STARRINGLauren German - Beth
Heather Matarazzo - Lorna
Bijou Phillips - Whitney
Roger Bart - Stuart
Richard Burgi - Todd
Vera Jordanova - Axelle
Jay Hernandez - Paxton
Year - 2007
Score - 2.5 Howls Outta 4
Horror sequels are a funny thing, especially the second installment in a horror franchise. To capitalize on the massive success of its original counterpart, the sequel has to take steps to create its own identity by being several things: bigger, badder, bloodier, more violent, and glossier. But usually when this happens, the script and the characters we're supposed to care about suffer. Not to say that there haven't been any great horror sequels, because there are. They're just few and far between. For every ALIENS, EVIL DEAD 2, THE DEVIL'S REJECTS, and DAWN OF THE DEAD - there's THE EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC, FREDDY'S REVENGE: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM ST. 2, FRIDAY THE 13th: PART II, TROLL 2, and so many more. Where does HOSTEL: PART II belong? Keep reading my review.
Taking place right after the events of the original HOSTEL, we learn what happened to Paxton (Jay Hernandez in a short cameo). After that event is told, we move onto Rome where three American college girls (Lauren German, Heather Matarazzo, Bijou Phillips) are on a Study Abroad program. Looking for some European fun, they're convinced by a model named Axelle (Vera Jordanova) about a spa in Slovakia. They all end up going to Slovakia to relax and unwind.
Once in Slovakia, they check into the same hostel as in the original film. Here, we learn about the inner workings of the torture chamber, as people start bidding for these girls through copies of their passport photos. The girls realize that Slovakia isn't paradise, as they're lured into the torture chamber and meet their buyers one-by-one.
I remember my friends/fellow reviewers discussing HOSTEL: PART II and saying that it was better than the original. I figured since I really liked the first one, I would like the second even more. So after watching the sequel, how come I felt let-down? Did my friends see something that I didn't, because this film was nothing but a disappointment compared to the original. I did like HOSTEL: PART II, mainly the last half hour of the film, but it does suffer from a case of sequel-itis.
Let me start with what I liked. Eli Roth directed a beautiful film. Next to his GRINDHOUSE trailer, THANKSGIVING [that needs to be turned into a film], HOSTEL: PART II is his best work yet. Instead of going balls to the wall with the torture sequences like he did with the last film, Roth has a bit more restraint with his direction, letting the creepy mood of the film settle in until going for the payoff. The film had a lot of tension and I was always waiting to see where Roth was going with his story. The use of split screen in some scenes reminded me of Brian DePalma's work in CARRIE, which I appreciated. I really dug the more mature feel of the sequel compared to the more juvenile and frantic feel of the first. It felt more like an art film than a mainstream film. Roth did an excellent job.
I also really liked the kill sequences in this film more than the original. They were just as suspenseful, as I kept waiting for the blood to spill after a couple of minutes of being teased. They were also more stylish I thought, especially Heather Matarazzo's scene. Good God was that bloodbath scene just a beautiful piece of film! Just the way it was shot and actually performed was a work of art.
And the climax scene...I won't spoil it but if you're a man watching this film, wear a cup. I felt your pain, bro. I really did. I thought the original film was actually gorier than the second, but the murder sequences were a lot better and I felt the payoff was more satisfying.
I also appreciated the bigger emphasis on the inner workings of this torture chamber. We don't know much about the villains behind this whole mess in the original, but you definitely learn almost everything about them in this film. From the bidding, to the full paid expenses to travel to Slovakia to actually murder these girls, to actually seeing what goes behind the workings of the inner sanctum, the villains become the focus here. It's nice that Roth allowed us into the minds of the villains and why they would even want to have any part with this kind of business, but at the same time, we lose something.
This is where my negatives come in. While it's great to learn about the villains and their motives, the mystery of this whole torture thing is gone. The reason why HOSTEL was so creepy was because we never really understood why people in Slovakia would kidnap foreigners and murder them for money. What was the reason for this? How did this business even grow to be popular all over the world? Who was the mastermind behind this hell on earth? We never found out and that's what incites fear in people: the unknown. The sequel takes that all away by giving us answers to these questions, putting TOO much info on our plates. Once we learn the reasons, the creep factor is gone. Sure they're mentally disturbed and greedy bastards, but I'm not necessarily afraid of them. It didn't feel as real to me anymore.
I also have a problem with the screenplay. Roth is a good screenwriter, but he's a better director - this film is proof of that. The first hour was pretty much a remake of the original. The only differences were that three girls were involved and they were less interesting than the three male counterparts of the last film. These girls were horror cliches of the common kind. We have the nerd who wants to get laid and be cool. We have the promiscuous girl. And then we have the lead girl who's a mix of both. That was all the character development that we're given about these girls. Does this help me care about them? Will I feel sorry for them when they get tortured? Do I care if they live or die? None of the above. The leads in the original, while jerks, at least were believable and were developed enough where we care somewhat about what happens to them. You get none of that here. Even the lead female villain was dull. All she did was stand around and look pretty. That doesn't make you a villain, sweetheart. It makes you a contestant on AMERICA'S NEXT TOP MODEL. I really missed Barbara Nedeljakova from the last film. At least she was interesting and you could sense the evil that she projected on screen. Vera Jordanova had a really boring, useless character. And what was up with that stupid kid gang from the original? They were in this film WAY too much and I still don't understand the point of these kids! I now know they're working for the people behind the whole torture crap, but what is their true purpose? Just to beat people up with sticks? Seemed a bit silly to me.
And then there's the treatment of Jay Hernandez's Paxton in the beginning of the film. What a fuckin' waste. Here's a guy I actually liked and felt sorry for, yet he's treated as nothing but cannon fodder in this film. When I learned Hernandez was gonna be in this film, I figured he'd be something like a mentor for the three girls, like Ali Larter's character was portrayed in FINAL DESTINATION 2. But nope, he's given the Adrienne King treatment from FRIDAY THE 13th PART 2. At least with King's scene, it set up Jason's rise to immortality. What purpose did Hernandez's scene serve? To let us know that these evil loons are still out there? I already knew that! It felt like watching Ellie Cornell's Rachel getting killed in HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS all over again. And the payoff to his arc wasn't even that good! I was so disappointed. Lazy writing right there.
The acting was okay. Lauren German played a strong character as Beth and I believed her. Didn't really care for her, due to her lack of personality, but I didn't hate her either. At least she was a good actress. Heather Matarazzo played the nerd again as Lorna, so she played her role well. At least we get to see her naked and she had the best murder scene in a film in a long time. It was so subtle and beautiful. Couldn't keep my eyes off of it. Bijou Phillips plays the promiscuous girl again as Whitney, except we don't see her naked in this film. She got naked for HAVOC and not this? What gives? And she wasn't much of a traditional one either. Actually, I wasn't sure who she was LOL. At least she could cry and scream. And her torture scene was unintentionally funny. Vera Jordanova as Axelle just stood there and looked pretty. Great job! Jay Hernandez did what he could do with his short cameo as Paxton. Still mad about his sequence though.
The best actors were definitely Roger Bart and Richard Burgi as the two villains/bidders. Bart was the unsure, quiet one who didn't want part of this whole mess. You could see his nervousness and guilt when he finally came face to face with some of the girls. You get his point of view as he enters the inner sanctum of hell and sees all the weapons at his disposal. The man was obviously complex and he was really well written. Same goes to Burgi, who was too excited to hurt some girls and kept bullying his pal to join him in this horrible activity. And Eli Roth really threw a curveball at me when it came to these two characters. I didn't see the plot twist coming at all. Yes, I smiled inside because I haven't been this surprised in such an intelligent way in a horror film since the ending of the original SAW. It's sad that the most developed characters were the two villains. I actually wanted them to torture these stupid girls. They stole the show and made the film for me, when in reality, they were the wrong people to do it.
THE FINAL HOWL
HOSTEL: PART II was a let-down in my opinion. Maybe I was expecting too much and I didn't get enough. Who knows? But it's still a very watchable film and technical-wise and maturity-wise, it's a vast improvement over the original. You get great torture scenes, female and male nudity, and two great performances from Roger Bart and Richard Burgi. Too bad the script was kind of a lame remake of the original and the leads were one-note cliches. I guess we can't have it all, now can we? Here's hoping that this is the final HOSTEL and Roth changes his mind and makes THANKSGIVING a full-length film. I need my turkey stuffed, dammit!