Hostel: Part II picks up where the first Hostel left off—and then Paxton (Jay Hernandez) wakes up. It’s the last nightmare he’ll ever (be able to) have. Cut to Rome where three American girls—wealthy Beth (Lauren German) sex-craving Whitney (Bijou Phillips) and naïve awkward Lorna (Heather Matarazzo)—have completed their art class after painting a nude model (Vera Jordanova) and are off to Prague via train. While en route they bump into that same nude model who convinces them to change their plans and come with her to an exclusive hot-springs spa in Slovakia. And so their fates are sealed. Once they check in at their hostel with the bellboy who might as well be Satan’s little helper the bidding begins. All around the world the well-to-do-but-not-well-meaning vie for a chance at torturing and savagely murdering these fresh American college gals. And the winners are: Stuart (Roger Bart) and Todd (Richard Burgi) two Americans with WAY too much money on their hands. Thus begins the torturing—of the audience. There is an underrated skill in being able to act scared to death for your life—and in Hostel II’s case whatever prop cutlery was used to poke at the victims’ bodies probably made acting spontaneously easier. Most of the cast however tends to overdo it here. The lone exception is German (A Walk to Remember) making this by far her biggest acting splash to date as the heroine…type. She more so than the others is forced to emote rather than just shriek and she shows ability that reaches beyond horror movies. Phillips (Bully) and Matarazzo (Welcome to the Dollhouse) meanwhile though disparate character-wise both over-act: Matarazzo especially tries too hard to be gawky even if it makes for a starker contrast when her character is well you know. And grossly—pun intended—miscast is Desperate Housewives actor Bart who--no matter the volume and amount of F-bombs he drops--isn’t game for the uber-depravity that writer-director Eli Roth was going for. In fact the foreign unknowns outperform their American counterparts quite a bit in this sequel. First thing’s first: If Hostel II managed to snag an R rating then hardcore porn should be rated G! Now on to writer-director Eli Roth. To his credit the horror god possesses a mind sicker than any other contemporary filmmaker including returning exec-producer/endorser Quentin Tarantino but that doesn’t mean he knows how to tell a story. There's not a whole that goes on between the jaw-dropping scenes of torture the audience has come to half-see which begs the question: Would Hostel II be anything at all if not for said sadism? In addition a lack of true story brings to light another potential flaw in the Roth system—he doesn’t frighten us so much as disturb. But therein lies the good as well. If you like to be disturbed in a strictly I’d-never-do-this-but-maybe-it-happens-somewhere kind of way Roth is most certainly your man. Of course if you like to be disturbed by a film in any way Roth is most certainly your man. He’s got a wild and prolific imagination and when he turns it on the resulting images are unlike anything you’ve ever seen or want to see again—impossible to look at or away from. If only he could expend it on the stuff surrounding the imagery.
When Paxton (Jay Hernandez) Josh (Derek Richardson) and Oli (Eythor Gudjonsson) go to Amsterdam they find that marijuana alone will not quench their hedonistic thirst—there aren’t enough girls for them. At the suggestion of a local they head to Slovakia where the local promises girls will flow freely tending to their every desire. The promise is fulfilled as sex-starved seductresses teem in the area hostel but they give new meaning to the term femme fatale. The girls provide sex for cheap in this Slovakian hostel but that’s only because sex isn’t how the girls make a living; they prefer instead to partake in the region’s burgeoning and lucrative trade industry. Was it a hostel of depravity? Sure but not quite the brand the guys were seeking. The only way a gruesome gore-fest like Hostel works is if the actors make it believable. Here the actors’ performances are likely to go unnoticed but not unappreciated for that reason. It can’t be stressed enough the range an actor needs to possess to be macho and frightened in the same movie. Hernandez (crazy/beautiful) possesses such range. He throws in “dude” and “bro” almost more than is healthy but when in trouble he abandons diction almost altogether and wears the fear on his face and wears it credibly. Richardson as Paxton’s shy friend evokes the same level of imminent doom when it’s his turn. Rick Hoffman also turns in a stirring cameo as a fast-talking uh surgeon. After the hit Cabin Fever and now Hostel the cult status of director Eli Roth might grow into something big—and so will his wallet. Roth pays homage to a number of gore classics while also asserting his own style. He genuinely makes us feel like unwelcome guests in his house of horrors who can’t help but peeking at what lies behind each door even at the risk of blind. The story is ultimately no different than what we’ve seen before but Roth’s scare tactics are currently second to none. The end result is the visual equivalent of nails on the chalkboard. Hostel “presenter” and executive producer Quentin Tarantino will definitely not be the last sadist to fall for this frightening film.