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.
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.
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.
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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