AVAILABLE ON DVD
Running time: 88 mins
Reviewed by: Dr Lenera
About a week after the events of Hostel, Paxton is living in seclusion with Stephanie, an old girlfriend. Stephanie wakes up to find Paxton killed. Meanwhile in Rome three art students, Beth, Whitney and Lorna are convinced by Axelle, a nude model they are sketching, to join her on a vacation to a luxurious spa in Slovakia. There, the desk clerk photocopies their passports to send to rich businessmen so they can bid for them to be their victims on a murder-vacation. Two Americans, Todd and Stuart, win the bid and set off for Slovakia, though Stuart doesn’t seem too happy about what he has embarked on….
Being that Hostel was a low budget horror film that grossed a huge profit, it was almost obligatory that there would be a sequel. Hostel: Part Two had a slightly bigger budget than the first movie though not much more, and I distinctly remember Roth going on about how he was going to out-shock the original. The idea of putting young women, rather than men, in Slovakia certainly seemed to back this up, but Roth actually changed his mind somewhat, saying, and I remember this, “The torturing of women – no one wants to see that shit”. Upon release it met a muted reaction – whilst still a commercial success, it was not the huge hit that Hostel, and the critics disliked it even more. Me, I consider it a little better. It’s still no masterpiece and still not the movie that its premise demands, but it does build on some of the more interesting aspects of the original as well as offering distinctly better film-making throughout, as opposed to just having it in scattered scenes.
After cruelly disposing of the hero of the first movie in the opening reel, we switch to our heroines, and thankfully Roth doesn’t devote tons of footage to them taking drugs and getting laid, although they aren’t really written any more interestingly than the guys of Hostel; there’s the slightly snooty rich bitch, the promiscuous fun-lover and the constantly moaning whinger. Roth gets them to Bratislava really quick, because there’s another subplot in this film, that of the two Americans who have bid for the pleasure of torturing and killing someone at the Elite Hunting Organisation, as it’s now properly named. Without overdoing it, Roth feeds us tantalising information about the organisation [we even meet its head] and how it works, whilst also giving two interesting protagonsists. Todd is very much like the scary American guy in the first film, totally unable to see that there could be any wrong in doing what they are about to do and thinking that it’s the ultimate step in proving masculinity. Stuart though isn’t sure, and quite cleverly, we’re not sure if we like him or not. He certainly has a conscience, but has obviously been no angel in his life. “What do I tell the wife”? he says to Todd, who replies, “Just lie like you did when you brought that gonorrhea back from Thailand”. Later on, Roth brilliantly reverses expectations as to what we think each of the two will do.
Although we again seem to take forever to get to the torture chambers, there’s much more of interest going on this time round, including a rather atmospheric sequence set in a village festival. There’s a really Sadean sequence where one of the girls is hung up and a woman [called Mrs Bathory in an obvious reference to the notorious Countess Bathory] strips off and, picking up a scythe, slashes at her. First of all she does it quite gently, then more and more viciously, until she’s covered in blood which she rubs over herself. At the cinema I was quite amazed to see such a brutal and downright perverse scene in a widely distributed film. It’s quite astonishing and brave, though it almost seems out of place in the film, as does the rather pointless shooting of a young boy. Sasha, the man in charge of Elite Hunting, finds some boys and, lining them up, threatens them with his gun until he does actually shoot one. This is not a graphic scene – in fact you don’t see much at all, but it does leave a nasty taste in the mouth because it’s so gratuitous. Once in the torture chambers, we get to see a face partially sliced off, a penis severing and a rather poorly handled mauling by dogs, but things wind up disappointingly. The girl who escapes is the one who would find it easiest to do so, and we finish with the gang of nasty boys, who return from the first film, kicking a severed head about to the accompaniment of gypsy music. Once again, Roth loses the courage of his convictions at the end, though far further on in this movie than the first.
Roth’s direction is a touch more elegant this time around, while the performances by the three main girls are quite strong, though Heather Matarazzo [who I noticed in a small role in Scream 3 the other evening!] is maybe a little too annoying as Lorna. She’s supposed to be really sweet, but she comes across as being perhaps a little less sympathetic than she should be. Roger Bart is very good as Stuart; it’s probably the most demanding role in the film, which is possibly why the special effects folk rewarded him by giving him a very large prosthetic penis for the severing scene! Roth managed to get two cult stars from the 70s to appear in this film – Luca Merenda, star of many Italian gangster movies, and Edwige Fenech, star of many gialli, and their presence is most welcome. Nathan Burr’s score is musically superior and better used than his effort in the first film and occasionally gypsy music is used, including a rather haunting Slovakian song used when we first approach the torture building. Hostel: Part Two is a distinct improvement on Hostel, but what I really think Roth should do is make some more films about different subjects, than return to the themes and settings of his two Hostel movies and, having got into his stride as a filmmaker, really give them the great movie they deserve. I think he’s got it in him.