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Hostel Part II (2007)

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Hostel Part II review(click to see larger)Starring Bijou Phillips, Heather Matarazzo, Vera Jordanova, Roger Bart, Lauren German

Directed by Eli Roth


I like to describe the first Hostel as starting out like American Pie only slightly more serious. One of those dramatic “coming of age” movies. One hard left turn later the film turns into Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It completely flips, and everything you were watching before means nothing. Now you are deep in the bowels of some factory where rich guys pay top dollar to do things I’d like to think most human beings aren’t capable of doing. Unfortunately, I’m probably wrong. There are evil, unspeakable things happening around the world, all day long, but most of you reading this are in America, where you can find distraction in “The Daily Show” and “Celebrity Fit Camp”. The option to turn your brain off is there, and really, no one would blame you for it. It’s damn depressing! Nevertheless, you are safe in your home, and the likelihood of someone randomly coming in and snatching you away seems remote. You hope.

Hostel Part II starts with a very similar tone to the first installment. Beth (German) and Whitney (Philips) are studying abroad in Rome when they decide Prague is where all the action is. They soon find themselves on a train with the spacey and seemingly manic depressive Lorna (Matarazzo), whom they begrudgingly allow to accompany them. It seems the original plan was to travel in search of a more powerful party, but the suggestion of a secluded spa by new friend Axelle (Jordanova) seems too good to pass up. Soon the girls are sampling the European country nightlife and pairing off with the European country men … until the real fun starts.

Hostel Part II review(click to see larger)If you’ve seen the first film, you know the drill. Kids go party, kids go where they shouldn’t, kids wake up in a world of pain. What’s changed this time around? PERSONALITY! First there are the pleasant workers of your exclusive hunting club. You’ve got the baiters who seem to be able to clean up and put on a friendly face just long enough to crack you over the head and take you in. After that, the ugliness of their little black hearts shows in their face, much like Natalya from the first film, who appears completely cracked out by the film’s climax. You’ve also got the guards who so do not give a fuck what happens to you that they can laugh while you try to escape. This is their job. You are the product. Where Hostel takes on a very dark, almost medieval tone with its lurching workers, Hostel Part II shows a streamlined, high tech business so on the ball it’s baffling that Paxton ever would have escaped.

Finally, there are the clients, the uber-rich monsters who are so far removed from the realities of the world that they literally buy and sell people on a whim. The torturers of Hostel Part II are creatures so sickly specific in their carnal pleasures that it’s a wonder they can leave the club and blend into normal society. In Hostel Part II you get to meet a couple of these special people whose appetites are so twisted, you could practically build a whole movie around each of them. It’s fantastically appealing, in a messed up sort of way!

Another very special feature of the sequel is a pivoting point of view. At times we follow the exploits of our traveling American women, but on other occasions we get a look into the minds of those who will pay to watch them die. Meet Todd (Richard Burgi), the over-the-top, power mad super suit who takes what he wants, and his timid, emasculated friend Stuart (Bart). In the first movie, we met Rick Hoffman’s character, an American who runs into Paxton in a changing room and mistakes him for a fellow client. Hoffman goes through a tirade of emotions and thoughts, wondering out loud how to make the most of this unique experience. Some of us asked just what it would take for someone to decide that today is the day. Today, I will walk into a room and do things to another human being you only thought was possible in someone’s twisted horror film. No CGI here. It’s me and a knife, and I can cut as slowly as I please. Now we take this chilling thought with us as we watch Todd and Stuart go through the paces: selecting their victims, getting their tattoos, choosing their weapons and then ultimately, stepping through that heavy steel door where their new toy awaits them.

Hostel Part II review(click to see larger)Cinematically, Hostel Part II is brilliant at setting a tone. When you are meant to be simply observing life, the shots are nothing to write home about. When that impending dread settles in, the landscape becomes murky as if in twilight. Shadows are longer and the woods seem darker even in daylight. When down in the bowels of the factory, the look takes on a slightly high contrast, an almost copper-coated look. Everything glints with a slight sheen of dampness as if in a cave, and even well maintained accoutrements can be mistaken for twisted, rusting machines. This is your medieval torture chamber, updated for the convenience of an Internet-enabled world.

Superior acting goes a long way to help pull you into the familiar plot of Hostel Part II. There’s the trick. We’ve seen this story before, mostly; now make me care. Matarazzo lulls you with a chemically sedated character seemingly void of any real emotion, only to kick you in the guts later with a performance so believable you won’t be able to turn away. Saying any more would give away one of the most powerful scenes of the film, but believe me when I say THIS SCENE ALONE is worth the price of admission. German plays your central character, stealing most of the focus of the film. With her character Beth, we experience confusion, desperation, hopelessness and finally a clean, clear-headed, primal anger, all significantly palatable. This is a situation where more is said in the actress’ eyes than spoken from her lips. It’s very well executed. Even Bijou Phillips, whom most of you would love to discount as the typical B-movie actress and, to add another strike, friend to the Hiltons, delivers some very real moments of personal terror. The levels of anguish etched into her face at times were damn impressive.

We also need mention the colossal performance from Roger Bart. Now I understand why Eli Roth made it a point to make me remember this guy’s name! It’s a shame I can’t say much more, as expounding further will spill the fucking beans all over the damn place, but just know that the Stuart character is the guy to watch.

Hostel Part II review(click to see larger)Finally, Hostel Part II is a more complex film than its predecessor and can only be seen as the next step. “Torture porn” my ass; this is evolution. That is to say Hostel Part II is a faster, meaner, more vicious animal. Critics of the first film were able to complain that the eternal, boob-filled setup finally emptied into a sea of the red stuff far too late into the film (thoughts I did not share but can understand). Now we get a further look inside every door that was closed to us before. You’d like to see how the hunting club clients come to find themselves face-to-face with their unsuspecting victim? You’ve got it. You’ve asked yourself what kind of psychotic individuals lurk behind the other doors in the factory? Let’s go take a look.

Hostel Part II is a sick little tale of monstrous people doing unspeakable things … and you’ll love every minute of it. Well, at least Dread Central readers will! There’s no shortage of carnage, blood and unflinching violence for the hardcore horror freaks out there, and at the same time, you get a multi-tiered and remarkably smart storyline to back it up. Hostel Part II may not be scary, but I bet you cash money that by the end of this film Eli Roth will have made you flinch. This is a damn good time.

4 1/2 out of 5

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Desolation Review: Campers + Lunatic = Simplicity, But Not Always a Better Product

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DesolationStarring Jaimi Page, Alyshia Ochse, Toby Nichols

Directed by Sam Patton


I’m usually all in when it comes to a psycho in the woods flick, but there was just something about Sam Patton’s Desolation that seemed a bit distant for me…distance…desolation – I’m sure there’s a connection in there somewhere. Either that or I’m suffering from a minor case of sleep-deprivation. Either way, make sure you’ve got your backpack stuffed, cause we’re hitting the timber-lands for this one.

The film focuses on mother and son tandem Abby and Sam, and the tragic notion that Abby’s love and father to her son, has passed away. The absence has been a crippling one, and Abby’s idea of closure is to take her adolescent offspring to the woods where her husband used to love to run and scatter his ashes as a memorial tribute. Abby invites her best friend Jenn along as emotional support, and together all three are planning on making this trip a fitting and dedicatory experience…until the mystery man shows up. Looking like a member of the Ted Kaczynski clan (The Unabomber himself), this creepy fellow seems content to simply watch the threesome, and when he ultimately decides to close the distance, it’ll be a jaunt in the forest that this close-knit group will never forget.

So there you have it – doesn’t beg a long, descriptive, bled-out dissertation – Patton tosses all of his cards on the table in plain view for the audience to scan at their leisure. While the tension is palpable at times, it’s the equivalent of watching someone stumble towards the edge of a cliff, and NEVER tumble over…for a long time – you literally watch them do the drunken two-step near the lip for what seems like an eternity. What I’m getting at is that the movie has the bells and whistles to give white-knucklers something to get amped about, yet it never all seems to come into complete focus, or allow itself to spread out in such a way that you can feel satisfied after the credits roll. If I may harp on the performance-aspect for a few, it basically broke down this way for me: both Abby and Jenn’s characters were well-displayed, making you feel as if you really were watching long-time besties at play. Sam’s character was a bit tough to swallow, as he was the sadder-than-sad kid due to his father’s absence, but JEEZ this kid was a friggin malcontented little jerk – all I can say is “role well-played, young man.”

As we get to our leading transient, kook, outsider – whatever you want to call him: he simply shaved down into a hum-drum personality – no sizzle here, folks. Truly a disappointment for someone who was hoping for an enigmatic nutbag to terrorize our not-so-merry band of backpackers – oh well, Santa isn’t always listening, I guess. Simplicity has its place and time when displaying the picture-perfect lunatic, and before everyone gets a wild hair across their ass because of what I’m saying, all this is was the wish to have THIS PARTICULAR psycho be a bit more colorful – I can still appreciate face-biters like Hannibal Lecter and those of the restrained lunacy set. Overall, Desolation is one of those films that had all the pieces meticulously set in place, like a house of cards…until that drunk friend stumbled into the table, sending everything crumbling down. A one-timer if you can’t find anything else readily available to watch.

  • Film
2.5

Summary

Looking for a little direction way out in the woods? Look elsewhere, because this guide doesn’t have a whole lot to offer.

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User Rating 2.88 (17 votes)
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Children of the Fall Review – This Israeli Slasher Gets Political

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Starring Noa Maiman, Aki Avni, Yafit Shalev, Iftach Ophir, Michael Ironside

Directed by Eitan Gafny

Reviewed out of Utopia 2017


Slashers are a subgenre of horror that are often looked down upon. After all, what can a movie about a killer slaughtering multiple people have to say about, well…anything. Those of us in the community know full well that this is nonsense and that any kind of horror movie can be a jabbing (no pun intended) commentary on society, culture, politics, art, etc… And that’s precisely what Eitan Gafny aims to do with Children of the Fall, one of the few Israeli slashers ever created.

Set on the eve of the Yom Kippur war, the film follows Rachel (Maiman), a young American woman who comes to Israel to join a kibbutz after suffering some serious personal tragedies. Her goal to make aliyah (the return of Jews to Israel) is however hampered by some rather unpleasant encounters with local IDF soldiers and members of the kibbutz. Pushing through, she makes friends with others in the commune and her Zionistic views are only strengthened, although they do not go untested. Once Yom Kippur, one of the holiest holidays in Jewish culture, begins, a killer begins picking off the kibbutz workers one by one in violent and gruesome ways.

Let’s start with what Children of the Fall gets right, okay? As slashers go, it’s actually quite beautiful. There are wonderfully expansive shots that make use of the size and diversity of the kibbutz. The film opens with a beautiful shot of a cow stable, barn, water towers, and miscellaneous outbuildings, all set against a dark and stormy night. The lighting of this scene, and throughout the film, is also very good. I found myself darting my eyes across the screen multiple times throughout the film thinking I’d seen something lurking in the shadows.

The kills, while unoriginal, are very satisfying. Each death is meaty, bloody, and doesn’t feel rushed. In fact, the camera has no problems lingering during each kill, allowing us to appreciate the practical FX and copious amounts of blood used. And if you believe that a slasher needs to have nudity, you won’t be disappointed.

The acting is middle of the road. Maiman is serviceable as Rachel but the real star of the film is Aki Avni as “Yaron”. His range of emotion is fantastic, from warm and welcoming to Rachel when she arrives to emoting grief and pain during his Yom Kippur announcement where we learn that he was a child in a concentration camp. The rest of the cast are perfectly acceptable as fodder for the killer.

So where does Children of the Fall stray? Let’s start with the most obvious part: the runtime. Clocking in at nearly two hours, that’s about 30 minutes too much. The film could easily have gone through some hefty editing without affecting the final product. Instead, we have a movie that feels elongated when unnecessary.

Additionally, the societal and political commentary is very in-your-face but the film can’t seem to make up its mind as to what it’s trying to get across. Natalia, a Belarussian kibbutz worker, raises the concept of Israeli racism, misogyny, and xenophobia, her hostility unabashedly pouring out in the midst of IDF soldiers, locals, other kibbutz members, and more. Is there validity to what she’s saying? Undoubtedly. But there is also validity to Rachel’s retorts, which include calling this woman out on her own vitriolic views. This back-and-forth mentality frustratingly prevails throughout the film, as though Gafny was unwilling to just commit.

The dialogue is also quite painful at times, although I attribute this to difficulties with translating from Hebrew to English. Even the best English speakers in Israel don’t get everything perfect and the little quirks here and there, while charming, are quite detracting. Also, why is this movie trying to tell me that Robert Smith of The Cure is a character here? While amusing, it makes absolutely no sense nor does it fit in Smith’s own timeline.

Had this film gone through a couple rounds of editing, I feel like we’d have gotten something really great. Eitan Gafny is definitely someone that we need to be watching very closely.

  • Children of the Fall
2.5

Summary

While Children of the Fall has a lot going for it, it has just as much working against it. Overly long, you’ll get a really great slasher that is bogged down by uneven social and political commentary.

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User Rating 3.24 (21 votes)
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Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club Review – A Charming, Quirky Dark Drama

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Starring Keren Mor, Yiftach Klein, Hana Laslo, Ania Bukstein

Directed by Guilhad Emilio Schenker

Reviewed out of Utopia 2017


One of the great joys I have in being a horror fan is seeing horror films from around the world. I view these films as a chance to learn about the fears, folklore, mythology, and lore of varied cultures. Films like Inugami, Frontier(s), [REC], and the like transport me across oceans and into places I might never get the chance to visit otherwise. Hence my interest in the Israeli dark drama Madam Yankeolva’s Fine Literature Club, the feature debut of director Guilhad Emilio Schenker.

The film follows Sophie (Mor), a member of a strange, female-only reading club – who believes that love is a lie – that we soon realize brings men into its midst only to have them killed. The woman who brings the most fitting man is awarded a trophy for her fine taste. When a member reaches 100 trophies, they get to enter a coveted and highly esteemed upper echelon of the reading club’s society, one that includes lavish surroundings and an almost regal lifestyle. Sophie starts the film earning her 99th trophy but her plans towards the all-important 100th trophy are thrown askew when she ends up developing feelings for her latest victim. She must now decide if the mission that has been so dear to her for so many years is something she wishes to see through or if she’s ready to take a huge risk and fall in love.

Now, if this seems like a strange story for a horror website, I don’t disagree. Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club is certainly not your traditional horror film. In fact, I’d liken it far more to the more playful works of Tim Burton and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s The City of Lost Children than something more grotesque and violent. It’s very playful and quite charming, although there are times when the presentation feels amateurish and certain moments when things become wildly unbelievable. That being said, the film aims to be a dark fairy tale come to life, so a healthy amount of “I’m okay letting that go” will not go unappreciated.

The film is shot in such a way that it’s very soft around the edges, almost like we’re constantly in a dream. This is aided by composer Tal Yardeni’s score, which obviously takes inspiration from Danny Elfman, playfully weaving its way through each scene.

While there’s a lot to love about Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club, it’s certainly not a flawless film. As mentioned previously, there are times when it feels quite amateurish, as though no one thought to look at how a scene is being filmed and say, “People, this isn’t how things would go down. We can have fun but this just doesn’t sit right.” Additionally, the story moves very quickly. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard of love at first sight. But that’s not how this story plays out, so the wildly strong feelings that develop between Sophie and Yosef (Klein) seem strangely out of place.

All things being what they are, Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club is a charming film that can definitely appeal to horror fans if they’re willing to stretch their boundaries to include films that have absolutely no scares or gore but imply quite a horrific situation.

  • Madam Yankelova's Fine Literature Club
3.5

Summary

Charming, quirky, but not without its faults, Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club is a dark drama for fans of Tim Burton and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Don’t go in expecting any scares or gore. Rather, anticipate a fairy tale that might be just a bit too gruesome in tone for young children.

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User Rating 3.45 (20 votes)
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