Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Hostel: Part II (2007)

Wednesday, 7 November 2007
Writer & Director: Eli Roth

Cast: Lauren Graham (Beth Salinger), Roger Bart (Stuart), Bijou Phillips (Whitney Keye), Heather Matarazzo (Lorna Weisenfreund), Richard Burgi (Todd), Vera Jordanova (Axelle), Stanislav Ianevski (Miroslav), Jay Hernandez (Paxton), Jordan Ladd (Stephanie), Edwige Fenech (The Italian Professor) & Milan Knazko (Sasha Rassimov)

Three young girls become the latest victims of an underground murder racket, fronted by a hostel in Slovakia...

Eli Roth's decision to make a sequel to Hostel, almost immediately after the originals' release, suggested the vocal writer-director is more obsessed with blood-soaked death scenes than striving for any semblance of freshness and originality...

Still, as horror premises go, you can't deny the idea behind Hostel was satisfyingly perverted and sadistic – if you like that kind of thing -- and fertile ground for Roth's brand of old-school, schlocky terror. The idea of a global business built on murder, where the rich elite get their kicks by slaughtering innocent backpackers kidnapped from a Slovakian hostel, is a mix of cultural fears and a twisted statement about death being the only pleasure worth pursuing in a stultifying modern life...

Hostel: Part II acts as a direct sequel to start with, as we follow original survivor Paxton (Jay Hernandez), in opening scenes that skewer several horror sequel clich├ęs. But, pretty soon we're back in familiar territory, as three American travellers (girls this time), are persuaded by a beautiful woman to alter their plans and visit Slovakia's hot springs...

Beth (Lauren German), Whitney (Bijou Phillips) and Lorna (Heather Matarazzzo) soon check into the titular hostel, which is where Part II begins to slip into predictability and repetition. As happened last time, it's the most sympathetic character who's slaughtered first – gawky virgin Lorna, in a memorable and perverted sequence involving nakedness, a meat-hook and a bloodbath in a very literal sense...

With the film now in danger of becoming a bland retread, only with gorier deaths, Roth shifts focus to the murderers themselves: primarily two American businessmen (Richard Burgi's over-eager Todd and Roger Bart's reluctant Stuart) who fly over to Europe to murder a few girls. We're also given an insight into how the worldwide business works: it's a sinister version of Ebay with membership tattoo's, essentially...

The film becomes trapped in plot predictability, but its compelling torture/death scenes admittedly keep your interest. You may find yourself grimacing and disgusted at times, but Roth can certainly command attention -- even if his film is basically a polished redux. The idea to explore the killers' motivations, as well as the blindsided victims, is definitely Hostel: Part II's trump card, as otherwise it would be a very lazy rehash.

Everything here is either twisted or unsettling – including the jokes -- with one gag recycling the old chestnut about using a human head as a football! Roth also enjoys toying with audience's expectations over how much blood and guts he'll risk showing on-screen, and how much he'll choose to imply. Or, usually, successfully imply... only to bottle it and show you everything in close-up anyway!

Unfortunately, after a strong start and an entertaining middle, the last third of the film just becomes too implausible and silly. It culminates in a very unlikely "escape" for one of the protagonists (if you can't beat 'em, join 'em?) -- punctuated by a gross moment that will have every man crossing his legs in sympathy pains.

So ultimately, while I was disappointed with Hostel (which was a great idea that gave in to just just showing hit-and-miss deaths), Part II was a marked improvement. Small praise perhaps, but what it loses in originality, it gains by having more layers to its story, a queasy atmosphere and fun performances from bonkers Burgi, a superb Bart and engaging Graham.

Above all – Hostel: Part II is a horror movie in a very pure sense and horrifies more than its competitors, leaving you uncomfortably numb and very unlikely to look-up "SLOVAKIA" in a holiday brochure...


Lionsgate
Budget: $10.2 million
93 minutes