Friday, October 26, 2007


The first sign of redundancy in 'Hostel II' comes with its very first scene. Paxton (Jay Hernandez), the sole survivor of the previous adventure, is discovered on a train then taken to the hospital. There the police ask a series of questions which skewer towards them revealing their special human hunter tattoos and killing him. It is a dream however but one that will soon become reality for him as he is formally beheaded, ironically back some presumably safe in America. This dry execution is made dryer by his girlfriend discovering her cat licking away at the blood where his head once stood.

Immediately, director Eli Roth sets course for a map of suspense and explanations but gets lost in the maelstrom of gore before anything can seriously unravel. Paxton may briefly appear in this installation but his death is a mere cliff-note and doesn't serve as interlink to anything substantial other than the fleeting thought of an ever expanding human hunting network. Paxton's thinking level is terribly mixed: after defying odds to escape from Bratislava, he then returns home only to clamp up and not expose the horrors he faced. Unlike 'Grindhouse', Tarantino's recent epic smorgasboard, Roth doesn't spend much time splattering through the gore to find logic, instead he labouriously shows us the behind-the-scenes excitement to collecting of the human prey. I can't recall any other horror flick making its aim and outcome so evident and not expecting to suffer for this foresight of our knowledge.

The film is similar to the first installation except that its girls that are lured away this time with the promise of Slovakian warm springs and we're already familiar with the sequence of terror. That drains what little suspense one can imagine and it makes the gore nothing but self-gratifying...which really is a shame. 'Hostel II' does explore the wantonness of the hunters even if Roth encases them with only their depravity. Even in such shallowness, the poetry of the gore is fascinating. In one scene, a female hunter sits underneath her hoisted prey--Heather Matarazzo (the annoying wimp, Lorna)--naked and with an extended scythe. She tears at the girl's body and immerses herself with the blood as it trickles onto her and the candles alongside. The camera then hones in on her hand reaching for a shorter scythe and slitting her victim's throat. It's devastating yet its disturbing silence is the single achievement in the film.

And yet, despite the hardiness of that female hunter, the two main male hunters we see are poles apart in their earnesty towards the hunt. Todd (Richard Burgi) is the atypical alpha male and Stuart (Roger Bart) is pathetically lacking in cojones. In one scene, Todd is getting some head as his beeper lights up. He tosses the girl aside like a paperweight because his mind really is on his American prey--that he's paid top dollar for and travelled many miles just for the luxury to torture her to death. When he finally gets to torturing her, his sadistic joy is stalled by an unplugged instrument. His victim--Beth (Lauren German)--cowers in fear while he bellows at her, 'you should see you f__king face.' When the instrument gets unplugged a second time however, he accidentally disfigures her face. In the few seconds that follow 'Hostel II' swerves completely further off track and descends into a corny finale. Roth doesn't clarify the reason for Todd's sudden change of heart. We are not sure if he is angry that the electrical limitation is robbing him of his pleasure or if the implications of his actions have suddenly caught up with him. Instead of probing this, Roth has the character mauled to death by dogs for reneging on his contract as a means of further clouding the issue.

Roth thus misses his most valuable tool for true suspense. 'Hostel II' salaciously proves the ambiguity of violence and its standard acceptance. It also confirms that in such a postulation, women are equally as vicious as men. Indeed, we witness that the hunting network is co-coordinated by a white-hair female. Most clearly though is the point that the network is not a tight brotherhood, per se, but lovers of the highest price. Whitney (Bijou Phillips) escapes elimination by bargaining her way out of sure death by buying her way as a hunter. She tells her captors that with a PDA she can have the money wired within minutes. It's admittedly a clever twist by Roth but one that is too late to spark real interest other than financial. The film further degrades this strength in technology when Whitney's sole purpose after regaining her freedom is not to expose the hunter network that ensnared her but the female that lured her to Slovakia in the first place. Ah, kids, they never learn.

RATING: 3.5/10

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