Tuesday, October 9, 2007


I think I’ve mentioned this ‘round these parts before: I loved Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever, then was slightly less enamoured of his follow-up, Hostel. I did, however, come to appreciate Hostel because it is, after all, a well-made, and skillfully (ahem) executed film.
So it was with some curiosity and trepidation that I received word of Roth’s decision to go down the sequel route, this time, with a trio of females as protagonists. Given the bad rep gorno has managed to rack up for itself, I was concerned that Hostel: Part II would be an ultimately pointless exercise in cinematic misogyny.
I am so glad to report that it is not.

After a brief opening section which serves to wrap up the events of Hostel (yes, Pax is back), we are introduced to Beth (Lauren German, from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake), Whitney (Bijou Phillips, from Almost Famous) and Lorna (Heather Matarazzo, from Scream 3 and Saved!), Hostel: Part II’s would-be victims, and in a separate subplot, Todd (Richard Burgi, TV’s The Sentinel) and Stuart (Roger Bart, who previously worked with Burgi on Desperate Housewives), the tale’s would-be torturers.
It is this subplot, which explores the world of those who indulge in this gruesome enterprise, and those who run it, that elevates Hostel: Part II above the rest of the gorno pack.
In fact, it seems a misnomer to refer to Hostel: Part II as “gorno”: it’s arguably less bloody than the original, and ultimately plays better. One of its most disturbing sequences has absolutely nothing to do with the disfigurement of human anatomy or on-screen gore, instead displaying the insidious reach of those who traffic in misery and murder.
Hostel: Part II is actually more thriller (an effective one, at that) than a catalogue of voyeuristic killshots and fake bloodletting.
I hereby officially cease to use the word “gorno” in this review.

Roth manages to keep things tight and engaging, as both groups on either side of the torturer’s chair, spiral deeper into the blood-caked labyrinth, and move inexorably towards the fateful meeting in the infamous factory.
Along the way, we catch glimpses of the psychology of torture and murder, the pitiless commodification of human life, and the cruel vagaries of business.
The principals are also effective, particularly German and Bart. Given that I’ve gotten used to having Bart make me laugh (in Frank Oz’s The Stepford Wives and Susan Stroman‘s The Producers), I’m suitably impressed by his performance here; considering Stuart’s character arc, Bart is a fantastic choice for the role.

I should note though that as much as Part II is less gory than the original, there are nonetheless a couple of “Oh, that is so wrong” moments that will cling to you even after the film has completely unspooled.
And for fans of the original, some favorites—the lovable Bubblegum Gang and the too-cool-for-school Desk Clerk Jedi—return for a second helping. And, just as the original sported a Takashi Miike cameo, Part II boasts Ruggero Deodato. (Cheekily enough, the director of the infamous Cannibal Holocaust appears as “The Italian Cannibal.”)

Clearly, Hostel: Part II is not the sort of thriller that’s to everyone’s tastes. If, however, you like your suspense with teeth and subtext, you should feel free to leave your passport at the desk, and check in once more.
Enjoy Slovakia.
I know I do.

Parting shot: Adult Harry Potter fans may be interested to note that Stanislav Ianevski (Viktor Krum from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) joins all the fun as Miroslav.
Also appearing in a small role is Cabin Fever’s Jordan Ladd, who also appeared in Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof.

Parting shot 2: Reviews of Oz’s The Stepford Wives, Brian Dannelly's Saved! and Tarantino’s Death Proof can be found in the Archive, where the article “Revelations: Getting At The Truths of Apocalypse Cinema”—where Cabin Fever is discussed—can also be found.

(Hostel: Part II OS courtesy of horror-movies.ca; images courtesy of shocktillyoudrop.com; Eli Roth on-set image courtesy of twitchfilm.net.)

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