Contributor; Seattle, Washington
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Whether we wanted it or not, we were always going to get another Hostel movie. The first one was a surprise hit for Lionsgate and I'd imagine the second one made up for a soft theatrical release with strong DVD and Blu-ray sales. I'm bringing up the business side of it because Hostel Part III in no way feels like any kind of personal vision that needed to be put onscreen--this was a dollars and cents movie and for certain segment of horror movie fandom, the Hostel brand is still a thing. Yes, you can count me among them, and I say that I still really dig the grubby vibe Eli Roth conjured up in the first two films and appreciate them as being, well maybe not as smart as they hope to be, but a damn sight smarter than they're given credit for.

The thing is, I don't feel like I can adequately discuss director Scott Spiegel's recently-released sequel without going back to Eli Roth's two movies because frankly, it feels necessary to discuss what kind of stories the three movies are trying to tell and how they got there. If you want to skip over the rest of the review, I can simply say up top that there's not a whole lot of vision to this sequel, which takes the series to Las Vegas and promptly forgets what to do with it, but what's of interest to me are the ways in which Hostel: Part III was almost a really interesting movie and a chance to upend the formula of the series.

If you'll recall, the structure of the first movie was simple enough: ugly Americans go on vacation to Eastern Europe and through their own naivete and boorishness stumble their way into the Elite Hunting meat grinder, tourists serving as grist for a human murder mill for a variety of wealthy sociopaths. The most compelling element of that first movie was its focus on the mechanics of the business of Elite Hunting, how it drew in victims and processed them through the system. As Part II progresses, we gradually see the formula inverted as the perspective shifts to Elite Hunting's clients--again, it was the business side of the whole thing that was interesting to me even as the gore ramped up and the quality of the some of the acting dropped precipitously (until the last scene, lead Lauren German is simply a bland non-presence), and in the final scene of the movie, the simple thesis is bluntly laid out: loads of money overrules even the fundamentals of a grotesque system like Elite Hunting.

Which brings us to Part III which sort of telescopes all of the ideas of its predecessors down to the meat and potatoes of the franchise: in the world of Hostel, the rich want to torture and kill and do it in a resort-style atmosphere. The Vegas setup allows four unsuspecting friends in a bachelor party to stumble into Elite Hunting's crosshairs and there are multiple gags involving a gambling element to the Las Vegas branch. And that's pretty much all you get: a few torture/murder setpieces (one of which involving roaches doesn't even make a lot of sense), and the lower budget means the whole thing feels grubbier somehow, but not in a way that made the first sleazy and appealing--this just feels cheap.

Spiegel actually opens the movie with a decently-tense setup where an American backpacker at a Vegas hostel (really?) crosses paths with a couple from Eastern Europe and in those first few minutes you can feel the movie toying with the formula in some interesting ways. But then we find out two of the movie's villains (there are a couple of twists here) are mustache-twirling nuts and it all feels diminished somehow. I keep taking digs at the movie which actually isn't bad---more middle-of-the-road than anything else--because Vegas seems like such a good match for the material. It's the one place in the U.S. that's partitioned off where we say people can go and be excessive or horrible for a little while and then go back to their lives. Hell, the city even markets itself that way with the "What happens in Vegas" slogan.

So what we're left with is a movie where some unpleasant Americans get sliced up for most faceless Europeans which gets a pulse whenever it plays around with the sometimes clever, most often out of left field reversals in the script. It's not a painful watch but it's also needlessly simple and diminished, and worse, not at all my kind of grubby.

Hostel III is available now on DVD.

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