Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #47
Number of Views: Three
Release Date: June 8, 2007
Sub-Genre: Extreme Exploitation
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: $35,619,521
Running Time: 94 minutes
Director: Eli Roth
Producers: Scott Spiegel, Boaz Yakin, Mike Fleiss
Screenplay: Eli Roth
Cinematography: Milan Chadima
Score: Nathan Barr
Special Effects: Martin Pryca
Visual Effects: Gary E Beach, Vincent Cirelli, Avi Das, Payam Shohadai
Studio: Raw Nerve, Next Entertainment, International Production Company
Distributor: Screen Gems, Lionsgate
Stars: Lauren German, Bijou Phillips, Heather Matarazzo, Roger Bart, Richard Burgi, Vera Jordanova, Jay Hernandez, Jordan Ladd, Milan Knazko, Edwige Fenech, Stanislav Ianevski, Patrik Zigo, Zuzana Geislerová, Milda Havlas, Monika Malácová, Ruggero Deodato
Suggested Audio Candy
Nathan Barr “Hostel Part II”
Extreme exploitation or “torture porn” as it has recently become known (to my distinct displeasure I might add) has spread like a bad case of Gonorrhea over the past several years. Every filmmaker and their dog seem to have jumped on the bandwagon; attempting to capitalize on the success of both the Saw and Hostel franchises. While these two multi million making leviathans weren’t exclusive in their depictions of human suffering, they were the first to cross over to the mass market. The sheer wealth of second-string “gorno” flicks that have surfaced over the past decade is simply staggering. Had Eli Roth or James Wan opted to make fluffy rom-coms then it may have been entirely different. Maybe killer ants would be back in vogue, murderous mallards or perhaps some more zombie flicks. God knows we need more of them.
I’m not what you would call a fan of this new brand of cinematic sickness but, for me, Roth broke the mould when he made the first film. You see, when you consider the amount of human suffering depicted, you would be forgiven for expecting entertainment to be at a severe premium but this couldn’t be further than accurate. Unlike the Saw franchise where it is all about those grisly traps, Hostel managed to strike the perfect balance between fun and fear and stands up far better to repeat viewing. Following this up would seem a tall order right? So you would think as Hostel Part II wasn’t as well received on its release and some critics accused Roth of taking a lazy approach to furthering his own fiction. However, this viewpoint is not one I endorse in the slightest.
To begin with, it certainly appears to be business as usual. After any loose ends from the first film are swiftly tied up in no uncertain terms, we head off to sunny Rome where we meet American art students, studious Beth (Lauren German), cock-hungry Whitney (Bijou Phillips) and sheltered Lorna (Heather Matarazzo). The trio is soon enticed by fellow traveller Axelle (Vera Jordanova) into taking a luxury spa break in Slovakia and, before long, wind up at the same ominous tourist trap that we know all to well from our first backpacking expedition. Everything is just as we left it and, aware that any surprise element will be lost second time out, Roth wisely switches perspective.
While our accidental tourists are unaware of the grisly fate which will soon befall them, the audience is very much aware of their clock ticking. Moreover, this time we get to see how the other half live. This offers a fascinating and totally refreshing vantage from the original film as watching a family man enjoying a lovingly prepared meal with his blissfully unaware family, while attempting to secure himself the chance to become executioner for a day, is deeply affecting. Having successfully outbid the competition, cocksure American businessman Todd (Richard Burgi) and his passive best friend Stuart (Roger Bart) set off on a busman’s holiday to Europe. Todd is excited by the proposition and more than prepared for the task at hand, while Stuart is far more apprehensive and harboring grave doubts as to whether he is cut out for this line of work/play.
As was the case for Roth’s previous European vacation, Hostel Part II doesn’t bolt too soon, and elects instead to share in the girls’ merrymaking and take in some “friendly” Slovakian hospitality. However, the notable difference here is that we actually get to see the net closing in around them. Roth goes to great lengths highlighting the moral dilemma of Todd and Stuart’s planned actions and once our appetites have been sufficiently whetted, shifts up a gear and it is full thrust all the way from hereon in. Once we are deep within those dank chambers, surrounded by the acoustic of anguish, we get what we really came for.
If Hostel Part II is to be judged by its harsh depictions of torment and sorrow, then it really does come up smelling of Formaldehyde. Heads are hacked away from their windpipes, scalps compromised by over-excited circular saws, genitals subtracted, getaway sticks stripped down to the bone, young children shot at point-blank range (although it’s worth noting that these “little angels” are of your Eden Lake variety), and any fans of The Princess Diaries may well wish to cover their eyes as one particular dispatch is likely to stay with them forever. In the interest of not denying any newcomers of first-hand experience, I shall say no more at this point but would encourage those already initiated to keep scrolling once this appraisal draws to a close. In short, the scene in question is perhaps my all-time favorite kill. Period!
The closing act is literally jam-packed with revelation and there are a number of cunning twists and turns that ensure we never enter carbon copy territory. The manner in which we reach our resolution is ingenious and makes absolute sense in the context of things while the closing scene is nothing short of outrageous in the very best way and reminds us of Roth’s knack of extracting priceless humor from the darkest possible places. He even finds the time to grant a small cameo to one of his greatest influences, Italian maestro Ruggero Deodato.
The entire cast is excellent, from German, Phillips and Matarazzo as our damsels in distress, to hangmen Burgi and Bart, Jordanova as devilish decoy, and Milda Havlas as dubious desk clerk. Meanwhile, returning cinematographer Milan Chadima once again provides just the right blend of light and shade.
Hostel Part II is the bodacious bi-product of a great director taking a stab at elaborating on his own source material. Roth is disinterested with simply providing more of the same and instead works tirelessly to raise his own bar and spins the whole deal 360. While Scott Spiegel’s third entry is, by no means, a terrible film, it suffers from the same affliction that caused Jon Harris’ The Descent Part II to fall flat as it tries too hard to replicate as opposed to innovate. What Roth achieved here is nothing short of astronomical and, to anyone unaware of the despicable delights this fine sequel grants, I have only this to say: Get to know!
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 9/10
Grue Factor: 5/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: The true fruits ripen at around the halfway mark as Lorna is provided with an exclusive Slovakian bathory experience. The terror-stricken tourist dangles naked upside down above said bath while a similarly bare beauty runs a scythe across her skin tantalizingly, teasing and taunting her prey before running that elongated blade deeper. Each droplet of deep red excised from her supply adds volume to our bathing reaper’s tub of warm dark coulis as she writhes around below, nipples like gateposts and swollen quim throbbing wildly as climax becomes inevitable. One sickening hack of her almost redundant plaything’s throat and the juices are in full flow. It’s a moment of grue-saturated glee which, whilst nauseating in the extreme, succeeds also in supplying a moment of tranquil splendor. Needless to say, Lorna isn’t particularly enamored by her first Slovakian bath but the rest of us climax with her tormentor. SFX maestros Gregory Nicotero and Howard Berger must have had a ball with this one.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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