Written and Directed by Eli Roth, 2007
Are you or have you ever been a dog owner? Has said dog ever had problems with diarrhea? Were you relieved when he or she returned to depositing firm mounds? If yes, Congratulations, you can now relate to what HOSTEL: PART 2 is!
Is it appropriate to commend someone for improving their excrement? What if the improvement was by a large margin? I suppose at the end of the day, the topic of discussion is still waste. Such is Eli Roth’s Junior film, a return to his Eastern European exploitation chambers that went over so well in 2006, this time swapping out the male only trio with females (is it illegal for men and women to travel together in Slovakia?) while welding on the business side of the torture ring. To my miraculous astonishment, the latter addition is the strongest aspect of the film, rewarding viewers with an actual narrative hook on which to hang the non-existent interest in seeing women degraded beyond the telling of it.
HOSTEL 2 is a textbook on how to disturb an audience and if this is all you seek from the horror genre, then by all means wallow in its crimson rivers, however if substance is what you want in your entertainment, it is not to be found here. Roth has turned his back on consequence both in the world inside his films and the world in which his films exist. He has surrendered progress for stalled audacity; there is not a single character in his film that embodies hope for humanity. It is a depressing affair that concedes defeat to the foul things of the world, not even offering a reasonable path of resolution. HOSTEL 2, among other things, is a body in free fall, with no outcome other than going splat in as loud and as offensive a way as possible.
Lauren German, Bijou Phillips, and Heather Matarazzo are the victims who leave their school in Italy for a weekend, Vera Jordanova the seductress with the vampire accent who guides them to the hostel. Each are given a modicum amount of background: German is the rich girl in Italy who hates relying on her Daddy’s dime, Matarazzo is the emo roommate who ends up on the trip because of her tears, and Bijou Phillips rounds the trio out as the feisty party girl who seeks out pills to pop and who looks to always be on that razor’s edge between either punching someone in the face or ferociously going down on them.
Roger Bart and Richard Burgi are the two suburban, white, American husbands who jet away from their families to have sex with hookers (the only profession in Slovakia?) before torturing the women. The process of bidding on the women, their admittance to the underground society and their cock-sure swagger make up a welcome distraction of a side-story interwoven with the helpless women. Their characters don’t deserve a movie of their own (not that this is their movie to begin with), but they represent a cohesive conflict more interesting than the 65 minute defeatist surrender the women are written into.
The killings, of which there are 3 centerpieces, are guaranteed to appall even the most jaded of veterans. This is a testament to Roth’s ability to deliver the gore, even if he presents zero argument as to why this magnitude of delivery is necessary at all. It is also a testament to Roth’s hypocrisy on the issue of torture porn. First off, he doesn’t believe there is such a thing as torture porn, nor does he believe that if there was, his films would qualify. And yet there is a sequence in HOSTEL: PART II – the most unsettling scene in the film by far – in which a beautiful older woman lays fully nude in a candle lit bath tub, rubbing her body in the blood flowing onto her from the poor, tortured, also nude girl hanging above her. The legal stance on what qualifies as pornographic has always been, ‘You know it when you see it’. I don’t know how the disconnect is occurring in Eli Roth’s brain, but there is no jury of peers that would deny this terrifying sequence is both torturous and pornographic.
I am sure there is a path to be taken in which exaggerating the slaughter of women is not overtly misogynistic, but Eli Roth made no attempt to seek it out. Instead, he goes for a twist that he thought would serve as a cinematic audible, flipping the theme at the last minute and thus redefining all the repulse that came before it. But it doesn’t. It is neither unpredictable nor game changing. Variables are flopped, but the outcome of death is all the same. Nothing changes in the end. I confess to liking the method of the twist and I think it would have been an excellent one under alternate circumstances, but here its motivation to poke and prod the beaten audience is too blatant to be effective so late in the game.
The function of the horror genre is to elicit from the audience the same emotion the genre is named after. The function of horror storytelling is to plant the seed of fear, to water it with suspense and keep unpredictable the moment at which full-on terror blossoms. There is no denying that Eli Roth is capable of eliciting horror from the audience, however, Roth is too impatient to let it germinate inside before romancing it out. HOSTEL 2 has proven his content with raping that emotion from the viewer with unapologetic, obvious cruelty and audacious levels of misogyny under the guise of being a horror film with enough silly bits to say, "hey, look how not serious we’re being!" while still trying to pull off a transparent last ditch sprint towards dubbing itself as being a story about woman empowerment. However, just like the review you are almost done reading, despite its best justifications, at its end HOSTEL 2 is about the same thing it was at its beginning: Shit.