Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Video review: "Hostel: Part III"

The Tuesday after Christmas is a notoriously awful spot for releasing video, and a strange tradition has sprung up of releasing grade-Z horror flicks on this date. This year is no different: audiences can take their choice of "Hostel: Part III," "Final Destination 5" or "Zombie Apocalypse," along with a couple other low-profile films ("A Good Old Fashioned Orgy") that barely got theatrical releases.

So while admitting that we're scraping the bottom of the home video barrel here, why review "Hostel: Part III"? Because it's indicative of a couple of cinematic trends.

The first is how certain types of movies can become the "flavor of the month" ... or the year. A while back, at the height of the quagmire in Iraq, it was the so-called "torture porn" subgenre of horror, kicked off by "Saw" and brought to its gruesome, bloody pinnacle with Eli Roth's "Hostel" series.

With a fetishistic obsession with the cruel mangling of the human body -- rendered in unflinching, splattered special effects -- these flicks brought the reality of war home to a largely disconnected audience that lapped it up with voyeuristic relish. The first movie, shot in 2006 on a shoestring, made $80 million in worldwide ticket sales, and was followed by an obligatory sequel the next year, which wasn't nearly successful.

Four years hence arrives the third go-round, minus the involvement of Roth, with the action transplanted from the remote dankness of Eastern Europe to the neon buzz of Las Vegas, accompanied by a familiar roster of handsome young people looking for a party and finding themselves strapped to a gurney in a torture chamber, their tender flesh grist for the mill of a very elite form of twisted entertainment.

I count myself a horror fan, but there just isn't much about "Hostel: Part III" that's truly terrifying.

The other trend this movie is indicative of is revealed by the fact that it arrives straight to video. Sequels are rarely as good as the original film, because the animating urge to make a good movie is overridden by the desire for more or less guaranteed success, and the associated dollars. This process continues, with or without the assistance of the original team of filmmakers and stars, so long as the moneychangers calculate there is enough profit to support the endeavor.

Much like antiquated businesses that seek only to manage decline, maximizing short-term gains by giving up on the prospect of long-term viability, movies franchises like "Hostel" are rarely innovative because those in charge have essentially already given up.

Video extras for "Hostel: Part III," the same for DVD and Blu-ray, consist entirely of a commentary track by director Scott Spiegel and star Kip Pardue.

Movie: 1.5 stars out of four
Extras: 1.5 star

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