Hostel: Part II, 2007.
Directed by Eli Roth.
Starring Lauren German, Roger Bart, Heather Matarazzo, Bijou Phillips and Richard Burgi.
Three female Americans travelling through Europe find themselves at a hostel with a violent reputation.
Despite having some problems with Hostel (2005), I have to admit that overall I didn't think it was too bad. Perhaps it was a little over-hyped, and maybe the torture porn labelling didn't do it many favours, but Eli Roth's passion for horror is evident far beyond the slightly iffy Takashi Miike cameo. It's also quite a progressive horror movie, abandoning the traditional women-in-peril schtick and offering us up some (admittedly quite detestable) male slabs of meat to watch get carved up in mildly inventive and gory ways. Say what you want about Hostel, but I'm adamant there's some potential there. So naturally I was quite curious about Hostel: Part II.
This sequel opens with a rather unimaginative dream sequence, followed by a thankfully brief closure to Paxton's (Jay Hernandez) story. Paxton never really managed to turn opinion around in the first movie - he began the movie as a jerk, and ended the movie as a jerk minus two fingers. Now he gets his somewhat overdue comeuppance, providing an excuse for Roth to splatter the screen with some crimson during the first few minutes. With that loose end that nobody cared about tied up, the pace settles down and we begin with a familiar set-up.
A trio of young American women are holidaying in Europe, taking art classes and drawing nude models. Each one is ridiculously stereotyped, and anyone with the slightest awareness of how horror works could probably guess the order they'll be killed off. First we have Lorna (Heather Matarazzo), quite introverted, nerdy and shy. Next up is Whitney (Bijou Phillips), who is attractive but knows it. Finally there's Beth (Lauren German), our 'final girl' who may or may not be a lesbian - it's certainly hinted at. Interestingly, both Hostel and Hostel: Part II have a curious homosexual undercurrent running through them, often portrayed through acts of violence.
These are our victims, and they behave as expected with running and screaming and crying. There's little to complain about, each actress plays her part well and they're far less obnoxious than the male victims of Hostel, so we do at times actually feel some sympathy for them. However, where this movie really excels is in characterising its villains. Todd (Richard Burgi) and Stuart (Roger Bart) have more money than sense, and have both agreed to partake in a spot of costly murder. Through them we get to see how the Elite Hunting Club operates, and the process in which victims are auctioned off and snapped up by rich clients.
Todd wins the auction for Whitney, and Stuart splashes some cash on Beth due to her resembling his wife. We get to see the emotions these potential killers go through and it really does make the film far more gripping. The action throughout is far better paced, and for a movie that is labelled as torture porn there's a remarkable lack of actual torture. This is just a well-told horror movie that improves upon the concept introduced in Hostel.
I'll admit, Hostel: Part II isn't brilliant, but I do think it's perhaps a little unfairly criticised. The opening and ending are absolute nonsense, but if we put that aside this is an entertaining movie that adequately passes time. Sure, Roth borrows a little too heavily from better movies, but he's best buddies with Quentin Tarantino - what more do you expect? For those that didn't rashly write-off the first film, give this a spin. There are worst ways to spend ninety minutes.