While attending a bachelor party in Las Vegas, four friends are enticed by two sexy escorts to join them at a private party way off the Strip. You know the rest, or do you....?
HOSTEL 3 has arrived, and its a DTV movie. The third in a series that looked dead in the water, and made on very limited financing...its must be terrible, right? Wrong.
Its by no means a classic, but HOSTEL 3 is a solid example of the dominance of imagination over finance. This film feels far more expansive than it has any right to, as it's clearly underfunded. It may have the look of a DTV movie, but its has ideas far bigger than that, and Director Scott Spiegal manages to pull them all together admirably.
I'm not the worlds biggest advocate of the HOSTEL series. I like em, though. I own the first two, and I think they have a lot to offer. The Eli Roth hatred bandwagon is something I've never understood. He's a competent filmmaker, and seems like a genuinely nice cat. The HOSTEL movies were a little smarter than they were given credit for, and they had their fair share of memorable moments, (usually involving bodily dismemberment), but what they truly lacked was a story. They had a brilliant concept, but the story and the characters were a little flat. HOSTEL 3 may not have the scope or shine that 1 and 2 have, but it does go some way to remedying the flaws of those films, while suffering from some flaws of its own....
Its no secret that the first two movies are very similar in structure to one another. HOSTEL 2's addition of some female leads and a few admittedly fascinating scenes with 'Elite Hunting Club' customers, wasn't quite enough to set it apart from its obvious similarities to the original. This was a series that looked to have burned itself out before it really took off, but after watching this third entry, I'm having to rethink that. HOSTEL 3, in its own humble and limited manner, feels fresh, unique and engaging, when I expected it to feel stale, repetitive and inferior.
The writers have made some very smart choices with this film, and have managed to take the concept in a new and interesting direction. They've taken all that worked in the previous films, (EHC, the sense of helplessness and hopelessness), and discarded with the character flaws that held those movies down. And as fun as its prequels were, they had a whole lot wrong with them. The moments of left-field comedy felt completely out of place, the characters were barely tolerable, (in HOSTEL, they were fucking unbearable), and the whole structure of the movies felt like it was built solely to get our dimwitted characters into those bloodstained torture chambers. This one remedies all those problems with aplomb. It was a real surprise to see where they took the concept this time, and this is a movie FULL of surprises, not to mention some bold changes to the plan.
The most notable change, and the selling point, is that we're no longer exploring the darker recesses of Eastern Europe. This time, the horror takes place in a far more familiar environment, and a very interesting one...Las Vegas.
For some this may be a problem, but not so for me. It seems only fitting that the EHC would evolve as an organisation and spread their wings abroad. And where better to set up shop than in Sin City? Those evil bastards were pretty professional, after all, so the concept of an underground society embedded amidst the blinding lights of Las Vegas seems incredibly apt. It also affords some very disturbing takes on the whole concept of EHC, too. This time, there are no grubby torture chambers, and no one-on-one between EHC customer and victim. This time, its a spectator sport, where bets are made by a gleeful audience on just how the victim will bite the big one. Not only does it add a new dimension to how this organisation operates, but its creepily plausible that this sort of nasty shit would go down in a place so decadent.
The 'new improved' torture chambers resemble a particularly fucked up doctors surgery, and are all the more disturbing in their sterility. It doesn't help that high-flying rich scum-balls are watching your agony as they sip fine wines served by topless hotties. Its a level of elitism that I find all too believable, and its a welcome addition to the franchises mythology, (HOSTEL 2's bidding scene touched on the expansive nature of this, also). Some viewers may pine for the dark, dank nightmare rooms of the first two films, but for many this will be a welcome change. I found it every bit as horrifying an environment as the previous ones. The sense of familiarity we feel with the surroundings could be a double edged sword, though, as its a matter of individual perception as to whats more frightening, the fear of a foreign enemy, or the fear of a domestic one. A good example of this dichotomy can be felt in the use of American security guards. Remember those burly, block headed bastards in the original movies? Well, this time we have burly, block headed bastards who speak english, often and at length. For me, it diluted the fear factor ever so slightly, but I'm sure for others it will work in reverse.
The change of setting is not the biggest subversion to the template, though. That accolade belongs to how well the whole thing is written. We have likable, reasonably relatable characters that we can get behind and fear for, and we have an honest-to-god plot here, complete with character motivations, some pretty effective villains and a whole ton of well implemented twists.
I really cant empathise how effective some of these twists were, either. Misdirection is the order of the day in HOSTEL 3, and its a film that constantly pulls the rug our from under you. HOSTEL 3 knows you've seen the other two films and know the predictable formula, and it actually uses this against you in some smart and amusing ways. You'll most likely be blindsided by most of them, too, as your actually invested in the characters and the events taking place this time around, and not looking for clever clues in the set-ups.
I'm not suggesting this is a character study, folks. Its a fucking HOSTEL movie, but it really tried hard to make these guys likable, and it works. There are no racist, sex crazed assholes here, (well, maybe one or two, but its a stag night, so its acceptable). Instead, we get a bunch of decent lads whose friendship feels believable and who its easy to care for. The acting is strong all round, from the male leads to the females who they meet on their 'adventures', everyone puts in good work. I guarantee you'll feel more compassion for these poor fools than you have in the previous entries, (HOSTEL 2's lead being the exception), and that, of course, is a vital element in effective Horror.
Unless, of course, your entire film is built around gore scenes, a-la parts 1 and 2. Some may be a little disappointed to learn that the gore/torture scenes here are the most tame of the series, by quite some way. It still has some pretty gruesome set pieces, but the red stiff is turned way down, and a fair amount of carnage takes place off screen. Its a real shame as there is some brutal shit going down here, but its often diluted by the effects work, or lack thereof. Conceptually, the kills could be considered even more intense than those that have came before, but in practice they can be a little underwheleming.
The first big kill is extremely cruel, and as I happened to really enjoy the character; it made the whole heartless event feel even more disturbing. The lack of blood really wasn't an issue in that scene. It will be for many, but I actually enjoyed the fact that in that instance, the characters reactions were the focus, and not the onscreen viscera. Sadly, the budgetary restrictions do lead to some very noticeable CG, especially in a bug-filled scene that should be horrifying, but instead looks so fake that it could and most likely will remove the viewer from the action. Its nothing game-breaking, though, and is far easier to overlook in a film of this scale than it would be in a huge movie, such as THE THING (2011). Overall, HOSTEL 3 is not the gore-lovers wet dream we all hoped for, and it really should be a tad more exploitative, especially in that it's a direct-to-video unrated film. If you can accept that this is less a 'torture' movie, and more a Horror-centric thriller, then you'll enjoy it a lot more.
HOSTEL 3 is a well made work. It lacks the potent atmosphere of dread and doom that the first and second film boasted, and its nowhere near as artful as the sequel, but it has a solid story, a very capable, empathetic cast and has more clever twists and turns than you have any damn right to expect from a third film. In turning the HOSTEL blueprint upside down and inside out, the series has become fresh again. After watching this little bad boy, I'm ready for more. I'd like to see a HOSTEL movie that takes the best elements of the original and this one, and melds them into an experience that's both extremely violent and plot/character driven.
While lacking the finesse of HOSTEL and HOSTEL 2, this is a strong third entry which improves much of whats come before. Had this film had the budget of the previous movies, and perhaps Eli behind the camera, it would probably be the best of all three, as its easily the better written and acted of the trilogy. As it stands, it's standing in the shadow of part 1, and its a little behind part 2, but its still worth your time. What it lacks in gravitas, it makes up for in smarts, twists, and misdirections. If you enjoy the series, then you'll have fun with HOSTEL 3, and if the prequels predilection for extended scenes of torture left a sour taste in your mouth, this one may well be the breath-mint your looking for. Its not high art, its not any kind of masterpiece, but its a fun, tense and relatively nasty little venture that should put a smile on your face. Give it a shot.
6.5 Bloodthirsty Betting Men out of 10