Hostel just didn’t strike me as the kick-off to a franchise, but, like many of his fans, I was won over by Eli Roth’s enthusiasm for the project (of which he blogged about extensively on his MySpace page), and found myself really jazzed up for the film’s release. Hostel: Part 2 promised to be scarier, gorier, and more outrageous than the first film. As the Meat Loaf song says, two out of three ain’t bad...
This time out our American’s abroad are…well…broads. Three of them, in fact, including young heiress, Beth (Lauren German), her randy pal, Whitney (Bijou Phillips), and the existential introvert, Lorna (“Welcome to the Dollhouse’s” Heather Matarazzo). The three girls plan a trip to Prague but are lured to the first film’s Slovakian hostel by the gorgeous Axelle (Vera Jordonova) and the promise of the region’s spas and natural hot springs. Almost as quickly as the girls hand over their passports at the hostel, we see them being put up for bid over the internet, with the winning bidder being a loutish American businessman named Todd (Richard Burgi) who strong-arms his toady pal Stuart (Roger Bart) into joining him on the trip. From here, the film flips back and forth between the trio of girls and Todd and Stuart’s initiation into the “club” of wealthy thrill-killers, culminating in…well, pretty much what you’d expect from a sequel to Hostel.
One of the biggest complaints I’d heard about Roth’s original film revolved around its lengthy setup, which played out like an ‘80’s teen sex-romp. Personally, I found that film’s first act to be one of the most brilliant psyche-outs in modern horror history, as it really lulled viewers into a false sense of security with the film, as if Roth were somehow playing it all for laughs until he proved he was deadly serious with the first excruciating torture scene. This whole setup was essential to the inspired narrative sleight of hand, where the audience found themselves investing in one character throughout the film’s first half, only to see the focus shift to another for the final act. I also loved the sense of mystery that surrounded not only the “hunting club”, but the village itself; something that was exceptionally well realized in the scene in which Paxton confronts the women who seduced him and his friends, and sees them in an entirely different light (quite literally). All of this made me feel as if I were truly along for the ride with Paxton, whereas, with Hostel: Part 2, I just felt like a spectator.
Maybe I was caught off guard by how quickly we were thrown to the lions after such a deliberate dangling the first time out, but everything in this second installment just felt rushed to me. I felt I knew more about Todd and Stuart than I did about Beth, Whitney, or Lorna, and, while that may have been Roth’s intention given his decision to expose the underbelly of this secret society, I just didn’t feel invested in this film’s protagonists at all, lessening the impact of their respective fates. I also felt that, by revealing the inner-workings of the club, Roth stripped it of the mystique that made it such a remarkable “villain” in the first place. While I understand this may have been something fans were clamoring for, I just liked it better when we were seeing the club from the victim’s perspective rather than from within. I liken it to seeing Michael Myer’s underwear drawer, or stumbling upon Jason Voorhees sipping on a Red Bull while watching Will and Grace; sure, they’re still scary, but not nearly as scary as they once were.
I was ultimately a little disappointed by Hostel: Part 2, but that’s mainly due to the high regard in which I hold the original, and, being a sequel helmed by the same director, I just couldn’t help but to constantly compare the two. I still found the film entertaining, and this unrated edition is a bloodier, sexier beast than its theatrical version (which, if you've seen the theatrical version, is saying a lot!).
Hostel: Part II looks as pristine as it did the day I saw it in theaters, with a gorgeous transfer that perfectly represents the film’s muted color palette and dark, gothic look. Vivid reds, blacks that are deep and natural; dingy dungeons have never looked so goshdarned pretty!
The 5.1 uncompressed PCM soundtrack delivers the goods, with every crunch, snip, splash, and splat delivered with amazing clarity. It’s almost too immersive, but, hey, that’s how we like it, right kids?
Extras feature a trio of commentary tracks, including one with Eli Roth, a second commentary with Gabriel Roth and Quentin Tarantino, and a third with Eli Roth, Lauren German, Richard Burgi and Vera Jordanova. Featurettes include a look behind-the-scenes with “Hostel Part II: The Next Level”, a spotlight on the ghoulish FX work in “The Art of KNB Effects” featurette, interviews, deleted scenes, and much more. Also included are extended bits of "factory cam" footage, which are exclusive to the Blu-ray release.
While Hostel: Part II isn't quite as effective as the first film, Eli Roth's second foray into the world of the Hunting Club offers up a few solid scares, some fantastic looking sets, and enough gore to satisfy the most hardened of horror aficionados.