Hostel: Part II (2007)
By: Julian on September 20, 2011  | 
Sony Pictures | Region 4, PAL | 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 5.1 | 91 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Eli Roth
Starring: Lauren German, Heather Matarazzo, Bijou Phillips, Roger Bart, Vera Jordanova
Screenplay: Eli Roth
Country: USA
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Ignore the haters. In 2006 Eli Roth, a young horror director who has suffered at the hands of genre fans who believe it fashionable to ridicule him, unleashed one of the most impressive American horror films of the last decade with Hostel, an original and brutally violent effort that pitted eager, stupid backpackers against an eastern European business that sought big bucks from rich sickos who would torture and kill the tourists that the business enterprise kidnaps. A year later came Hostel: Part II, a film that manages to be even more impressive than its predecessor: Roth writes more sympathetic protagonists; gives us far greater insight to the machinations of the morbidly fascinating business enterprise Elite Hunting, the outfit that lures the hapless tourists to their gruesome deaths; and ups the gross-out quotient two-fold.

Hostel: Part II picks up directly where the last film let off: Paxton (Jay Hernandez), a survivor of the original movie, lives a secluded life with his girlfriend, constantly in fear of the powerful enterprise that almost killed him. We quickly shift away from Paxton and we are introduced to Beth (Lauren German), Whitney (Bijou Phillips) and Lorna (Heather Matarazzo), three young American women studying in Rome. While on a train to Prague they meet Axelle (Vera Jordanova), whose destination to hot springs in Slovakia seems to be a more attractive proposition. The girls alter their holiday and check in to a Slovak hostel with Axelle. The hostel is a recruitment base for Elite Hunting and Beth, Whitney and Lorna's passports are photocopied, their photos are published online, and a bidding war for their scalps commences. The bid is overseen by Elite Hunting executive Sasha, played by former Slovak Minister for Culture Milan Kňažko.

Enter Stuart (Roger Bart) and Todd (Richard Burgi), who travel from their families and golfing buddies in America to the seedy underbelly of Slovakia after winning bids for Beth and Whitney, respectively. The presence of these two men is more than just fleeting: the attention that Roth gives to how the killing business actually functions is the main feature that distinguishes Part II from the first movie. Despite the fact that these men are profoundly unhinged, their behaviour is quite normal and they make some effort to interact with their prospective victims before the girls are captured: the exchange between Stuart and Beth at a party is particularly chilling.

Roth's direction is polished and stylish. Across his three features – the two Hostels and his excellent indie debut Cabin Fever Roth has brought a technical professionalism to his role as director. Part II's status as 'torture porn' (a term used pejoratively) is probably a bit misguided: this is a brutal movie, no doubt about it, but the film shows very little violence in the first 45-minutes, nor does it explode into rivers of claret in the final half. What we are shown is disturbing and intense, but this isn't a film of the Saw sequel mould – Roth doesn't wallow in the grue. The excellent effects are the brainchildren of Gregory Nicotero and Howard Berger, two-thirds of SFX house KNB. Roth, a student of horror cinema, knows how to generate atmosphere, and this is an incredibly creepy film. The technical triad of music (Nathan Barr), cinematography (Milan Chadima) and editing (George Folsey Jr) very ably complements Roth's talents in this respect. The settings add to this creepiness enormously: the hot baths and the compound in which the killing takes place are particularly effective.

The inclusion of far more background material than the first movie means that Roth, in his role as screenwriter, has lifted his game: indeed, Part II shows a marked improvement in both narrative and dialogue to either of the writer/director's earlier efforts. Roth still has some issues with dialogue though, and attempts to engender normalcy with the sort of conversational dialogue executive producer Quentin Tarantino is an expert at come off as a bit hokey. This is one of the few weak links in Part II, but it rarely distracts. The performances are strong enough, particularly by Roger Bart, but a cameo by Ruggero Deodato just makes the movie (his role is far too cool to give away in a review).

Moments of levity punctuate the grimness: from the gang of kids ("would you like a Smint?") to the relationship between Whitney and Lorna, Deodato, and the final scene, and all of this reminds us that Roth isn't really looking to destroy our resolve by making this viewing experience particularly gruelling, which is most unlike the endurance tests of the Saw sequels and their contemporaries.

The remarkable thing about Hostel: Part II is that Roth has succeeded in directing a sequel that is superior to its source material because it doesn't just imitate a winning blueprint; it injects almost a whole new premise to the movie. Where the original was about blokes getting caught in the murder-for-profit business, this film is more about the evil men and women who pay thousands for the pleasure of killing. Those caught in the anti-Roth hype are doing themselves a great disservice by ignoring this thoroughly engrossing and fiendishly disturbing movie.
The picture is presented in 2.35:1, with 16:9 enhancement. It is crystal clear, though one wouldn't expect anything less from a contemporary film with a decent budget.
The English DD 5.1 is sharp and well-balanced. Subtitles are provided.
Extra Features
The features are almost as good as the film. Three (count 'em) audio commentaries: the first with Roth, Tarantino and associate producer Gabe Roth (Eli's brother); the second with just Roth; and the third with Roth, Burgi, German and Jordanova. Roth's commentaries are always informative and he gives a lot of context.

There are four featurettes: Hostel Part II: The Next Level (26-minutes), The Art of KNB Effects (6-minutes), Production Design (7-minutes) and Hostel Part II: A Legacy of Torture (24-minutes). The first featurette contains some interviews but is mostly production footage. A Legacy of Torture is a far better feature that starts off as a straight documentary by explaining some torture devices throughout the ages, before focussing more on the film itself. A good chunk of this last feature is in Italian, with English subtitles (although my player did not turn them on automatically). The two shorter featurettes are well-explained by their titles.

Rounding out the package are 10 deleted scenes, a 27-minute radio interview with Roth (this is audio only), a 3-minute gag reel, and trailers for four other Sony releases (Walking Tall: Lone Justice, Pumpkinhead 4: Blood Feud, Vacancy and Spiderman 3). A very comprehensive set.
The Verdict
Roth has upped the ante considerably with Hostel: Part II, a film that should have genre fans fawning over it. It is enormously entertaining and stands proud against its source material. The excellent set of features is the icing on the cake.
Movie Score
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