By:Brian Thomas
Review Date: Friday, June 08, 2007

The advance word on the sequel to Hostel was that it was basically going to be “Hostel with girls”. Now, who needs that?

Who needs a sequel to Hostel in the first place, and who needs one that rehashes the first story all over again? And especially, who needs a rehash of a hard-edged torture chamber movie with women as the victims?

Fortunatelt, writer/director Eli Roth feels the same way and is a step ahead of the audience. “I never, ever intended to make a sequel to Hostel,” Roth explained at a preview screening, “But when the movie became Number 1 on opening weekend, beating out Narnia, it became obvious that Lionsgate would be pushing for a sequel, and I decided that if a sequel was ever going to be made, I had to do it myself – and right away. The themes explored in the first film were too of-the-moment and waiting on the sequel would spoil that.”

And though obviously appreciative of the effect of blood and gore in movies, he knows there’s a line between chilling or even disturbing an audience and just being unpleasant. That line of discomfort is drawn closer when women become the targets of violence, and in Hostel Part 2, it’s obvious that he’s taken care not to go over that line between the artful or shocking scare (or gross-out) and the outright repellent and offensive.

He also knew that sequels are often most satisfying when treated as a direct continuation, thus the “Part 2” title. Job one of any horror sequel – unless they take the cop out “sequel in name only” route – is to deal with the survivors of the previous film’s mayhem. Roth does so with a semi-tribute to Friday the 13th Part 2 – a sequence that unfortunately contains the same kind of cheat, but provides a nice introductory mix of unease, shocks and humor.

We are introduced to our trio of obnoxiously self-absorbed American college students traveling in Europe, all three of which are somewhat played against type before the end. There’s the sharp rich girl with a chip on her shoulder Beth (Lauren German). There’s the faithful wild girl Whitney (Bijou Phillips). And then there’s the tag-along nerdy misfit Lorna (Heather Matarazzo) that the other two feel sorry for. While taking an art class in Italy (taught by Eurohorror legend Edwige Fenech), they meet up with model Axelle (Vera Jordanova), who later lures them to the spas of Slovakia and a certain youth hostel.

On their arrival, Roth shows us his scenario from a couple of different angles, knowing we’ve already seen it from the victim POV. We see the girls stalked, their images displayed online in a private auction to bidders worldwide. The winner in a couple of the auctions are wealthy thrill-seekers Todd and Stuart (Richard Burgi and Roger Bart, both of Desperate Housewives), who immediately make their excuses and jet off to Slovokia to claim their first kills. As the girls are maneuvered into position for easy capture, we learn a bit more about what makes them tick, as well as learning a bit more about the auction winners and the deeply evil people running the murder-for-dollars business.

The third act of the film consists of Roth taking the expectations he’s built up and giving them a twist, while here and there popping in the film’s money shots – a string of fine cinematic quality kills designed to have the audience abuzz long afterward.

As I stated in reviewing Hostel, the premise of the films makes no sense, at least as given. Those running such a carefully planned illegal operation would be very unlikely to choose such high profile victims as rich American students. There would be an investigation. Things would get messy – or messier than intended. Unless there’s an underlying reason for them choosing such targets that we haven’t learned yet, it just doesn’t hold together. But accepting that stretch, Roth gives his audience the kind of raw thrills the movie business rarely dares to serve anymore, and does so with enough intelligence that the horror show works on more than one level.

I didn’t really need to see a sequel to Hostel, but was surprised at how glad I am that I did.
Copyright © 2007 Brian Thomas, author of the massive book VideoHound’s Dragon: Asian Action & Cult Flicks, available now!

Mania Grade: A-
Reviewed Format: Theatrical Release
Rated: R
Cast: Lauren German, Roger Bart, Bijou Phillips, Richard Burgi, Vera Jordanova, Jay Hernandez, Jordan Ladd, Edwige Fenech
Writer: Eli Roth
Director: Eli Roth
Distributor: Lionsgate