Runtime: 1 hr 34 min
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Eli Roth
Starring: Lauren German, Roger Bart
The strongest and most resonant work of Roth's career.
Review by: MiamiMovieCritic
Added: 8 years ago
Whether or not the surprising box-office failure of Hostel: Part II spells the end of graphic R-rated horror as we know it, this is still a worthy effort by the talented writer and director Eli Roth. The movie suffered in part because of a pre-release Internet backlash that all but shamed audiences away from theaters, with one critic going so far as to say he would refuse to shake Roth's hand if he met him in public. All hyperbole aside, Hostel II offers a viewing experience that's 80 percent rewarding, 20 percent vomit-inducing.
The premise – a spin on Lucas Moodysson's Lilya 4-Ever and several gut-wrenching documentaries dealing with the sex trade – is simple: Backpacking Americans (Lauren German, Bijou Phillips and Heather Matarazzo) hook up with an Eastern European hottie (Vera Jordanova), who invites them to a dreamy spa in Slovakia. Kidnapping and murder ensue. The end.
Well, not quite. Roth proves once again that he's a far wittier filmmaker than some give him credit for. After we meet the girls, the film veers off into a parallel narrative involving two friends, the mild-mannered Stuart (Stephen Colbert look-a-like Roger Bart) and the chest-thumping Todd (Richard Burgi), who win the right to torture, maim and kill the girls in a winding catacomb of dungeons beneath an abandoned factory. The director pummels you with the details – the faces of missing kids plastered on milk cartons in Stuart's kitchen, the Blackberries and office computers the businessmen use to bid on their victims. The American-psychos section of Hostel II represents some of the strongest and most resonant work of Roth's career, ending in a shocking and utterly convincing reversal of roles.
Viewers can breathe easy for the first hour before Roth gets down to the nitty-gritty, but boy, when it rains it pours. Much like the original, the most endearing character in the entire film is the first to go, and all I have to say about the scene is this: If watching the geek from Welcome to the Dollhouse get stripped, strung up on a rack like cattle and carved open with a scythe is your idea of fun, then have at it. Other peeks behind the chamber door, featuring a cannibal and a power-saw, prove fleeting and disturbing in a Final Destination sort of way, though Roth doesn't come up with anything as clever as the classic bathtub scene in his brilliant debut film, Cabin Fever (2003).
Does the filmmaker go too far? Not if you think of these movies as a metaphor for the global sex trade, which I think is the correct way of reading them. Besides, Hostel II isn't half as offensive as Zack Snyder's 300, which marries extreme violence to an extremist political ideology. Roth may be overexposed. But people forget that, before Cabin Fever came along, there hadn't been a decent horror movie in years. This guy will bounce back soon enough.