October 23, 2007

DVD Pick of the Week: Hostel Part II

As we draw ever closer to the annual night dedicated ghosts, ghouls, and severed limbs, our DVD shelves will be graced with more and more DVDs that take bloodletting to the level of art. I believe that most of the classics that are coming out this holiday season have already arrived. This leaves more recent "classics" (you decide) to come to the fore. In addition to the horror stand-bys, this week brings plenty of desirable titles to store shelves. There are television titles, classic titles, all manner of tempting artistry digitally encoded on small shiny disks. Below is my pick for the week and a number of other notable titles.

This week's pick is none other than Hostel Part II, being released in unrated form. This is a movie that many of you disliked, possibly even hated. I was not one of them. I will not extol mounds of love upon it, but it is definitely better than many think it to be. I also feel that it is stronger than the Saw series.

After the unnecessary opening scene, the movie slips into the formula mined for the first film, except instead of the three backpacking guys, it is a trio of young women off for a weekend getaway while studying in Rome. While on their journey, they are approached by a woman who tells them of these springs in Slovakia that they should visit. Now, we all know what is going to happen. While the first film had that lulling effect in the first half, where you are not sure what is going to happen or when, that feeling of building suspense is gone. We all know where this is leading, and at some points, I just wished they would hurry up and get to the gore already. Still, I found the journey of these women to be a bit more interesting than the journey of the guys last time. The movie did drag a couple of times, but I still felt oddly compelled.

With the lack of any real suspense for the audience in the first half of the movie, Eli Roth had to do something to keep up interest, and this is where the first of the additions takes place. Enter Roger Bart and Richard Burgi, reuniting for the first time since their tenure on Desperate Housewives, as Stuart and Todd. These are two of the would be killers who are to become Elite Hunters. We get to spend a good deal of time with these two as we watch them approach the deed. These scenes are the best in the movie, they create these fascinating individuals, and while we do not learn much of their history, enough is revealed to make them just great to watch as they interact with each other and the potential victims.

Take those two threads, the girls lured into danger and the killers nearing their destiny, and weave them together and you have a movie whose suspense is restored as we near the second half, where the blood makes its appearance. I felt like there was less nudity and less gore this time around, but it seemed to be more effective. Then there is the 'twist' ending, which, while not the 'most shocking ending in horror history' as the commercials would like you to believe, was still surprising, it caught me off-guard anyway.

Eli Roth is a good director, may still have some issues with pacing, but he has a good eye, and an odd penchant for creepy kids. He has given this film a good look, and may have delivered a sequel that outdoes its predecessor (minus that opening scene nonsense, anyway). The performances were effective, for the most part, though I really wanted to see Bijou Phillips die. Bart and Burgi stole the show, and Lauren German does a fine job as the lead. Like the prior film, this one has a cameo by a horror director that has had an impact on Roth, Hostel had Takashi Miike, this time out we get notorious Italian director Ruggero Deodato (of Cannibal Holocaust fame), credited as The Italian Cannibal.

I wasn't sure at first, but it succeeded in winning me over and by the time the ending rolled around, I was sold. There is some nice gore, a weird horror/comedic vibe that was not executed all that well but still worked in creating this weird movie-universe where stuff like this actually happens. In the end I liked it. It is an excursion into the darker side of life and much more frightening than Jigsaw in Saw.

The extras include:
-4 Featurettes ("The Next Level" Behind-the-Scenes, the Art of KNB Effects, Set Design, International TV Special)
-Blood and Guts Montage
-Set Design
-10 Deleted Scenes
-Commentary with Eli Roth
-Commentary with Eli Roth, Gabe Roth and Quentin Tarantino
-Cast and Crew Commentary with Eli Roth, Lauren German, Richard Burgi and Vera Jordanova
-Elvis Mitchell of 'The Treatment' with Eli Roth

Also out this week:
  • Meet the Robinsons. A rather dull and unfocused Disney outing. This was in its final stages just prior to the Disney/Pixar merger. Definitely only a rental for the kids.
  • Veronica Mars: The Complete Third Season. Not at the same level as the first two, but still outstanding television. It is as real shame that this turned out to be its final go around. At least Kristen Bell found new work on Heroes.
  • The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Volume One. Many have been waiting for this to finally see the light of day. I cannot recall ever watching it, this is my best chance to get caught up.
  • Mr. Brooks. Not a good movie, but surprisingly entertaining. William Hurt as Kevin Costner's "conscience" was fantastic. There are some absolutely horrid scenes, mostly with Demi Moore, but the movie is quite watchable. Rental only.
  • Stanley Kubrick: Warner Home Video Director's Series. A remastered collection of Kubrick's masterpieces.
  • 2001- A Space Odyssey: Two Disk Special Edition. It's been a long time coming, but it is finally here.
  • A Clockwork Orange: Two Disk Special Edition. See above.
  • The Shining: Two Disk Special Edition. Ditto. These films are also seeing release on Blu ray.
  • The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians. Superman, Batman, and the res of the gang in another animated iteration.
  • Fido. Brilliant blending of the 50's era Lassie aesthetic and the modern Shawn of the Dead bent and you get a great film that is definitely different than you usually find.
  • Battleship Potemkin: Two Disk Ultimate Edition. Sergei Eisenstein's classic from the early era of cinema. I have been wanting to see this for sometime.
  • Home of the Brave. Blink and you missed it theatrical release, this war film features Samuel L. Jackson.
  • Saw III: Unrated Director's Cut. A new cut just in time to promote the pending release of Saw IV.
  • Fantastic Planet. Bizarre French animation arrives on DVD, I believe, for the first time.
  • Hostel: Director's Cut. I thought we already had a DC of this. I guess it was just an unrated cut. Anyway, banking on the release of the sequel and the need for more DVD aisle torture we get this new cut.
  • Rey Mysterio: Biggest Little Man. My wrestling fandom has waned, but this guy has always been a blast to watch, what he can do is simply amazing.
  • Hellraiser: 20th Anniversary Edition. Aaahh. It has been awhile, hasn't it Pinhead?A newly remastered edition with new extras is here.
  • Buried Alive. A new horror release form Dimension Extreme.
  • Dog Bite Dog. This has had quite the buzz surrounding it tin the action loving community. Will be interesting to see if it lives up the hype.

So, what's going in you queue?


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