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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LIQUID SKY Blu-ray Review – You Don’t Need Acid For This Mind Melting Trip
Starring Anne Carlisle, Paula E. Sheppard, Susan Doukas, Otto von Wernherr
Directed by Slava Tsukerman
Distributed by Vinegar Syndrome
Succinctly summing up a slice-of-life avant-garde feature film can be difficult when the picture relies heavily on the audio-visual experience and not necessarily the story. Liquid Sky (1982) is an acid-fueled trip through the emerging New Wave movement, viewed through the vapid lens of the fashion world, where drugs and sex are a commodity to be frequently bartered. The film juxtaposes the grimy and gritty streets of New York City with liberal use of bright, flashy neon, creating an aesthetic that both revels in the post-punk subculture and looks forward to the eye-popping pastels that would come to define the ‘80s. Within this kaleidoscope is a story about androgyny, rampant drug use, pleasures of the flesh, sexual abuse, and tiny invisible aliens that subsist on the endorphins released when people either get high or get down. As director Slava Tsukerman states in the extras, the idea was to craft a unique visual palette, the likes of which cinemagoers maybe hadn’t seen before; in that respect, Tsukerman capably succeeded. This is true subversive cinema, not for the mainstream.
Margaret (Anne Carlisle) is an androgynous NYC fashion model, looking to get her big break into certifiable stardom. Her nightclub fashion shows bring out all the fringe of the city – drug users, sexual deviants, flamboyant personalities, and her rival, Jimmy (also Carlisle), who is a fiend for cocaine. Margaret’s girlfriend, Adrian (Paula E. Sheppard), is a coke dealer whom Jimmy constantly harasses for a quick high, despite the fact he never has any money. Sex is his usual currency, consensual and otherwise. For reasons unknown, though easy to glean, a tiny UFO has landed on top of the apartment building in which Margaret lives, the visitors here to feast on endorphins released by the brain during drug use… or explosive, orgasmic sex.
Jimmy has lunch with his mother, Sylvia (Susan Doukas), a television producer who he sees as little more than a blank check. Sylvia also happens to live across the street from Margaret’s building, making it the perfect vantage point for scientist Johann Hoffman (Otto von Wernherr) to observe the till-now undiscovered, minute aliens and their spacecraft. Margaret, meanwhile, finds herself in one compromising sexual position after the next, often against her will, though these (let’s be honest here and call them) rapes tend to end with her perpetrators dead, a thin crystalline sliver embedded within their skulls; brain removed. Margaret doesn’t quite understand why, but the frequent cause and effect makes her imagine she has unbridled power, able to kill anyone that has sex with her. Eventually, Margaret comes to use this “power” to destroy anyone who crosses or uses her, which as the film will show is a significant number of people. Little does she know, all this time her saviors have been invisible to the naked eye and living atop her building.
The above plot synopsis barely scratches the surface of the weird and insane places this film travels. The biggest takeaway here should be the ground Tsukerman was breaking, which feels very much in the vein of something Andy Warhol might have been behind. The cast is comprised of societal outcasts; populated by homosexuals, ambiguous individuals, gender-fluidity, heroin users, club cronies, kink, vulgarity… all things that in no way conform to societal standards of normality. Carlisle pulls double duty playing two characters – one reprehensible, the other vaguely sympathetic – yet both fall under the rubric of blurred lines; they embody qualities of both masculinity and femininity. Tsukerman embraces the abstract and absurd, delivering a film that is fiercely independent and wholly incapable of direct categorization.
Driving this tour de force is a cutting edge synth score that is constantly active and consistently weird. A trio made up of Tsukerman, Clive Smith, and Brenda I. Hutchinson composed the soundtrack, and it sounds alien and otherworldly while also capturing the essence of the New Wave. The electronic cues and deep bass beats are energetic and repetitive, often making use of bizarre time signatures. Large portions of it reminded me of John Massari’s stellar synth score to Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988), as the synthesizer sounds are nearly identical in some passages. The grooves are infectious and wonderfully lo-fi, adding an audible assault to complement the visual feast.
Still, Liquid Sky is something of a challenging watch, especially a first-time viewing when expectations are impossible to calibrate. Because Tsukerman purposely made his film so esoteric and obtuse, it can be tough to settle into a comfortable viewing mindset because so much of the film is uncomfortable and unconventional. The acting quality is passable enough that viewers may find themselves watching the film less as a veritable feature and more a staged, lengthy piece of performance art, which it is in certain respects. Liquid Sky doesn’t lampoon the period or people associated with it, though it does offer an exaggeration of current trends. One thing is for sure, this is bespoke filmmaking at its core and a shining example of the marriage between emerging trends and psychedelic euphoria. Mind blowing stuff.
Vinegar Syndrome is consistently lauded for their A/V work and, boy, did they ever knock this one out of the atmosphere. The 1.85:1 1080p picture is pristine, making it almost impossible to believe this is a low-budget indie from ’82. The original 35mm negative has been given new life via a 4K scan, with the resulting image looking nearly flawless. Aside from literally two or three white flecks the picture is immaculate. Film grain has been smoothed out and minimized without the use of waxy DNR. Fine detail is exquisite, adding a sense of true life to these shiny and squalid environments. Colors are richly saturated and pop off the screen, just as eye-catching neon might do in real life. Color filters are used frequently, bathing the image in hues of blue or green or whatever color fits the intended mood. Skin tones are spot-on and accurate. There is nothing worth complaining about making this one of the finest images Blu-ray is capable of producing.
Although the audio is a single-channel English DTS-HD MA 1.0 mono track you’d never know it from the sonic quality. The synthesized score is catchy and constant, causing the film’s soundfield to be brimming with life at every moment. The aggressive mix and high levels cause a mild sensation of discomfort and unease for viewers, ensuring the picture is never viewed too comfortably. Dialogue is understandable and totally clean, with no indication of hissing or pops at any point. Subtitles are available in English.
An introduction is available before the feature begins, with director Slava Tsukerman giving viewers a brief greeting along with praise for Vinegar Syndrome’s new home video edition.
An audio commentary is available, featuring director Slava Tsukerman.
The disc also contains an isolated soundtrack, highlighting that groundbreaking score.
Interview with Slava Tsukerman is a recent chat with the Russian director, who touches upon his career, influences, and the legacy of his most endearing creation.
Interview with Anne Carlisle is a similarly themed chat, with the leading lady discussing topics ranging from her early beginnings to where her career has taken her now.
Liquid Sky Revisited is a nearly-hour long documentary covering all aspects of the film’s production, with Tsukerman delving into every bit of minutia behind the production, genesis, inspirations, etc.
Q&A from 2017 Alamo Drafthouse Yonkers Screening, featuring Tsukerman, Carlisle, and co-composer Clive Smith.
A lengthy reel of outtakes, alternate opening sequence, rehearsal footage, multiple trailers, and a still gallery complete the wealth of bonus features found here.
Additionally, the cover artwork is reversible allowing for display of the original key art or newly commissioned artwork.
- BRAND NEW 4K RESTORATION OF THE FILM from the 35mm original negative
- Brand new commentary track with: Slava Tsukerman (director)
- Video interview with Slava Tsukerman
- Video interview with Anne Carlisle (actress)
- Director’s introduction
- “Liquid Sky Revisited” (2017) – 50 minute making-of documentary
- Q&A from a 2017 Alamo Drafthouse Yonkers screening with: Slava Tsukerman, Anne Carlisle and Clive Smith (music)
- Isolated soundtrack
- Never before seen outtakes
- Alternate opening sequence
- Behind the scenes rehearsal footage
- Multiple theatrical trailers
- Still gallery
- Artwork designed by Derek Gabryszak
- Reversible cover artwork
- English SDH subtitles
Supremely psychedelic and infinitely eccentric, Liquid Sky was 1983’s most successful independent film and for good reason: it is impossible to categorize and there are few films that color outside the lines so vividly and uniquely. You can’t explain it or understand it; you just have to see it. Vinegar Syndrome have raised the bar with their impeccable a/v quality and wonderful selection of extras.
Zena’s Period Blood: Dying for a DEAD END
It can be difficult finding horror films of quality, so allow me to welcome you to your salvation from frustration. “Zena’s Period Blood” is here to guide you to the horror films that will make you say, “This is a good horror. Point blank. PERIOD.”
“Zena’s Period Blood” focuses on under-appreciated and hidden horror films.
How do you turn $900,000 into $77,000,000? Offer directors Jean-Baptiste Andrea and Fabrice Canepa the initial amount and give them the freedom to let their minds wander. In 2003, both directors accomplished this unimaginable feat with Dead End. Under the clouds of a small budget, typical poster and insubstantial trailer, most viewers forecasted one long stretch of boredom. However, 15 minutes in and I was as hooked as a pervert in a strip club with his tax refund money. In 83 minutes, the movie unravels and exposes intelligent craftsmanship with story, acting and location, introducing us to the Harrington family and their demise.
After 20 years following the same route, Frank Harrington (Ray Wise) decides to take his family down a shortcut to his in-laws home during Christmas Eve. Wife Laura (Lin Shaye) sings in the passenger seat, serving as the optimistic family unifier who is often ignored by her husband and children. Behind Frank is their oldest child Marion (Alexandra Holden), unnervingly sheltered under the arm of her soon-to-be fiancé, Brad. And forever mom’s favorite boy is Richard (Mick Cain), who rocks out to Marilyn Manson blaring in his headphones. After this brief introduction to the characters and their distinct personalities, we witness everyone fall asleep, including Frank, who refuses to let anyone else drive.
Several seconds pass before the Jeep Wagoneer veers into the opposite lane. Gradually, a honk pleads from an approaching car, startling the Harrington family and forcing Frank to fight with the wheel until he brings the Jeep to a stop. Wide-awake, the family begins to move forward, now entrapped on a new, never-ending road.
I could elaborate on so many scary details in the movie, but the never-ending road stands out the most. What makes it worse is that there are signs for a town called Marcott, with an arrow indicating the town is straight ahead. But the Harringtons never reach the town. This scares me because I believe that every human being has a mental list of things they are scared of or things they should keep an eye out for in certain situations. Unfortunately, this movie exists to expand that list. What sucks for me is that my husband likes taking back roads. Because I strive to have a happy marriage and a peaceful death, I usually fall asleep to avoid an argument and the grim reaper, both of which usually exist on these particular roads. However, I never imagined that a back road could become a never-ending road. Man that would suck!
Speaking of never-ending, the directors became devils of discomfort by never really showing the deceased’s mutilated body, leaving your brain struggling to piece together the unseen image long after the movie ends. Throughout the movie, the family and Brad are picked off one by one. We mainly suffer these devatations through the reactions of the family members that are still alive, sometimes witnessing them lift a severed ear or caress a charred hand. This movie taught me that I can still taste bile at the back of my throat when a mutilation is suggested rather than shown.
Directors Andrea and Canepa accomplished greatness in Dead End with little time and little money. It is a testament that imagination coupled with skill is the true combination to capturing a big budget feel. I hope that all the individuals behind this movie have a long, never-ending road ahead of them because they have delivered brilliance to the world. This is a good horror. Point blank. Period.
In addition to contributing to Dread Central, Zena Dixon has been writing about all things creepy and horrific for over six years at RealQueenofHorror.com. She has always loved horror films and will soon be known directing her own feature-length horror. Feel free to follow her on Twitter @LovelyZena.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 164 – THE CLEANSE
Wait no longer, boils and ghouls! Today is the day you’ve been waiting for; today is the day we sink our teeth into 2018’s The Cleanse! What’s that? You’ve never heard of The Cleanse?! Well, neither had we, but horror releases are slim pickings right now, so we take what we can get. At least we can all agree that we’ve been dying to see Johnny Galecki in something other than Big Bang Theory, right? No? Well, fuck. Here’s an episode about his new movie anyway. What are we even doing?
It was crazy of me to think I could help the police, but I’m going to keep researching, keep writing, there are stories that need to be told, so… here’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 164!
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The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Twitch, and YouTube.
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