Hostel II (2007) Dir. Eli Roth
Starring: Lauren German, Heather Mattarazzo, Bijou Phillips
Beware Spoilers Ahead
In my review of “Hostel I” I said I purposely avoided the films of the new ‘torture porn’ genre which has emerged in the past 4 years. I praised the “Hostel I” for its satisfying blend of action, horror, wit and fresh unpredictability. “Hostel” is a completely unnecessary sequel that serves only to start another exploitation franchise which is the reason I avoided the genre in the first place.
Part II continues on directly where Part I left off, following Paxton (Jay Hernandez) home where he miraculously escaped the torture chambers in Part I. Despite this the underground organization “Elite Hunting” continues to exist and thrive. We get to see how the organizers choose their victims and auction them off to the highest bidders across the world. The next victims are Beth (Lauren German), Lorna (Heather Mattarazzo) and Whitney (Bijou Phillips), three female backpackers who unfortunately choose the same nefarious hostel as Paxton. Like the men in the first film, one by one the women are lured into the trap by the advances of the opposite sex. They are tortured to death, except for one of the gals who uses some smarts and a little bit of braun to escape death.
“Hostel II” feels like one of those sequels with lower rent actors and a new director hired to regurgitate the formula. So the fact that Eli Roth is responsible for this hasty sequel astonishes me. Roth uses the same formula as the first film, but a few changes have a drastic effect, turning a clever story about exploitation into just plain old exploitation – and without the wit.
The fundamental change in Part II is that the audience knows the major twist – that the torture chamber is an underground hunting club for rich sickos. The social context of Part I is the irony of the three backpackers being lured into an extreme form of exploitation by their own desires to exploit other women. In Part II, there is no irony, and the fact we know they are being lured makes it a perfunctory exercise with no suspense.
The second major change is that the victims are women. In a sick and twisted way the torture in Part I was actually witty. But when the victims are women it just becomes sick and twisted. That’s where I draw the line.
The third change is a preposterous attempt to humanize the torturers. Roth shows us the journey of two rich friends, Todd and Stuart (Richard Burgi and Roger Bart), from the U.S. to Bratislava as they get ready to take part in the game. We are supposed to ‘identify’ with Stuart who is uncertain and bullied into going through with the deed. Todd is the devil on his shoulder who peer pressures him into torturing and murdering an innocent woman – “Come on, be a man!” he keeps saying. And so, when a cheap excuse for a twist happens at the end it’s completely lost because we don’t care about any of the characters.
I will definitely put a hold on my support of Mr. Roth, who has taken a giant step backward with this film. Apparently his next film is a zombie film based on the Stephen King novel “Cell”. In the meantime, skip this horrible flick.