#4 in the DVD blog's "Seven Days of Halloween" series.
There's a new, even creepier ending attached to "Hostel" in the director's cut DVD and Blu-ray. Torture me if you must -- I'm not telling. Let's just say it elicits several interpretations, one of which is about as evil as it gets.
Eli Roth's first film, "Cabin Fever," attracted some heavy-duty fans, including director Quentin Taratino (executive producer of "Hostel") and Takashi Miike (whose brutal movie "Audition" was a major influence). Both men show up in the extras on "Hostel: Director's Cut"to hail Roth as the new king of horror.
Tarantino gives his ultimate compliment: "Hostel" is "extreme entertainment."
Miike says with a grin: "There is no room for me to work in America because Eli Roth is already there." Roth showed his respect by having Miike do a cameo in "Hostel," playing himself as a customer of the torture operation (a killer in-joke).
"Hostel" succeeds so wildly because it is an intelligent film whose elements feel real -- and may be. Roth tells how he saw a mysterious web site supposedly from Thailand in which wanna-be killers could pay for a local victim to torture and slay. The film loses a lot once its secrets are known, but it still works for repeat viewings because so many clever hints and clues exist in the long Hitcockian setup.
Video and audio on the Blu-ray version are quite respectable, not remarkable. The image has occasional speckling (small dancing white spots) and there is a low-grade visual flatness, even in the early daylight scenes in Amsterdam. (This true of the standard DVDs; the flatness could be true to the movie.)
The Blu-ray's Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless audio has its creepy surround moments, as when the hero first enters the killing house, but the mix is surprisingly front-centered for a horror pic. The sound is warm and strong; the extras have a couple of good segments on the soundtrack and its glass harmonica.
Roth talks about how the 1995 film reflects the recent period in which Katrina, 9/11, Iraq and the growing hostility toward Americans turned paranoia into a national pastime. He also discusses the movie's structure, in which the first act shows how men pay money and do whatever they want to the whores of Amsterdam who wait helpless in confining rooms; in the later acts, the men become the paid-for naked flesh awaiting their fates in cells. The film "is about exploitation," he says. He notes that few reviewers picked up on the theme.
The four commentaries were ported over from the initial DVD release. Check out the first one, with Roth and Tarantino. Also repeating is the hourlong documentary "Hostel Dissected." The new "Hostel Dismembered" runs about half that and gets the job done for casual fans.
There are some good deleted scenes, some slight and couple that seem like they should have stayed in the picture. In one, the Dutch torturer breaks out a 17th century tool for locating the mark of the devil. Yuck. Another extends the unnerving talk in the taxi cab between hero Jay Hernandez and beautiful bait Barbara Nedeljakova.
Fans who want to know more about Roth and his work should not miss the audio extra in which Roth is interviewed on Elvis Mitchell's "The Treatment." The director talks with glee about the first screening requiring two ambulance calls, and plenty of clean-up for the viewers' vomit. Of most U.S. horror films, he notes: "Everybody is making horror movies with a safety governor on."
Tomorrow: More fun with men tied to chairs in the wild and funny "Murder Party."