|Director: Eli Roth
|Screenplay: Eli Roth
|Stars: Lauren German (Beth), Roger Bart (Stuart), Heather Matarazzo (Lorna), Bijou Phillips (Whitney), Richard Burgi (Todd), Vera Jordanova (Axelle), Jay Hernandez (Paxton), Jordan Ladd (Stephanie), Edwige Fenech (Art Class Professor), Stanislav Ianevski (Miroslav), Patrik Zigo (Bubblegum Gang Leader), Zuzana Geislerová (Inya), Milan Knazko (Sasha)
|MPAA Rating: R
|Year of Release: 2007
In Hostel (2006), writer/director Eli Roth reworked the broad parameters of the cautionary fairy tale into a grisly horror meatgrinder, one of the best of the recent glut of so called “torture porn.” What set Roth's film apart from so many others was its hard-edged moral backbone--the endurance test of gruesome sights had a point, albeit one you had to dig through some sludge to find. Hostel gave us the same basic lesson as “Little Red Riding Hood”--just replace a little girl with horny-drunk college guys, the dark forest with a crumbling former-Soviet bloc country, and the wolf with an underground posse of wealthy sickos who pay big bucks to slaughter people for the hell of it. The film faltered only in its final stretch, where Roth sacrificed his film's unrelenting moral descent for an easy revenge climax.
In Hostel Part II, a completely unnecessary, but still intriguing sequel, Roth returns to the same Slovakian hostel, which serves as an updated candy house for a brutal business in human slaughter. Unwitting twentysomething backpackers check in thinking they're going to get sex, drugs, and other carnal pleasures only to find themselves kidnapped, taken to a dank warehouse, and summarily tortured to death by the highest bidder. Having exhausted the fundamental premise in the first film, Roth wisely decides to explore the business side deeper, splitting Part II fairly evenly between would-be victims and their would-be killers.
The victims this time around are all female college students on a study-abroad program in Italy: Beth (Lauren German), the most level-headed and, therefore, most likely to survive; Whitney (Bijou Phillips), who is the most promiscuous and, therefore, least likely to survive; and poor Lorna (Heather Matarazzo), the soft-spoken geek who provides a counterpoint to Whitney's hedonism and Beth's steadfastness. At the behest of Stephanie (Jordan Ladd), an Italian model whom they meet in their art class, the girls decide to change plans and head for the Slovakian hostel, having been promised a relaxing weekend of spa treatments (it's interesting that the lure for the guys in the first movie was simply sex, sex, and more sex--well, drugs, too--while the lure for the girls is peace and relaxation).
Intercut with their journey is the journey of two American businessmen, Todd (Richard Burgi), an alpha-dog executive who dreams of killing someone because it will give him an extra, inexplicable edge that will make others fear him, and Stuart (Roger Bart), a mild-mannered family man along for the ride. Roth sketches these two characters in broad strokes, yet leaves enough room for surprising developments once they descend into the bowels of human butchery. The point, if there is one, is that depravity comes in all forms, and in the increasingly modernized, cultured, and refined Western hemisphere, barbarity is making a comeback. It's a new version of the fascism Pier Paolo Pasolini so memorably put on display in his intellectually rigorous, but upchuck-inducing Salo, the 120 Days of Sodom (1975): When everything else has been turned into a commodity in the global marketplace, the human body is the logical endgame. This is not a new lesson by any means, but Roth has found such a brutally simple premise to convey it that it takes on an ugly new resonance: Gordon Gekko with a chainsaw.
Of course, Roth is not all about moral questions and cautionary warnings. While Hostel Part II, like its predecessor, certainly has a seething inner core of meaning, it is also an unapologetically nasty ode to exploitation excess, and some will certainly argue (myself included) that any meaning in the film is in danger of being drowned in grime. For example, while two of the girls' fates have narrative importance, the third girl is tortured and killed for what appears to be little or no reason other than its own sadistic pleasures. Roth also drops in more than a few obvious nods to his exploitation forbearers, including the cheeky inclusion of Ruggero Deodato, whose infamy as the director of 1980's Cannibal Holocaust, the ne plus ultra of sicko filmmaking (and Roth's avowed favorite film), makes him an all-too-perfect casting choice for a sadistic cannibal who likes to eat his victim live. Roth also proves that, when it comes to mutilating genitalia, he cuts both ways: In Hostel Part II he provides a castration scene that not only rivals his own contribution to Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's Grindhouse, but also nods toward similar scenes in two infamous sleaze classics: I Spit on Your Grave (1978) and Caligula (1980). Was Tinto Brass too busy to make an on-screen appearance?
While this may cut like prime rib for the “torture porn” set and aficionados of sleaze cinema, there is just too much that is repetitive in Hostel Part II to make it truly worth the effort. It is intriguing in its own right, and Roth continues to improve as a filmmaker, but one wishes he would move on to other projects, rather than regurgitating the same themes in quite so blatant a manner. Of course, if he hadn't, someone else probably would have.
|Hostel Part II Unrated Director's Cut DVD|
English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
French Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround |
|Subtitles||English, French, Spanish|
|Supplements|| Audio commentary by director Eli Roth
Audio commentary by director Eli Roth, executive producer Quentin Tarantino, and associate producer Gabriel Roth
Audio commentary by director Eli Roth and stars Lauren German, Vera Jordanova, and Richard Burgi
“Hostel Part II: The Next Level” featurette
“The Art of KNB Effects” featurette
“Production Design” featurette
“Hostel Part II: A Legacy of Torture”
Blood & Guts gag reel
“The Treatment” radio interview with Eli Roth
|Distributor||Sony Pictures Home Entertainment|
|Release Date||October 23, 2007 |
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
|The anamorphic widescreen transfer of Hostel Part II is spot-on. The sharp image brings out every bit of gory gristle that Roth has to offer. Dark blacks and fine shadow detail delineate the dankest corners of the torture dungeon, and when the blood splashes it has just the right brickish hue. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround envelops you in the film's creepy underworld, with every clanking iron door and terrified shriek pitched for maximum effect. |
|The disc is inundated with audio commentaries, so you can listen to those involved in the making of the film yak about it from three different angles. There is a solo director's commentary with Eli Roth; a producer's commentary that pairs Roth with executive producer Quentin Tarantino and Roth's brother, Gabriel Roth, who served as associate producer and second unit director; and an actors' commentary in which Roth is joined by stars Lauren German, Vera Jordanova, and Richard Burgi. Not surprisingly, the Roth/Tarantino/Roth commentary is the most interesting and the most packed, especially since you can listen to Eli Roth and Tarantino trying to constantly one-up each other with their fervent film-geek knowledge of obscure and not-so-obscure Euro-horror. And, if that's not enough Roth for you, there is also a 26-minute radio interview with the director.
The disc boasts four featurettes covering different aspects of the film's production. “Hostel Part II: The Next Level” is a playful 25-minute production diary by Gabriel Roth that covers everything from the very first production meeting, to location scouting, to principal photography. Gore hounds will enjoy the six-minute featurette “The Art of KNB Effects,” which features interviews with Roth and effects maestro Greg Nicotero and includes a good dose of “how'd they do it?” behind-the-scenes footage, with special attention paid to the castration scene. The seven-minute “Production Design” featurette takes you on a tour of the film's constructed sets, including the train, the fair, and, of course, the unnervingly detailed torture dungeon. “Hostel Part II: A Legacy of Torture” is an international television special that brings together Roth, a psychoanalyst (who happens to be Roth's father), an artist (who happens to be Roth's mother), and an Italian torture museum director (who has no blood relation to Roth whatsoever, but knows a frightening amount of how people can inflict pain on others) to lend validity to the cultural legacy of the Hostel films, if only as another notch in humankind's history of torture. The second part of the show turns into a gush-fest as Roth expounds on how much he loves his international cast.
Also on the disc are 10 deleted scenes, which are presented in anamorphic widescreen and are preceded by a brief written explanation of why they were cut. The “Blood & Guts” gag reel is a three-and-a-half minute montage that mixes on-set goofs and gaffes with gruesome gore footage--in other words, pretty much exactly what you would expect.
Overall Rating: (2.5)
Thoughts? E-mail James Kendrick
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