Every now and then you're thrown a choice plum, even though sometimes it's dripping in blood!! Tonight I was among the first audience to see the world premiere of Eli Roth's anticipated sequel Hostel 2, with Roth in attendance to introduce the film and to field questions afterwards. Was the torturous wait worth it? Absolutely!!
Take my running complaints about titillating torture porn and throw them out the window. Hostel 2 takes everything I found offensive about Hostel and ups the ante, becoming even more outrageous and, in the process, somehow funnier and—dare I say it?—more enjoyable. Perfectly pitched to the extreme, Hostel 2 emerges unabashedly camp and this is why it's a better movie than its predecessor. Hostel punched Narnia out of the number one slot when it stormed the megaplexes. This year—pitted against the Transformers, Spidey3, and Pirates—Hostel 2 might just prove once again that it delivers a more satisfying bang for its buck.
Fresh from the resounding adoration of his Grindhouse faux-trailer Thanksgiving, Eli Roth has picked up his tale exactly where the first film left off. Paxton (Jay Hernandez), minus a few fingers, is found bleeding on a train. If you recall, he kept his head and survived the Slovakian torture factory. That proves essential to kick start this story which introduces three young women touring Eastern Europe—Beth (Lauren German), Whitney (Bijou Phillips), and Lorna (Heather Matarazzo)—who become beguiled by Axelle (Vera Jordonova), one of the most seductive villainesses in recent cinema history. She lures the nubile trio to our favorite hostel in Slovakia, allows them an evening to enjoy a harvest festival and the following day to soak in the spa, oblivious to being auctioned off to the highest bidder. Americans Todd (Richard Burgi) and Stuart (Roger Bart) win the international bidding war (gleefully rendered in split screen) and arrive in Slovakia ready to fulfill their secret sadistic desires. The rest, you might say, is a slice of life.
A major shout-out to Heather Matarazzo who may just become the reigning queen of lesbian gore. Not to be mistaken with Lesley Gore. She'll never be able to go back to the Dollhouse now. Every moment she's on screen is a delight.
Eli counters that it's a matter of personal taste whether audiences find this sequel funnier than the original. He happens to think the original was just as funny; but, I don't agree. Hostel's tone was decidedly more paranoid and uncomfortably mired in dread. That may have been partly because Hostel was influenced by the extreme cinema coming out of Asia—the work of Takashi Miike (who had a cameo in the first film), films like Audition, Battle Royale, and Chan-wook Park's Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance. With Hostel, Eli wanted to place this extreme Asian violence into an American genre film.
Whereas while he was toying with Hostel 2 and writing the sequel, Roth went to Rome where he met such great Italian directors as Sergio Martino, who made the amazing I Corpi presentano tracce di violenza carnale (Torso, 1973). Roth also saw other films like Avere vent'anni (To Be Twenty, 1978) by Fernando Di Leo—"Which was just so fucking sick; the ending of this movie I just couldn't fucking believe it"—and L'ultimo treno della notte (Night Train Murders, 1975) by Aldo Lado. These were all early 70's giallo films; not the operatic Argento-style giallo but the realistic-style giallo.
While in Rome, Roth lunched with the beautiful actress Edwige Fenech with whom he fell "madly in love." Though currently a producer and distributor, Fenech came out of 15 years of retirement to play the role of Hostel 2's Art Class professor. The Italian detective in the opening hospital sequence is Luc Merenda, the star of many 70's polizia films and famed director Ruggero Deodato (Cannibal Holocaust, 1980) flew from Rome to portray Hostel 2's cannibal (in an over-the-top scene that puts Hannibal Lecter to shame). So, yes, without question, Hostel 2 pays homage to the 1973 Italian giallo films that Roth had never seen until recently and I suspect this influence has rewardingly stylized the violence.