Written by: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief
Eli Roth is a genius, at least in my opinion. I know I tend to be in the minority when it comes to his work, since a lot of my friends consider him a sadist. While his movies don’t tend to shy away from the blood and gore, he does take some interesting ideas and really turn them on their ear. I mean look at the premise of Cabin Fever. A group of kids go out to the woods, get infected with a strange strain of flesh-eating disease and turn on each other. In my world I truly believe that this is something that could happen. I remember watching Outbreak as a kid and still worry about someone coughing in a movie theater infecting me with a killer disease, so Roth’s first film definitely creeped me out. Now look at his next film, Hostel. It totally put me off going to Eastern Europe, not that I really wanted to go in the first place, but in looking at cases in the news it plays on the fear of disappearing on vacation; a very real idea. That brings us to Roth’s latest venture into terror, Hostel: Part II. In a world where sequels tend to be worse by half than their predecessor, I was pleasantly surprised when I watched this one (and by "pleasantly," I mean screaming in terror).
Hostel: Part II starts where the last film left off. After escaping the compound of the Elite Hunting Company, Paxton (Jay Hernandez) finally makes it home. Although the guy still suffers from terrible nightmares and fears people are out to get him, he is alive. Sadly though this movie isn’t about Paxton, as you see when he’s quickly disposed of, showing how far the Elite Company will go to keep their business secret. The meat of the story (no pun intended) follows the exploits of three college girls. There’s the slutty bad girl Whitney (Bijou Philips), the quiet and medicated Lorna (Heather Matarazzo) and the mama hen Beth (Lauren German). The girls are art students in Rome but decide to go to Prague for a little R&R. On the train there they end up having an incredibly strange encounter with a group of pervy men, but are saved by the beautiful Axelle (Vera Jordanova) who they met back in Rome. Axelle tells the girls that she’s traveling to Slovakia to rest at a place with natural hot springs and oh yeah, there’s a hostel nearby to stay in. Of course, the girls want to go and thus start the story with each girl disappearing one by one.
Now the film could have just ended there, but there's actually a second storyline this time around. We actually delve into the hunters who join Elite Hunting. Stuart (Roger Bart) is a mild mannered family man who seems to just follow along with whatever his friend Todd (Richard Burgi) wants to do. When Todd signs both men up to join Elite Hunting, Stuart must either succumb to the pressure or save a life.
Note: Minor spoilers ahead if you’ve never seen Hostel and/or plan on seeing Hostel: Part II
If you’re an Eli Roth fan, then you’re probably going to race out opening day and see the sequel, if you somehow haven't already. No matter what, this is a film that needs to be seen in a theater. If you’ve been listening to any of Eli Roth’s interviews on various print and television sites, then you have probably heard him say that Hostel: Part II is a far better movie than the original. I would have to say he’s actually right. Chalk it up to a better script, more money for special effects or just more gore, but I found myself enjoying Hostel: Part II far more than the first film. While it does take a bit longer to get to the actual torturing this time around, I did enjoy all the character development Roth put in. We are able to bond with the characters, like learning how Beth’s mother died leaving the girl everything, thus giving her the ability to travel and such. On the flip side, we learn about Stuart, the soon-to-be killer of one of the girls, and his home life including his relationship with his wife. Stuart’s story is another great thing to enjoy about the sequel since we learn about the other side of Elite Hunting, that of the hunters. We follow Todd and Stuart as they take in massive amounts of women and drugs, believe me the tattoo that every killer sported in the first film is just the beginning of what it takes to join Elite Hunting.
As you might have guessed, Roth upped the gore ante substantially in this film. I’m not normally squeamish, except when it comes to things that could actually happen to me (i.e. dislocation of limbs and/or the adrenaline shot scene in Pulp Fiction), but this time I had a couple moments of sheer nausea in this movie. This movie is by no means for the faint of heart. Another thing that Roth has been leading up to is the ending of this film. He’s mentioned in various interviews that the ending will blow you away, and it does! This film probably has the sickest ending in movie history, again, definitely NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART! You will talk about the ending for days and still cringe.
It’s also great how Roth ties both Hostel films together. We learn about what happens to Paxton and that is satisfying. I liked finding out what happened to Paxton and enjoyed that Roth didn’t just start fresh with the sequel and disregard the original. It also explains how nobody has come out against Elite Hunting and ruined the organization.
There were only a couple gripes I had with Hostel: Part II and none of said gripes ruined my enjoyment of the story itself. If you don’t like excessive amounts of character development then you might find the film a tad bit boring. It easily takes about 30 minutes to get to any killing so be forewarned. I also would have liked to see a smoother segue between the two storylines. The transitions between the two sets of characters can be jarring at times. I would also like to add another warning to all the nudity phobic people out there. If you have a problem with male nudity in general than you might have a hard time getting through Hostel: Part II. There are two very explicit male nude scenes and it might be difficult for some people to watch it for extended periods of time, especially with a co-ed audience. Lastly, for some reason Roth adds a lot of lesbian undertones in the film that I just felt weren’t needed. They didn’t further the story; they really just seemed to be there for all the horny males in the audience.
Normally a horror movie cast does not need to be excellent to sell a film like this, it’s all up to the scares, but the cast does have a lot of fun with the movie. Bijou Philips (daughter of Mama and Papas band member John), is awesome in this film. I’ve been a fan of Philips' work in the past, primarily her role in Havoc, but here she is incredibly wild and fun. You can easily see why men want to date her and women want to be her friend. I would have enjoyed some more time with her. Heather Matarazzo, of The Princess Diaries fame, is so sweet and innocent in this movie, you look at her face and your heart breaks because you don’t want anything to happen to her (which is exactly the point). Matarazzo was incredibly fun in this film, and very daring with a nude scene that I didn’t think the girl had in her. Roger Bart is also stand-out in this film. I’d seen him in more light hearted films like The Producers and I was shocked to see his transformation here. He’s definitely a character you can love, hate and fear all in one. Sadly, the weakest link in this film is leading lady Lauren German. She doesn’t seem to give it her all until the very end, and before that she’s an incredibly clichéd mother hen character. She just doesn’t seem to have a lot of range in her emotions as well and I would have liked to see her stretch her role a bit more.
All in all, Hostel: Part II is a film you MUST see in theaters, otherwise you’re denying yourself the full experience. I know I will partake of this film one more, even two more times, it’s that shocking and amazing. While some might not agree with Roth’s type of directing, this film takes you to the limit in terms of what you, yourself, can handle.
Author: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief
Kristen Lopez is the editor-in-chief of CC2K and a freelance pop culture essayist. Her work has appeared on Roger Ebert, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Daily Beast. When she’s not burning down Film Twitter she runs two podcasts, the female-centric film show Citizen Dame, and the classic film-themed Ticklish Business.