Movie Review: Hostel: Part II

Disclaimer: As a accredited member of press, I get invited to press screenings under the condition that /Film won't post our reviews until the day of release. And for the last year and a half, I have never EVER posted a movie review before the date of release. That said, Eli Roth told me to, so I am. Yes, I did just write that.

I just got back from the FIRST EVER screening of Hostel: Part II. According to director Eli Roth, who was in attendance, there hasn't even been a test screening. And I could tell he wasn't lying. During the screening he ran around the theater watching the audience reaction. Sometimes he was shifting in his seat eagerly anticipating the film's laugh out loud or edge of your seat suspense moments. And I noticed the grin on his face when all of them hit the audience so precisely. After the screening Roth did a Question and Answer session (which we will post tomorrow) where he urged the crowd to write their reviews to online websites and spread the word. After the Q & A, I approached Roth and told him that I would be interviewing him tomorrow and that I loved the film, but couldn't post my review until next week (per studio guidelines). He told me to "Just Post it." I whipped out my digital voice recorder (the same one I had in my bag for the interview tomorrow) and asked him to give me permission on tape (or microchip). He told me to write the f'n review but warned me not to give any spoilers away (audio can be provided at request to the studio). So here you have it, my review of Hostel: Part II, per request of Eli Roth.

First off, many people didn't like the first Hostel film because of the long set-up. I actually dugg the fact that Eli spent so much time building up the characters, not giving you the horror and torture you craved. It made you care about the boys, and when those scenes did come, you were that much more invested in their safety and possible escape. Those people will be relieved to hear that Hostel: Part II is a much tighter film. Roth spends less time with the girls leading up to the horror, but still manages to create the important and needed emotional bond.

One of the most intriguing scenes in Hostel: Part I was the part with Rick Hoffman's character, the millionaire a**hole who spoke to Jay Hernandez in the waiting/dressing room. The heart of Eli Roth's idea was a website he discovered which promised human lives for millionaire cash. I'm not quite sure the website is real or even really exists, but that was the genesis of the idea. And to me the most interesting part of this concept is: what kind of sick f*cks would be willing to spend cash to kill a person.

In Hostel: Part II, Roth explores the story from both sides: three unexpecting American girls who are lured to a Slovakian Hostel, and two business men who have won an auction to kill two of them. And the best part of this is that Roth could have portrayed the two businessmen as total a**holes, but he doesn't. Richard Burgi (who many remember as Alan York / Kevin Carroll from the first season of 24) is the gung-ho business man who is fronting the trip, while Roger Bart plays a family man who is dragged there by Burgi's character. Not only is the character empathetic, but you hope he will do the right thing. And when shit hits the fan in the climax, everything unfolds unlike you could ever expect it to happen.

But the key to Hostel II is seeing the behind the scenes action. From the millionaires bidding on potential college aged girls on their blackberries, to the cult like hound-dog tattoos, to the make-up room where the girls are sent to look beautiful before the kill, to the weapons and wardrobe room where the killers can pick out their exact murderous fantasy. It's all so creepy.And sure, the torture sequences in the original disgusted a lot of people. Gratuitous and exploitative were the words I remember being thrown around. Let me warn you that Hostel: Part II is even more violent, intense and bloody than the original. Someone needs to explain to me how the hell the torture sequences got past the MPAA Ratings board. Most of the sequences not only involve blood, decapitation, and brutal violence, but also sex. That's right, Eli Roth has successfully gotten the MPAA to okay sequences that involve both violence and sex at the same time (this is something they've had trouble with in the past). The first torture sequence was so much for one of my other reviewer friends that he ran from the theater. Not because he didn't like the movie, not because he wasn't enjoying the film, but because he was getting physically sick. If you thought Hostel: Part I was violent, you haven't seen anything yet. Hostel: Part II has some of the sickest footage to ever grace the big screen. And there are other sequences which show Roth's growth as a filmmaker. For example, one sequence with a bunch of little kids and a gun had people on the edges of their seats, yet involved no on screen violence. It was pure suspense, and masterfully done.

Heather Matarazzo is perfect as the motherly not-so-fun home-sick girl Lorna. One of the other things that makes Hostel: Part II so much creepier than the first is that this time it involves some college aged women. It becomes a test for the audience: can they sit through seeing the girls go through the same troubles that the boys from Hostel: Part I endured? The fact that you are watching females instead of men in these terrifying situations makes it every bit more horrifying.

And yes, the film begins only seconds after the ending of Hostel: Part I, with Jay Hernandez on the train. This is a nice touch. Roth uses the cinematic reunion to explain to any newcomers what happened in the first film. It's done through quick flashbacks, and doesn't feel at all like exposition.

I also think this film shows Roth's growth as a cinematic horror director. There were some shots and sequences that impressed me immensely. Or it could be that he had the money and time this time around (Hostel: Part I cost under $4 million).

As Roth requested, I don't want to give too much away in terms of plot. So I'm sorry if I left out some of the details. Truth be told, the audience loved the flick, and so did I. It's the rare sequel that is better than the first. But squeamish beware, Hostel: Part II pushes the R-Rating to it's limit. And that might be too much for a lot of people. I dare you to see it!

/Film Rating: 7 out of 10