In theaters June 8th
Laura German as Beth
Bijou Phillips as Whitney
Heather Matarazzo as Lorna
Jordan Ladd as Stephanie
Richard Burgi as Todd
Rogert Bart as Stuart
Vera Jordanova as Axelle
Jay Hernandez as Paxton
Directed by Eli Roth
You’re either a Beatles person or an Elvis person. You’re either a Munsters person or an Addams Family Person. You’re either a Betty person or Veronica person, and these days, you either like Eli Roth or hate Eli Roth. Very rarely is there a middle ground.
Howdy, I’m the latter portion of the group. Look around for my name on the web and you’ll find no short supply of Eli Roth bashing from yours truly. From his utterly torturous and painful Cabin Fever, to his watchable but stupid Hostel, which I’m convinced was only a success because people assumed Tarantino directed it, Roth is the horror version of Michael Bay. He lacks any storytelling prowess, and his films have gaping plot holes, but none of that matters because he can talk big, garners connections, and knows how to hype his films. And for that, and that alone, he has a following.
And in comes Hostel Part II. One of the things that tickled me so about the production of Hostel Part II was that the same folks that bitched about the poster for Captivity and its inherent violent nature against women were also the ones who gleamed at the prospect of watching women being tortured in Roth’s latest wet fart. Granted, Thanksgiving rocked, but Roth doesn’t claim to be a trailer maker.
If he was, he’d have it down pat. “Filmmaking” however is still a work in progress for Roth. I don’t deny the man loves horror, but that doesn’t mean he has the skill to make a horror film. If that were true, I’d have my ass behind a camera instead of in front of a computer monitor all day. Hostel Part II, in spite of my reservations, is a film I was open to surprises with. Perhaps Roth would do better this time. Perhaps Roth is just progressing as a filmmaker with each project?
I’m too charitable with filmmakers. Hoping to undercut his unlikable male counterparts, Roth reverts back to the classic horror archetype and fills the screen with a cast of female characters who come across the infamous hostel. By this, the film has a chance to create actually sympathetic characters as opposed to the morons we saw in the first, and therein lays the problem. For a sympathetic character, or even a heel, you don’t really need to bait the audience, you just have to write them well, and Roth fails in that respect.
Roth continues the arc only hours after the original film and somehow feels he has to recount everything that occurred as if his audience didn’t really come to see the first time, thus the opening suffers from tedium and a brutally laughable surprise twist until Roth stops the suffering and segues into the central plot. Roth does away with the sex comedy/horror hybrid in exchange for a soapy melodramatic story set around a group of female visitors in Slovakia who decide to embark on the dark side of the country for thrills and get more than they bargained for.
Along the path, Roth rips scenes directly from the likes of Last House on the Left, and various other horror gems in hopes of gathering the same momentum, but once again falls flat. Yet again there’s simply no dimensions behind the main characters of the story, who are nothing more than vapid set pieces set up to die gruesome deaths. The build up to the splatter is rather predictable and almost exhausting as characters give shifty eyes in every corner, and red herrings are set up, all the while Roth sets us up for more homophobic gags peppered in his script, and back story that feels shoved down our throats.
The conundrum Roth has set for himself in the xenophobic franchise is that the first half of both films feels like obligatory preambles that we must sit through in order to get to the gore and blood that Roth thinks the audience wants, thus everything before the hostel ends up feeling rushed, and rather tiresome. All the while Roth has to hold our hands throughout the film setting up predictable plot devices, and getting behind the hostel that was explained pretty much the first go around. Millionaires buy foreigners to torture them. We knew that already, thus the set up of our villains to our female victims falls flat.
Thankfully, the film’s one highlight is the performance from Laura German who is a much more interesting character than Paxton. She has a wit, and cleverness about her that makes her much more bearable than the former victim/hero, and Roth throws in an interesting twist about playing the demon to get out of hell.
As for Matarazzo and Phillips, they continue they’re usual mold for films. Matarazzo is the cute geek Lorna, while Phillips is the sexy slut Whitney, and Roth never goes beyond what they’re expected on-screen. As the former film, Hostel Part II boasts of more bloodshed and splatter and disappoints with what amounts to about ten minutes of rather tedious gore sequences, and moments anxious to shock us. All the while our victims play cat and mouse with their stalkers, attempt evasion to no avail, and suffer cruel deaths all to the tune of Roth’s repetitive script. You can just hear the cash registers in the background.
Roth, I gave you more than your share of fair shots. Come back to me when you make a film with an actual plot. Otherwise, this is another one for the fire.