Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #776
Number of Views: Two
Release Date: December 27, 2011
Sub-Genre: Extreme Exploitation
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 88 minutes
Director: Scott Spiegel
Producers: Mike Fleiss, Chris Briggs, Scott Spiegel
Screenplay: Michael D. Weiss
Based on characters by Eli Roth
Special Effects: Robert Kurtzman
Cinematography: Andrew Strahorn
Score: Frederik Wiedmann
Editing: George Folsey, Jr., Brad Wilhite
Studios: Stage 6 Films, RCR Media Group, Next Entertainment
Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Stars: Brian Hallisay, Kip Pardue, John Hensley, Sarah Habel, Skyler Stone, Zulay Henao, Thomas Kretschmann, Chris Coy, Nickola Shreli, Evelina Oboza, Kelly Thiebaud, Derrick Carr, Frank Alvarez, Tim Holmes, Barry Livingston, Alicia Vela-Bailey
Suggested Audio Jukebox ♫
 Varmuzova Cimbalova Muzika “Synecku, Synecku”
 Product.01 “Hot Trap”
 Kovas “Ready”
When Eli Roth’s Hostel Part II emerged on the scene in 2007, two years after his original cleaned up at the box office, it would be fair to say that few people gave him a hope in hell of capturing lightning in a bottle a second time. Given that the chief appeal of Hostel was its ability to pull the rug from beneath the audience’s feet just as they were beginning to settle, it seemed hugely improbable that this feat could be repeated a second time. Replacing male protagonists with female felt far too obvious a switcheroonie and, given that we were now fully aware of Slovakian hospitality, it appeared the sequel would wind up little more than a pale imitation. As I took my seat in the half-packed auditorium, expectations were middling at best.
Imagine my delight then when Roth decided to turn the whole thing on its head, revealing instead the flip side of the coin and offering an eye-opening glimpse into just how the other half lived. By doing so, he kept things fresh, opened the story up considerably, and ensured that each elaborate death scene took on new-found significance. Of course, it did help that the candlelit bathtub scythe/sickle combo climax has since gone on to become my all-time favorite dispatch. But the film’s success was down to more than simple grue-soaked titillation; as this was his baby and he delivered it with the requisite care and attention. While the Hostel films are commonly referred to as “torture porn” and actually helped kick start the trend, I’d much rather watch the pair back to back than any combination of Saw movies, any day of the peak season.
His flesh-eating debut feature Cabin Fever performed a similar multiplication trick, spawning two sequels, before his bizarre decision to remake it when there was absolutely no demand for him to do so. However, by the time Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever arrived, the baton had been passed to Ti West (who would sadly later disown it) and his involvement in the project amounted to a big fat zilch. With Hostel Part II raking in a decent enough profit during its brief theatrical run (although less than half the $80m its predecessor snagged itself, it has to be said), it was deemed worthy of a third run-out and Roth was provided the opportunity to bag himself a bona fide trilogy. I’d love to pick his brains on precisely what led him to politely decline the studio’s offer but, if the fact that it went direct-to-video is anything to go by, I reckon he dodged a banana skin there.
With Roth not playing ball, it was left to Evil Dead II co-writer and lifelong friend of the Raimis, Scott Spiegel, to step up to the plate and place his neck on the chopping block. Spiegel’s directorial résumé is one of peaks and troughs and, while his delightfully D.I.Y. 1989 slasher Intruder has since gone on to amass a dedicated fan following, From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money fared markedly less well with the old faithful. That said, his presence in executive producer capacity for both Hostels I & II made him perhaps the most qualified man for the job. Better yet, if the infamous buzzsaw face slice from his triumphant debut was anything to go by, then things were about to get decidedly messy and that’s a quick win where this splash happy series is involved.
Straight off the bat, it’s all change, as we are introduced to a rather shady looking Ukrainian couple, Victor and Anka, as they entertain a timid foppish-haired American douche called Travis (Chris Coy) in their hotel room. Naturally our first thoughts are of the “Run Travis, Run!” variety as all signs point to ball gags and severed metatarsals for our Stateside visitor. However, Spiegel has a trick or two up his sleeve, and the tables are turned with no end of crowd pleasing cunning.
Seconds later, we’re left under no illusion that Hostel Part III will not be taking place across the Atlantic like its forerunners, but instead, relocating the madness to none other than Sin City itself. We’re talking the Entertainment Capital of the World, Las “frigging” Vegas married with mindless violence and perhaps a scoop or two of shameless nudity for bonus joy sprinkles. “I’m all in” was my enthusiastic retort.
Speaking of the City of Lights, that’s precisely where Scott (Brian Hallisay) and his three friends, Carter (Kip Pardue), Justin (John Hensley) and Mike (Skyler Stone) are headed for a nice, uneventful bachelor party that will not entail drugs, booze, hookers, or anything else deemed the slightest bit distasteful. Yeah right! No sooner has Scott’s his fiancée Amy (Kelly Thiebaud) waved the boys off from the driveway, than the conversation swiftly switches from how pleasant it will be to play backgammon together in the chalet to how far a Vegas call girl can fire a ping-pong ball from the fifth floor balcony using only the power of clench and release. As the old saying goes – what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas – although there’s a strong chance they’ll be sharing the drive home with a couple of freshly contracted STDs if Mike has anything to do with it.
After hooking the groom-to-be up with a pair of mildly suspicious looking escorts, Kendra (Sarah Habel) and Nikki (Zulay Henao), we are placed straight back into familiar Hostel territory. The guys are persuaded to vacate the strip and accompany the girls to an abandoned building far from the buzz of casinos and, with a skinful of liquor informing their very action, made a B-line for the slums like moths to a flame. You don’t need a degree in hospitality to work out where things are headed and, after the obligatory curve-ball or two, we arrive at the second act, pretty much clued up on how things will play out from hereon in.
Run by the nefarious Flemming (Thomas Kretschmann), this particular branch of the Elite Hunting Club is considerably more swanky than its Central European counterparts and, the experience for spectators, a fair deal more interactive. In addition to the roulette-style wheel of misfortune at their deluxe gambling stations, side bets can now be placed on anything from the number of crossbow bolts it will take to finish the job to the time it will take a victim to throw the wife and kids in while begging for his life, in a pathetic last-ditch attempt to gain the sympathy vote.
This is Spiegel’s second trick of two and, while this debonair concept alone may have you rubbing your hands together like O.J. Simpson at a parole hearing, the fun and games fashioned aren’t nearly as fiendishly inventive as they should be.
It doesn’t help that most of the characters are fairly hateful, aside from poor old Justin, who is forced to drag his dead legs from pillar to post on crutches, only too aware that he’ll be lucky to make it to the hour mark. The screenplay by Michael D. Weiss provides us precious few reasons to care and we’re soon left pleading to be returned to the V.I.P. lounge for another spin of the wheel. Spiegel’s attempts to spice things up at the tail-end with a dash of deception and skulduggery amount to little more than annoying distraction and, by the time the closing credits are cued, all plot has been lost entirely. To be fair, while innovation is at a distinct premium, Hostel Part III breaks even for the first two acts. But that’s hardly what I’d call a winning streak.
Remove Roth’s fine name from what was primarily his brainchild and it will take more than a wily poker face to coin it in. His heart and soul ran right through Hostel and, without his cooperation, Spiegel is left clutching a pair of 2’s with a vastly depleted chip stack. For direct-to-video fodder, it effortlessly achieves par for the course, ticking more than enough boxes not to boot up Solitaire instead. But it also shows up just how shrewd a cat Roth is as third time isn’t necessarily always a charm and, like any good poker player will tell you, it’s all about knowing when to fold before the flop.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 6/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: Things get off to an encouraging enough start, with an opening scalpel-sliced face peel to lure us in, much like the pure oxygen circulating the casinos. Alas, this is about as inspired as it gets and, whether or not creepy crawlies = heebie jeebies in your estimations, death by cockroach consumption is something of a back step for the franchise. On the upside, the recipient is dressed as a cheerleader as she takes her unsavory load to the throat like a cutesy trooper. But considering Intruder was shot over thirty years prior on a budget almost six hundred times its junior, it’s impossible not to feel just a smidgen short-changed on the grue front. Even the nudity, a staple of the series thus far, is strangely lacking. That said, sometimes a cheeky glimpse is all it takes.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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