Sunday, October 4

Some quick thoughts on Hostel (2005) on Blu-ray

Awwww yes, the flick that gave that both coined the phrase "torture porn" while instantaneously giving it a negative connotation. Saw arrived the year prior, but Eli Roth's cocky bravado and push into hopeless grue with Hostel seemed to have hammered a deep wedge between those that don't and those that do mind this new high (or low) in human celluloid suffering ever since. This is probably my fourth or fifth time viewing and strangely it's hard for me to really bust on Roth and team's efforts. There's some bumps like we're seeing a carryover from the reflexive guffaws of Cabin Fever, but there's also many redeeming qualities in amongst the perky titties and children using rocks as deadly weapons. Roth strives to create "normal" leads in Paxton and Derek and then systematically springs a bear trap upon them in front of the audience.

This being much in the sane vein as Takashi's Miike's Audition, which makes sense since I imagine Roth took inspiration from the Japanese madman's sensational introduction to America enough to ask him for a tiny cameo. Of course, what hurts this concept just like with Miike's film is that this twist is nakedly given away by reading even the most threadbare synopsis or watching a trailer. On the same token, it's damn near impossible to stumble upon Hostel without some knowledge of what's going to happen.

This is also why, and I fail to see why, so many bash the boobie content in the first half. A large part of its basic premise is focused around three (well, two and a dude named Oli, of course my horse) college-age guys taking that dream debauchery trip in and around Amsterdam. No shit there's going to have to be some wild times, but Roth utilizes this time to paint in his leads as likable fellows that end up being a little too ignorant of the strange land they're in. This nice girl fluff makes the abruptness of Derek's demise all the more unpleasant and my hat goes off to Roth for brutally dispatching (and then "experimenting" with) the more teddy bear modest of the two.

Strange bootleg DVD snagged for buck at a flea market
Some aspects don't really work; like the bubblegum kid gang, the candy in the car, the amazing feat of double-time dumb luck in Paxton's torture sequence, or the fruitless saving of the freshly one-eyed Japanese girl who just ends up being train meat. One subversive suggestion could have been made with the candy bag being there to lure children in as a "choice" even more expensive than a $25k American. Too bad Roth doesn't realize this, but I liked the notion of seemingly everyone in the out-of-the-way region from the citizenry to its police being "in" and possibly making their livelihood off the concrete human slaughterhouse.

Special note must be taken for the dynamite climax. It's usually fun to see the killer disappear into the fog for another day, but not here. You grow to root for Jay Hernandez's Paxton so much the quick barbarous revenge exacted upon the Dutch businessman is sickeningly sweet. The director's cut ending which has Paxton kidnapping the man's young granddaughter instead of smashing his face in with a restroom stall door and then ripping him a second mouth loses all the punch and only presents more questions as the credits roll. Also the amputation of the businessman's fingers could have set up the starting point for endless possibilities for the sequel. It's a shame Roth opted to rewind back to zero at the beginning of Hostel 2 for an extremely misogynistic retread.

With each visit, I like Hostel more and perhaps the same will be said by others who give it a second (or third) try down the road. As for the Blu-ray, the 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is only okay really, probably using the old master created for the original DVD. That disc looked like shit being very pasty and edge enhanced. This BD doesn't appear to suffer quite as much, but still noticeably lacks the finer detail and dimensional "pop" seen in other 2005 release year Blu-ray presentations. The lossless Dolby TrueHD audio track actually isn't too different from the "standard" Dolby 5.1 heard on the DVD which is an extremely impressive and clear-sounding mix to begin with. The supplemental material matches those seen on the Director's Cut DVD and kudos for giving the option of watching the DC ending with the film or not (choose not to).


the jaded viewer said...

The first torture porn flick is the best of anything else that came after it. People should appreciate how good Hostel is for its premise and execution.

B-Movie Becky said...

I have a lot of similar thoughts on this one. I prefer the original ending. It's a refreshing change from most endings, where the killer disappears or the final girl/guy has to kill he/she/them in a defensive manner as opposed to actually making the choice to go back and finish them off. you dare tread upon the staircase?

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