campbell, comes from the Detroit area).  The Elite Hunting headquarters is played by the imposing Michigan Central Station, a decrepit, vacant landmark visible from I-75 that looks as if the intro to Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" should be played in its vicinity 24/7.  In this shot from the climax of HOSTEL PART III (I could post a spoiler warning, but do you really care?), the famed structure is engulfed in what appear to be extremely unconvincing CGI flames of an almost Sega Genesis-level quality.

As for the rest of the cast, there's no one of note other than Thomas Kretschmann as the sinister head of Elite's Vegas operation.  Kretschmann, one of those journeyman actors who has the ability to bounce from serious, important films like THE PIANIST and DOWNFALL to drek like SUPERBABIES: BABY GENIUSES 2 and KARATE DOG, often in the same year, has little to do in a role that Julian Sands could've played in his sleep.

I imagine the HOSTEL franchise will go the way of HELLRAISER, and we'll get a series of unrelated, increasingly poor sequels that do nothing but cash in on a brand name and give a slumming name actor a fast paycheck.  In that case, I can only hope that the inevitable HOSTEL PART IV gives us guest villain Val Kilmer.  Otherwise, count me out.

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