Hostel: Part II (2007)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2011-12-21 08:31

Written and Directed by: Eli Roth

Starring: Lauren German, Heather Matarazzo and Bijou Phillips

Reviewed by: Brett Gallman

ďDo you think we're sick?"
"Fuck no. Dude, you look anywhere in the world where there's no law... whether it's fucking Chad or New Orleans... and this is the shit people are doing, bro. We're the normal ones."

I always thought Hostel (and the similarly unfairly maligned Saw series) got a bad rap when it was credited with spawning the whole torture porn thing. Sure, there was torture involved, but one could hardly call it an orgy of death and dismemberment; if anything, it more resembled a good old fashioned regular porno, what with all the naked girls, hostel sex, and other teen comedy style shenanigans. It did, of course, eventually morph into a full on horror movie, complete with genuine, unsettling dread and, yes, sick gore; in fact, I found it to be one of the best horror flicks of 2005 thatís held up remarkably well. So thereís little doubt that few people were as excited to see Eli Rothís follow-up in 2007, which surprisingly left me with disappointment; see, I couldnít help but think Roth actually made the movie everyone assumed Hostel was: gratuitous, violent, and empty. But, hey, Iíve been wrong before, and, like any franchise, this one canít leave well enough alone, so the impending release of part 3 gave me an excuse to revisit the second one.

Seemingly picking up where part one left off, we find Paxon (Jay Hernandez) in a hospital room recovering from his near death experience. Unfortunately for him, his visitors end up being a part of the Elite Hunting group and have shown up to silence him forever; fortunately for him, itís all just a dream. His relief is short lived though, because, (surprise!) Elite Hunting tracks him down, and we move onto the next batch of fresh meat in the form of Beth (Lauren German) and her friends. Theyíre enrolled in an Italian art school but are about to head further east for a vacation; one of their models from class (Vera Jordanova) convinces them to make a detour, and they end up at the familiar hostel from the first film (where they only show Pulp Fiction). Upon arrival, the girls are all put on the market for auction, and a couple of American businessmen end up purchasing the right to kill them.

In hindsight, I might have been a little unfair to Hostel II when I first saw it, or maybe Iíve just gotten smarter in the past few years (donít answer that question). While it still doesnít quite match the original, itís commendable that Roth refused to do a simple retread; itís easy to look at this one and say that itís just the same movie with a group of girls instead of guys. That isnít quite true, though I do think the switch to female protagonists is still one of the weaker points; I donít know, maybe Roth just doesnít have the ear for girl dialogue because they donít quite come off as well as the guys did in the first film (then again, I suspect most ladies probably hated those characters, so it probably evens out). German is a pretty decent, tough, and smart protagonist, but Bijou Phillips plays a pretty clichť slutty blonde; meanwhile, Heather Matarazzo plays a mousy, nerdy companion whoís kind of annoying.

More interesting are the two businessmen, played by Richard Burgi and Roger Bart. When it comes to the climax of Hostel, I think everyone remembers the image of the girl with the dangling eyeball; that was a great gag, but I thought the most terrifying moment came when Paxon ran into the guy who was psyched about killing another human being. There was something so cold and genuinely disturbing about the casual disregard for human life on display during that scene, and the descent from the jovial comedy to that sort of primal terror was brilliant. Part II gives us more of that stuff, as the Elite Hunting is revealed to be this worldwide cadre of sickos that make of transactions of human bodies. Though their two customers here donít get an equal amount of screen time as the girls, itís difficult not to call them main characters all the same. In Burgiís character, we see the same sort of false machismo that the American guy in the original, as heís out to kill someone just for the experience, and he has some sick notion that itíll make him more intimidating as a man (he tells his buddy that people can just sense it when someone has killed another human being).

Bart is a little more skittish about the whole thing, an inspired character choice because he eventually runs into Beth, with whom he shares a friendly exchange. This sets up an interesting dynamic that eventually pays off in the climax; itís difficult enough to kill a total stranger in cold blood, but what about someone you met, however briefly? That climax is rather wild, as we of course end up in that grungy warehouse, where bodies are splayed and scattered by the Elite Hunting clients (one of whom is Rugerro Deodato, making an appearance as a cannibal!). One body is rendered unrecognizable, while another victimís fate should leave any guy instinctively crossing his legs and wincing in pain. Roth really ups the gore quantity here, so if thatís what drew you to the original, youíll get a kick out of this one.

In fact, I still canít help but think that Roth did believe in a lot of the bullshit that was spewed about the original; itís like he canít help himself at times. For example, one sequence finds a naked woman bathing in the blood of another naked girl thatís been suspended above her; itís so over-the-top, and itís probably the most memorable sequence from either film, solely due to its gleeful, batshit insanity, so itís no wonder the series has had a tough time shaking the whole ďtorture pornĒ moniker. Other moments, such as when one of the members of the ďBubblegum Gang,Ē ends up receiving a bullet to the head, seem solely to exist so Roth can just one up himself from the previous film. Then again, there are some gory moments that are denied us, such as when he intentionally obscures one of the girls being tortured on a monitor, so it seems like Roth is mostly toying with us.

Maybe thatís why this one ends with a girlís severed head being kicked around like a soccer ball. As sick and depraved as Hostel II is at times, it mostly feels like Roth indulging himself, and it mostly works. Itís not nearly as unnerving as its predecessor, which is to be expected; after all, the jig is up this time out because we already know the horrors this hostel holds. Fully exploiting it and (somewhat) giving audiences what they expect out of the sequel is probably the best way to go, and Roth mostly succeeds. I liked this movie more the second time around, mostly because I found it smarter than I gave it credit for being a few years ago. If you felt the same way, give it another look before part 3 hits later this month. Lions Gateís Blu-ray looks and sounds rather spectacular, plus itís loaded with extras, including three commentaries. Oneís a solo track with Roth, while another features him alongside Quentin Tarantino and associate producer Gabriel Roth, while the third track features German, Jordanova, and Burgi. Other supplements include deleted scenes, some behind-the-scenes features on the effects and production design, a blood and guts gag reel, a radio interview, interactive surveillance cameras, and "A Legacy of Torture,Ē which was an international TV special produced for the film. Definitely a package worth picking up, and the film itself is worth a couple of looks. Buy it!

comments powered by Disqus Ratings: