Four years after Hostel: Part II, the franchise that helped to define the torture porn sub-genre returns with direct-to-video Hostel: Part III, hitting stores December 27th, 2011. For anyone sick of that sweet Christmas cheer, the latest Hostel promises some stomach-turning bloodshed to help you get back to the dark side.
Series creator and director of the first two films, Eli Roth, is uninvolved with the latest entry, helmed by longtime Sam Raimi cohort Scott Spiegel (From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money). The locale also shifts from Slovakia to Sin City, though producers probably should have given some consideration to setting the film right where it was being shot, in an economically devastated Detroit.
The eerily empty streets of downtown Detroit seem the perfect setting for a Hostel film, though the sequel's choice of locale was based strictly on the unprecedented 42 % tax breaks being offered by the struggling city in 2010, which brought Hollywood to town by the planeload.
FEARnet was invited to the set of Hostel: Part III in late 2010. The day's shoot was taking place inside Detroit's cavernous Masonic Temple, which houses over 1,000 rooms on 14 floors. The centerpiece of the temple is its 5,000-seat theater, a regular home to the city's many plays, comedy acts and concerts.
The story of Hostel III follows four friends on a bachelor party adventure to Vegas, baby. The character's get to enjoy a little Hangover-esque fun involving standard booze and hooker fare as they are eventually led to a very hip club on the outskirts of Vegas they've been told is the place to be.
The club proves to be exactly as promised, right up until the point where the boys and girls find themselves taken captive and placed inside game rooms where bloodthirsty onlookers place bets on everything from how long they'll last to how many jabs, pokes and prods it might take from a given kill tool to get the job done. Hostel III's cast includes Kip Pardue, Kelly Thiebaud, John Hensley, Chris Coy Sarah Habel and Thomas Kretschmann.
Strolling through the winding, dark halls of the temple, even the areas completely unrelated to the production are unsettling. Take a wrong turn and one could easily find themselves walking hallway after hallway and checking door after door for their way back. Just finding our way to the bathroom and back often proved a challenge.
Shortly after arriving on set, we are led into one of the many small side rooms where the beginnings of a basement torture sequence are being set up. The scene involves a table saw and a double-crossing of some sort, a climactic scene set at the end of the film that will not actually take place in Vegas. We watch one of the leading men (Kip Pardue I believe) look on in horror and squirm in the chair he is tied to as the spinning saw comes closer and closer to his face.
From there we are lead on a tour of the sets from veteran production designer Robb Wilson King, who's long list of credits includes Friday the 13th Part III as well as early Wes Craven flicks The Hills Have Eyes, Swamp Thing and A Nightmare on Elm Street. "Wes and I are old buddies," King tells us. "We kind of outgrew each other in a weird way, but he's one of my dearest friends."
In more recent years, King has worked on Scary Movie, the acclaimed AMC show Breaking Bad as well as on Hostel II. "[Hostel II] was a chance to do a real macabre mid-European dangerous society," says King. "So I actually jumped at the chance to do this one because it gave me a chance to kind of outsmart myself. This one has a faster pace, it's full of MacGuffins. It's more of a thriller, so that made it really fun for me."
During the course of our visit, multiple comparisons are made to The Hangover, at least in terms of the first portion of the film. From what we're told, Hostel III is almost like two films in one, with an extreme tonal shift towards the latter portion of the first act. "It's like the horror Hangover," jokes King. "And then we're not actually doing it in Vegas but in Detroit? ‘No problem,' I said to my agent. Detroit offered us so many options and so many strong visual elements to make this really intriguing."
Linking Hostel III to the prior installments is the presence of the Elite Hunting Club, which is now starting to take its show of horrors on the road. "I wanted to do a different kind of Elite Hunting Club," King tells press. "This is America, this is a faster pace. I decided to create an EHC for the franchise that was mobile. They can be in a town near you, you know, within 12 hours on flatbeds. So my thought was, they take over this abandoned Casino an hour outside of Vegas."
The aforementioned Masonic temple offers a plethora of options for the designer. King leads us down a long hallway past a series of set piece rooms, each one showcasing its own special horrors within. "Going down the various rooms you hear the sounds of the people inside as you go further into the depths of this place. You hear horrible sounds, sounds of ecstasy..."
The entry portal to this mobile kill and torture facility is room # 9. "This is a place where EHC abducts its people. You end up in room # 9, you're pretty well going to end up in the killing chamber. Once you're in here," says King, "you don't go back out the lobby way, you go out the back in a bag."
The temple is consistently full of surprises like the palatial control room, an ornate sprawling space replete with vaulted ceilings and detailed woodworkings across the moldings and banisters. Rows of individual computer workstations line the room, with a large flatscreen up at front and center. "Look at this place, it's like an old hotel in Vegas," King beams. "This scene really sets up the meter of their involvement and how extensive it is."
Despite being a direct-to-video release, Hostel III is an ambitious undertaking. Rather than simply offering a retread of the original films as so many video releases are known to do, Spiegel and co. really do seem to be trying to take Hostel and its infamous EHC in a whole new direction. "I think this is really interesting in the franchise, unlike Saw," says King. "I enjoy some of that, but these things are a little brighter. It's evolving, we're growing, we're going to the next level here. We want to do that. Our audience deserves that."
In Part 2 of our Hostel III set visit we speak with cast-members Kelly Thiebaud, Sarah Habel, John Hensley and Chris Coy.