Hostel Part II (United States, 2007)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

There has been a degree of controversy surrounding the violence in Hostel Part II, with critics in some corners arguing that it amounts to "torture porn." While I'll be the first to admit that Hostel Part II isn't a good film, it's a horror movie, so criticizing it for amping up the levels of gore and violence seems pointless. Since Jason started hacking up people while wearing his hockey mask, the genre has been all about blood and guts and inventive eviscerations. Hostel Part II isn't any more shocking than dozens of its predecessors, so it's surprising that it has been singled out. Maybe that's because movie-goers have become so used to neutered PG-13 ghost stories that something with an edge possesses the capability to shock.

Take away the blood and gore, however, and there's nothing left. Hostel Part II is neatly divided into three parts: a 10-minute prologue, a lengthy middle section (which is mostly setup and exposition), and a 20-minute payoff. If you're there for the violence, you can leave for a lengthy break after the first decapitation. Your presence won't be required until just past the halfway point. The first Hostel had a similar structure but mixed in a lot of soft-core sex and nudity. Hostel Part II has naked people of both sexes but a lot of the nudity is intimately connected to heinous forms of death. "Blood bath" takes on a literal meaning.

The movie opens by reminding us that there was a survivor from Hostel: the ill-fated Paxton (Jay Hernandez), who represents a loose end that writer/director Eli Roth quickly ties up. Next, we meet three American girls - Beth (Lauren German), Lorna (Heather Matarazzo), and Whitney (Bijou Phillips) - touring Eastern Europe on the cheap. They meet leggy model Axelle (Vera Jordanova) who takes them to a hostel where a night's accommodation costs only ten euros. This, of course, is the same place where the unfortunates in Hostel laid their heads. Soon, the bidding is on to see who gets to hunt our three pretty protagonists. Winners include a pair of vacationing American businessmen: gung-ho Todd (Richard Burgi) and quiet Stuart (Roger Bart), who is experiencing ethical qualms.

The problem with Hostel Part II is the same flaw that afflicted Hostel: no tension. The killing is formulaic and obligatory. There's little suspense about who's going to live and, to the extent that someone unexpected gets axed, it's not a big deal because it's difficult to summon any feeling about any of these cardboard characters. Hostel Part II becomes an exercise in seeing how inventive the filmmakers can get when it comes to offing people. The movie is soulless, but that's nothing new for a modern horror film. Souls get in the way of glorious bloodletting.

There's a delicious helping of irony in the way things turn out; if only the movie didn't have to resort to such silly lengths to get there. The first Hostel disappointed at the end, as well. Maybe what's inherently unsatisfactory about the two movies is that the premise is pregnant with possibilities that Roth's screenplays fail to exploit. Both films end up with characters bleeding and running around in dark places. There's nothing inspired or clever here. It's simply by-the-book horror mania.

The main trio in the first movie was comprised of three guys. This time, it's a girls' night out. Lauren German is pretty good and has by far the biggest role of anyone in front of Hostel Part II's cameras. Her female co-stars are horrible. Heather Matarazzo has long since shown that she's one-dimensional, being forever typecast as Welcome to the Dollhouse's Dawn Weiner. Here, she's not even effective playing a version of that part. Matarazzo fans may be delighted to hear that she is topless - until they learn of the circumstances in which her breasts are bared. Meanwhile, Bijou Phillips turns in an uneven performance. She's credible in some scenes but her big emotional moment is laughably over-the-top.

Hostel Part II provides pretty much everything Hostel offered but with a little less tongue-in-cheek sense of fun. It's a darker motion picture with the middle third dulling the audience's senses through boredom. Taking 30 minutes to "develop" one-dimensional characters is wasted time. Die hards can hang in there until the brains and intestines start flying but the rest will have long since tuned out. Wake me up when it's time for the dog's snack.

Hostel Part II (United States, 2007)

Director: Eli Roth
Cast: Lauren German, Heather Matarazzo, Bijou Phillips, Roger Bart, Richard Burgi, Vera Jordanova, Jay Hernandez, Jordan Ladd
Screenplay: Eli Roth
Cinematography: Milan Chadima
Music: Nathan Barr
U.S. Distributor: Lionsgate
Run Time: 1:30
U.S. Release Date: 2007-06-08
MPAA Rating: "R" (Violence, Profanity, Nudity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1