2 Disc Dungeon Deluxe Edition

Starring: Derek Richardson, Jay Hernandez and Eythor Gudjonsson
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RRP: 12.99
Certificate: 18
Available 18 June 2007

American student pals Paxton and Josh are backpacking their way across Europe in the holidays. With them is fellow traveller Oli from Iceland. Enjoying themselves far too much in the red light district of Amsterdam, the three get thrown out of a nightclub and are locked out of their hostel. A Dutch student comes to their rescue and later advises them to visit Slovakia where the girls are willing and plentiful. A Dutch businessman points them to a region where a hostel houses girls who will do anything for money. When they get there it is like a dream come true: open spars, shared rooms, drink, puff, partying and sex. When Oli goes missing Josh is concerned, but Paxton is having too much fun to worry. But when Josh becomes a victim of a deranged failed surgeon torturer, Paxton is landed right in the middle of an illicit death and debauchery for money scam...

Somehow I'd managed to miss the cinematic release of this film, but I couldn't exactly avoid hearing about the reputation it garnered. "Sick" and "depraved" were commonly associated words, so when I sat down to watch this DVD I had already pretty much decided to hate it. It's not because I'm squeamish; as I've mentioned before in reviews, I dislike violence or gore for its own sake - it has to be conducive to the plot. The addition of Quentin Tarantino's name to the mix as Executive Producer (who's generally known for uncompromising violence) didn't assuage my preconception. So it came as quite a pleasant surprise to be proved wrong.

Before we get to those notorious scenes let's take one step backwards. Hostel is written and directed by Eli Roth, not to be confused with Ulrich Roth who flew to the rainbow with the early line-up of The Scorpions - although enough drugs pop up in this film to fly anyone to the rainbow and back again. Roth creates easily likeable characters in credible settings, who are simply led astray by the prospect of getting laid (or as we say in good old Blighty, getting their leg over) as many times as possible between college studies. They are plunged into a culture completely alien to them, where they come across obstacles such as the cold locals or the group of threatening youngsters (listed in the credits as the Bubblegum Gang) who periodically appear from nowhere to block progress until they are given something (they are used to good device later in the film). Only the hostel is a safe haven, but even that seems too good to be true.

The first scenes of torture appear entirely gratuitous, but the plot thankfully produces the saving grace of the Good Hunting organisation, where people can pay to torture and kill an innocent victim. The story releases layers throughout. What seems to be one man's obsession materialises into a conspiracy which nearly everyone in the town (including the authorities) is party to.

Hostel is very much a film about survival, so the structure is somewhat similar to the remake of The Hills Have Eyes, whilst existing in a completely different setting. The scenes of violence may disgust some people, but are no more sickening than those portrayed in a multitude of other horror movies, like the aforementioned Hills, and Saw. In fact, I found Fear Dot Com more disturbing.

So, a nice surprise and a well-constructed film, with the only drawback being that a sequel has already materialised to almost universal condemnation. Not a good idea. Roth should have left well alone, but you can't blame him for accepting the commission in the first place.

Extras for the Dungeon Deluxe version include on disc 1: four commentaries (Eli Roth is in each, with other participants); a 3-part featurette (Hostel Dissected); Kill the Car! (multi-angle scene in which the Bubblegum Gang destroy a car); and six unrelated trailers. These were all on the original DVD release. Disc 2 includes: Hostel Dismembered (a TV special on the film); a Photo Gallery; Set Design Featurette; Music & Sound Featurette; An Icelandic Meal (3 minute interview with Eythor Gudjonsson); Interview with Japanese director Takashi Miike (this is quite interesting but strangely out of context); and a Special Effects Featurette. This last extra is easily the most enjoyable, with the enthusiasm of the two experts clearly prominent as they discuss and demonstrate gory effects.

Unless you are a true devotee of this film, the meagre added special features on disc 2 are not enough to warrant purchasing this film a second time. However, if you're coming to it fresh, it's more than worth a look, but you're unlikely to want to endure four separate commentaries.

Ty Power

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