Eric D. Snider

Hostel Part II

Movie Review

Hostel Part II

by Eric D. Snider

Grade: C-

Released: June 8, 2007

 

Directed by:

Cast:

If you enjoyed "Hostel," last year's torture-porn hit from Eli Roth, then one school of thought says you're bound to enjoy "Hostel Part II," because it's almost exactly the same movie. Another school of thought, however, doesn't like sequels that are merely repeats of their predecessors. That's the school I go to.

Roth, raised on the classic slasher series, pays homage to them by retaining one character from the first "Hostel," only to dispatch him within the first 10 minutes. Now we can REALLY get down to business!

The Slovakian recreational facility introduced previously is still operating at full capacity. Here men and women from around the globe can pay thousands of dollars for the privilege of torturing and killing a victim in a controlled environment. The victims, generally young backpackers, are plucked from a nearby hostel.

We know this already, and if we didn't, we'd start to suspect it when the ominous music blares in conjunction with the first shot of the hostel. Our heroes this time are female -- see, totally different from the first movie, where the victims were men! -- and are three American art students studying in Rome. Lorna (Heather Matarazzo) is nerdy and spacey; Beth (Lauren German) is a rich, smart brunette; and Whitney (Bijou Phillips) is a temperamental blonde.

Through an elaborate and implausible plan involving several people pretending to be unconnected to each other but secretly working in tandem, the three girls wind up in Slovakia just in time for the Harvest Fair! And that's where they get abducted. The lesson? Never trust strangers. Also, possibly: Never go to Slovakia during the Harvest Fair. It's like the Eastern European version of Mardi Gras.

One thing the sequel does that the first film didn't is introduce us to the torturers, who previously were just nameless sadists. Here they are Todd (Richard Burgi) and Stuart (Roger Bart), both American businessmen. Todd is a testosterone-fueled wannabe tough guy, while Stuart is a pushover who's having second thoughts.

The reason you go to a movie like this, of course, is for the thrill of seeing the gruesome violence. In that regard, "Hostel Part II" is both better and worse than its predecessor. There seem to be fewer torture scenes this time around: just one major sequence, really, with a few abbreviated glimpses of others. But what we do see feels, at least to my memory (I have not re-watched the first "Hostel"), to be more distasteful and "offensive," though I realize that word takes on a different meaning in a film where the whole point is to be offensive.

Roth breaks one of the unwritten rules of horror films by allowing a child -- a little boy about 8 years old -- to be murdered. It's not shown graphically, but it's there. Do we admire the filmmaker for going against the norm? Or do we point out that it doesn't really take any courage or vision to break a rule like that -- that Roth probably did it just for the sake of doing it?

A nude woman sits in a tub and slices open the live nude woman hanging upside-down above her and bathes erotically in her blood. A man's genitals, fully visible to us, are cut off and disposed of. Both of these are unpleasant to watch, but as I said, that's the whole idea. My observation is that if this kind of content doesn't warrant an NC-17 rating, then apparently it is impossible to get an NC-17 rating for violence. Sex, sure. If the torturer had touched that man's penis with anything other than a pair of scissors, that would have been sex, and then the MPAA would have been horrified and given it an NC-17. But since it was only violence, well, hey, there's nothing wrong with that! We'll give it an R, the same rating we gave "Pretty Woman," "Rain Man," "Billy Elliot," and "The Matrix"!

But anyway. The MPAA's flagrant and sustained incompetence is a matter for another time. Is "Hostel Part II" any good? Roth's sense of humor is evident in a few instances (though the dialogue lacks the spark of the first film, or of his previous "Cabin Fever"), and he can build tension when he wants to. The problem here is that he usually doesn't want to. There's no suspense over who will wind up in the torture factory, and only a few mild surprises with regard to who lives and who dies and who does the killing. It is little more than a retread of the previous film, which makes it lazy on top of everything else.

Grade: C-

Rated R, abundant harsh profanity, a lot of nudity, brief sexual activity, abundant graphic violence including torture and gore -- if this doesn't warrant an NC-17 rating, then apparently nothing does

1 hr., 32 min.

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This item has 38 comments

  1. Dave the Slave says:

    People who enjoy watching films like this disgust me. I wish my son didn't have to grow up in a society where braindead morons spend money to see this filth. And if my comments offend you, who cares. If you enjoy watching this stuff your a disgusting monster, period.

  2. Lauren says:

    Holy crap! *I'm* an American art student going to Rome for study next month! I'll know not to go down the same path these girls did, lol. But yea, it amazes me how the MPAA works. I saw "The Dreamers" for the first time the other day and that was rated NC-17, but I can't remember any horror flick, no matter how graphic and violent, ever being given an NC-17...except for maybe Cannibal Holocaust, I'll have to look that up. Why is that though? What would it take for the violence to be too much for them? Close up genitals are OFF LIMITS but mutilated close up genitals, no prob. That makes sense...

  3. David Manning says:

    This just gives me more reason to go out and see (er, rent) "This Film Is Not Yet Rated"... but certainly not "Hostel II".

  4. Ian says:

    Both Eli Roth & Quentin Tarantino are vocal supporters of the MPAA, and it's easy to see why: as makers of violent movies, they're in little danger of having their audiences limited by the ratings board.

    Meanwhile, an insightful romantic comedy like the upcoming 2 DAYS IN PARIS receives an R -- the same rating as GRINDHOUSE & HOSTEL -- despite containing little more than a bit of sexual dialogue & a glimpse of nudity.

  5. David says:

    Hostel II isn't out in the UK (where I am) yet, but I've always been flabbergasted at the sort of films that seem to get R-ratings in the US. The example I always use to demonstrate the MPAA's attitude is that the Director's Cut of Amadeus has about 3 seconds of non-sexual nudity, and it has an R-rating because of it. But now having seen that Billy Elliot got one too, I might have to start using that instead.

  6. Karmacoma says:

    Just when I thought that the world can't possibly get any sicker, there comes a trend of these "torture porn" (or whatever they're called) films... Seriously, who enjoys watching these? And should I get worried about the fact that there obviously are a lot of people who do? Or do I just sound like someone's grandma now? ;)

  7. BeeDub says:

    If someone in this movie had smoked a cigarette, it would have been rated NC-17.

  8. Lowdogg says:

    Call me whatever you like, but I join the anti-torture porn chorus. Not art.

  9. Bickmo says:

    Hear, hear! for any ostracism of abominable torture-porn flicks. I echo the distaste voiced in previous comments.

  10. Niall says:

    I also echo the distaste voiced in the previous comments and I'm glad to hear so many people saying it. Films like these are repugnant. Having twice visited Bratislava, I'm also appalled at the way these films portray it and Slovakia. It's less than an hour's drive from Vienna, for goodness' sake. I also know from personal experience that they've made real efforts in trying to attract larger numbers of tourists (people tend to go to Prague and Budapest instead), and obnoxious, ridiculous films like this really don't help. It's an ignorant, absurd slap in the face for the country.

  11. GP says:

    I generally find your reviews to be bracing and insightful. But I find your apparent affinity for sexualized violence to be unfathomable. I wish I didn't live in a world where people took such enjoyments in their free time.

  12. Neil says:

    ^^ What part of "My observation is that if this kind of content doesn't warrant an NC-17 rating, then apparently it is impossible to get an NC-17 rating for violence." don't you understand? I'm sure there are many people that have an affinity for sexualized violence. And maybe I'm wrong, but Eric doesn't seem to be one of them (at least his reviews don't).

  13. Ian says:

    #5 -- AMELIE was rated R in the States, which I've never been able to figure out.

  14. Bickmo says:

    #11 GP -- Perhaps you should reread the movie review, this time with an eye for detail. Eric showed no "affinity"for sexualized violence -- much the opposite.

  15. GP says:

    Neil and Bickmo,

    What part of "My observation is that if this kind of content doesn't warrant an NC-17 rating, then apparently it is impossible to get an NC-17 rating for violence" shows any actual distaste for that type of film?

    Perhaps the two of you should re-read the article with an eye for detail. Here, I'll make it easier for you with a very salient excerpt:

    "Is "Hostel Part II" any good? Roth's sense of humor is evident in a few instances (though the dialogue lacks the spark of the first film, or of his previous "Cabin Fever"), and he can build tension when he wants to. The problem here is that he usually doesn't want to. There's no suspense over who will wind up in the torture factory, and only a few mild surprises with regard to who lives and who dies and who does the killing. It is little more than a retread of the previous film, which makes it lazy on top of everything else."

    You'll find that Eric's low opinion of the film seems to comes from it's boring redundancy. He was apparently hoping for some fresher, more original torture porn.

  16. whome says:

    GP, one of the things I like about Eric's reviews is that he usually rates movies based on how well filmmakers deliver what their audience should expect, whether or not he actually likes or approves of the content. I think that he made it clear that he is not particularly in favor of torture porn, but having to review it, he'll evaluate it with respect to its cinemagraphic, editing, writing, and other qualities. He doesn't give movies an F review because he is disgusted by the content. He may mention that the content is disgusting, but he evaluates the movie based on his perception of the film's merits.

    I'm glad I don't review films, because I don't have to sit through every stupid and/or disgusting film that comes out.

  17. Greg says:

    #13 - it might have something to do with the abundant nudity in the porn shop the guy works at. Full frontal nudity is an automatic R.

  18. Niall says:

    GP - with all due respect, what the f*** is wrong with you?

    1. In the paragraph you quote, Eric is critiquing the skill of the filmmaker (use of humour, handling of tension, etc). That is his job as a film critic. To criticise the technical, professional and filmmaking aspects of a film, as well as the content.
    2. Eric refers to the violence in the film as "unpleasant", "distasteful" and "offensive". At no point in the review does he express any enjoyment of the "sexualised violence". He doesn't say the film should be banned and the director burnt at the stake either, but that's his prerogative. He gives the film a negative grade and review, comes down strong on the violence and the rating as well as the professional and filmmaking aspects (the film's failure to be entertaining in addition to being offensively violent), and advises people against seeing it in his blog. What more do you want? (Other than the stake thing.)

    I have a huge problem with "torture-porn" films like these, especially ones which present extreme violence in a fetished or sexualised context, and that's exactly why I'm encouraged to read strong, negative reviews like this. If you want to pick on someone about this film, go and bitch at someone who gave it an A grade, not a C-. Get down off your high horse, know who your friends are and if you have an axe to grind, if you'll pardon the violent metaphor, make sure you're grinding it in the right person's face.

  19. Niall says:

    Correction: I meant "fetishised", not "fetished". And GP: you might want to check your apostrophes.

  20. GP says:

    I am glad that someone brought up this reviewer's inclination to weigh whether the film fulfilled the expectations of the genre along with his own personal reaction to it. That's good, it allows a filmmaker to say relevant things about films in a genre they don't really like. My original post was about his prediliction for these films, not for any endorsement in any particular review.

    I don't particularly like to parse the words of an essay to determine the author's feelings or intent when the author himself is available to comment on it if he so chooses. If Eric posts that he found the film vile and morally objectionable, I will of course believe him. If he won't (and someone actually finds this subject important enough to investigate further), I invite the reader to peruse some of his other reviews on horror/slasher/torture flicks. He generally likes them. A lot. Really, a lot. Doesn't mean he admires the torturers or fantasizes about doing things like that.

    I think you guys are all up in the night about this review. He thought the film was boring. He didn't call the film "offensive", he called it ""offensive"" (that is, he qualified it with quotes). He (and the many viewers that consume this content) like the thrill they get from seeing it.

    And if I'm wrong, maybe he'll say so.

    I still find it all appalling. I wish people didn't find it appealing to spend their Saturdays watching dramatized torture.

  21. GP says:

    "you might want to check your apostrophes"

    Hey, thanks! With all the other egregious spelling and grammar errors on this page, I feel priviliged that you took the time to twit out my errant apostrophe.

    High five.

    I wasn't going to point this out, but I feel I should return the favor. When "et cetera" is abbreviated it traditionally should have a full stop at the end. "etc." I know some publishing houses don't bother with the period any more, but I am sure someone like you would want to avoid any hint of carelessness.

  22. Bickmo says:

    As Niall stated in #18 -- "Eric refers to the violence in the film as "unpleasant", "distasteful" and "offensive". At no point in the review does he express any enjoyment of the "sexualized violence."

    It can't be said any clearer than that. It seems Eric found the film both boring and distasteful. (Of course, Mr. Snider can correct me if I am in error here, as he knows what he thinks far better than any of us.)

  23. Eric D. Snider says:

    Sweet fragrant Buddha, do I have to do everything around here?

    I don't like posting comments on my own website. That's why I write reviews and columns and blog entries: to say what I think. The comments are for other people to say what THEY think.

    GP says: "I don't particularly like to parse the words of an essay to determine the author's feelings or intent when the author himself is available to comment on it if he so chooses." And yet by declaring over and over again that I love love love slasher/horror/torture movies, you have indeed been parsing the words of my various essays to determine my feelings. And you've been doing such a bad job of it that now, yes, I'm compelled to set the record straight.

    First of all, it's not fair to lump torture movies like "Saw" and "Hostel" in with horror movies, or even slasher movies. The fun of a slasher movie ("Halloween," "Friday the 13th," etc.) is the campy thrill of seeing what inventive ways there are to kill people, not how to make them suffer. Freddy Krueger and his colleagues seldom toy with their prey; the deaths are usually over very quickly and, presumably, relatively painlessly. For me, the more cruel a movie becomes, the less fun it is.

    In the torture movies, it's all about the pain. Let's cause these characters horrific pain in cruel and imaginative ways. Personally, I get no enjoyment from watching that. I don't like pain, either in my real life or in the lives of my movie characters. Be outrageous and bloody if you want, but please, just get the death over with quickly. End the victim's misery, and mine with it.

    I gave a positive review to the first "Saw," a negative one for the sequel, and a so-so for the third. I also noted, in that first review, that the film occasionally became too ugly and mean for its own good. The cruelty and hatefulness of "House of 1000 Corpses" and "The Devil's Rejects" completely ruined those films. I gave negative reviews to both "Hills Have Eyes" movies, as well as the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" prequel, "Turistas," and "High Tension."

    As for my review of "Hostel Part II," did I not say that both of the film's most noteworthy scenes were "unpleasant to watch"? Did I not also indicate a distaste for the scene where a kid gets shot in the head? I'm sorry, but that's usually about as explicit as I'm going to get when it comes to the matter of being morally outraged. That's not the point of a movie review, or at least to me it isn't. Obviously most of you have no interest in seeing a movie like this anyway. So what difference does it make how personally offended I am by it?

    Yep, I think a lot of violent movies are good. I also think a lot of violent movies are bad. I don't believe I've ever indicated a fondness for "sexualized violence," as GP claims, though I'm not sure what he considers to be "sexualized violence," either. If my review of this film didn't make it clear enough for you, yes, the scene where the naked woman bathes erotically in the other naked woman's blood is vile and repulsive. "Offended" isn't usually a word I use to describe my reaction to a movie -- it's too emotional and subjective to be useful as a descriptor in a film review -- but sure, I guess it would fit in this case.

    I do have a soft spot for horror movies, when they're done well, which they seldom are. I think GP is getting the idea that I love horror/slasher/torture movies (I'm guessing -- he hasn't actually cited any examples to back up his summary of my position) because he's lumped anything involving killing and bloodiness into one genre, which isn't fair, as I indicated. The mindsets among those styles are very different from one another. And if to you they're all the same thing, and if it bothers you that I sometimes like some of them, well, that's fine with me. It's only when people disagree with a position that I don't actually hold that I get annoyed.

  24. GP says:

    That explanation probably took you more time than it's worth just to set me straight, though I appreciate your doing it. As I intimated in my first post, I have been fond of your reviews for quite some time. I've often been at odds with the merit you seemed to find in these more violent horror/slasher/whatever. If I lump them together inappropriately, I apologize. I don't find much use for them and do not watch them. I explicitly stated I don't think you fantasize about torture or sympathize with those that do it, though. I mainly was trying to indicate how at odds I am with your apparent (to me, at least) fondness for some of those films.

    As far as this specific review, perhaps readers can agree that it's not easy to quite know what is meant by "Both of these are unpleasant to watch, but as I said, that's the whole idea." Ardent fans of these films find such scenes "unpleasant to watch" yet it's for that thrill and sensation that they do. Hard to tell if that's an endorsement or not. Not that it matters. I didn't say it was a bad review, did I? It certainly forearmed me and any other reader with an adequate understanding of the subject material, and how well the filmmaker told that sort of story.

    Anyway, this discussion has had a much more negative tone than I would have liked. I apologize for my misinterpretations about your own tastes; though my error is not a lack of familiarity with your writing. I find the genre of horror and some of its unpleasant subsets to be a fascinating subject for discussion, if not for viewing. I find your long post to be fascinating. Next time I should just send you an email rather than slander you on a public forum, but then how could I have learned how to use commas appropriately? :)

    As for the conflation of sex and violence in these films (i.e. sexualized violence, if you will, in tamer or more explicit forms), I'm certainly not ready to offer a comprehensive exegesis on the subject. But perhaps you'll agree that the two are quite strongly linked in "these" films, even the tamer ones that you are on the record as enjoying.

  25. GP says:

    I mean apostrophes.

  26. Ian says:

    #17 -- Yep, I think you're right. I'd been wondering if it was the "How many people are having an orgasm right now?" scene, but it probably was that porn shop.

  27. Turkey says:

    Not to beat a dead horse GP, but you're saying your whole issue here is that you don't share the same opinions that Eric does and that fact bothers you? I think the job of a critic is NOT to allow his/her personal feelings or preferences to affect the review of the film. The critic is supposed to be reviewing it for the masses, not just himself or a specific group of people. So whether or not he does love violence and gore or whatever should ultimately be irrevelent, should it not? So this discussion has nothing to do with the reviews, which should never be biased by personal morals or agendas, but is about his personal preference for activities he enjoys on his own time? It's like starting a fight with someone because you think it's stupid that they enjoy collecting stamps. Who cares? If it doesn't directly affect you, then what is the problem? What is it that actually bothers you here?

  28. kevith says:

    I have made a personal goal of using the phrase "sweet fragrant Buddha" at some point today.

  29. Bickmo says:

    Turkey, the horse has indeed died (even though you make good points).

  30. LordFred says:

    HAHAHA GP! What a meltdown you've had! Be honest....you LOVE these kind of movies, love them, love them, love them! But your inability to internalize your bloodlust forces you to "shame" the rest of us for watching them? Worst of all, your blasphmy includes slandering our infallible leader Eric! Be gone sinner! Back to your parents basement for another all night, curled naked in the corner snickering, VHS tape, 80's slasher gore fest.

  31. Alaska-Boy says:

    I always enjoy reading Eric's reviews of just about anything, but I've learned over the years to chop a full grade off of any "Horror" genre film he writes up. It is technically impossible for someone to be a completely objective observer, and Eric's tastes are just going to be unaviodably different than mine in some areas. All this means is that "Hostel II" would therefore warrent a D- or lower in my book, and I simply would never choose to go see it. What angers me much more than the offensive content of the film, however, is the ludicrous insanity of the MPAA system that Eric so rightly points out, and the fact that millions of people will willingly choose to watch this putrid hate-card to humanity. (Millions of people who will be sharing this planent with my vulnerable kids--and who may take away ideas or attitudes shaped by such nihilistic, mysoginistic, satanic trash). "Hostel II" is the price we pay for living in a free society, but the fact that we don't instil more tenderness and charity (and ethics and values) into our citizens is what is truly intolerable.

  32. GP says:

    Lord Fred, your troll-fu is weak.

    And I've moved on to DVDs anyway. Get with the times, man.

    /Did I say that out loud?

  33. David Manning says:

    You know, Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" has had a rerating of R for a long time (huh?!), which makes me want to compile (or find) a long list of movies with R-ratings that don't deserve them.

    Then again, "Kramer vs. Kramer" (and a few other movies of that time) had R-worthy scenes of nudity and still got away with PGs simply because times were different back then ("Jaws" would certainly get a PG-13 nowadays for its semi-abundance of profanity, including quite a few S-words).

    For the longest time, I seemed to have only complained about R-ratings being given where something less harsh would be appropriate. This is the first time that made me think about the MPAA being too lenient, aside from the aforementioned trend in the 70's (and even then, the ratings were given/interpreted entirely differently back then).

    By the way, this comment thread is going the way "Eragon" did. Will we surpass it...?

  34. Niall says:

    Alaska-Boy, you make very good points.

  35. Bickmo says:

    #33 - Not a chance on surpassing the Eragon comment thread, although this has been a lively discussion. :)

  36. carrie says:

    I was deeply concerned about the violence in the advertisements of this film. We are becoming a society that enjoys watching people tortured. Here is an article that talks about this http://www.hostileworld.blogspot.com

  37. Clinton says:

    For any of you who are Mormons, reading reviews of this movie reminds me of reading Moroni 9, particularly verses 9 and 10. URL: http://scriptures.lds.org/en/moro/9.

  38. Jon says:

    these films mark a sickening departure from 'in context' violence which lends something to a story. moreover, they indulge in the most horrifying and twisted depictions of torture, the real stuff of nightmares, for no other reason than to depict awful suffering. some of my favorite films have violence in them, for a clear reason and one which furthers the story, lends some moral guidance and is very, very rarely explicitly shown. who wants to hear 10 minutes of a girl screaming whimst being horribly tortured...this is the lowest so i wonder where we can possibly go from here?

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