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DVD REVIEW

Hostel: Part II - Unrated Widescreen

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment || R || Oct 23, 2007


Reviewed by Dylan Grant

 

How Does The DVD Stack Up?

CONTENT

9  (out of 10)

THE VIDEO

10  (out of 10)

THE AUDIO

9  (out of 10)

THE EXTRAS

10  (out of 10)

OVERALL

9  (out of 10)

 

Synopsis

The second installment in this terrifying franchise centers around three young American women who are studying in Rome. They are lured into a hostel by a beautiful young woman who sells them as the next victims of a murder-for-profit business.


Critique

Is Eli Roth trying to be the Ruggero Deodato of his generation? Deodato – who actually makes a cameo in Hostel Part II – made the cannibal classics Jungle Holocaust, and the infamous Cannibal Holocaust. Cannibal Holocaust was billed as “The One That Goes All the Way!” With Hostel Part II, Roth clearly wants to go all the way.

Deodato’s cannibal tales took place in remote jungles – South America, the Philippines – and the protagonists were people who, in one way or another, were there to exploit the people and the area. In Jungle Holocaust, the main character is a rich oil prospector who crash lands looking for his next big strike. In Cannibal Holocaust, the protagonists are documentarians who go into the jungle to film the native people, only to kill animals, burn down a village and rape their women. Basically, they are the scum of the Earth. They come into the jungle feeling superior to the people and the area, only to have the tables horribly turned.

For most of us, landing in a faraway jungle is not the most likely scenario. Eastern Europe, as Roth would have us believe, is much more likely, much more accessible, and Slovakia is a jungle of a different kind. Roth’s rambunctious village slum kids call to mind Deodato’s rowdy natives, and the rainforests are replaced by old world architecture, abandoned factories and Soviet era surplus. Things look vaguely similar, but the whole tone is different, Europe gone slightly askew.

The guys in Hostel were more outwardly exploitive than the girls in Hostel Part II. Paxton and Josh take Oli up on the offer to travel to Slovakia so they can bang chicks for a fraction of what it would cost them in Amsterdam. They are not the most savory guys, so when they arrive in Slovakia, they are almost asking for something bad to happen.

Hostel Part II picks up right where the first film left off. Paxton is home, presumably safe, and still struggling with the trauma of what happened to him. He has nightmares, and he is not getting the help he needs. Before we get too far into this, in a moment straight out of Friday the 13th Part 2, his girlfriend (Jordan Ladd, who also appeared in Roth’s Cabin Fever) wakes up to find Paxton’s headless body waiting for her at the breakfast table.

Lorna (Heather Matarazzo), Beth (Lauren German) and Whitney (Bijou Phillips) are American art students, studying in Italy. When we first meet them, they are sketching a nude male, an image that will, in one way or another, dominate the film. Stressed out by their classes, they are immediately sold when Axelle (Vera Jordanova) tells them about a great spa in Slovakia where they can relax and enjoy the country.

When they arrive, the clerk takes their passports and, unbeknownst to them, scans their pictures and sends them out over the Internet. The girls have hardly seen their rooms when a flurry of eBay style bidding begins. We see rich and powerful men all over the world bidding huge sums of money. This sets the parallel story in motion when Todd (Richard Burgi) places the winning bid. Soon, he had Stuart (Roger Bart) are landing in Slovakia.

A few things make Hostel Part II so unsettling. A cloud of doom hangs over the characters. The nuts and bolts of the murder for hire business behind the hostel are shown in deadly motion. What is really scary is how simple it all is, how this could actually work. Lorna, Beth and Whitney are on a collision course with Todd and Stuart, and it can only end one way.

The girls are students looking for a good time, looking to see the world. They are not totally innocent, but they are not the most experienced girls either; they are naïve. Stuart and Todd have been around. Todd reminds Stuart early on of “the gonorrhea you brought back from Thailand.” They are rich, powerful guys who have been around the world and back again, conquering their field and finding every imaginable thrill. For these guys, with their positions and their private jets, their business trips and expense accounts, the world is open to them, and there are very few frontiers left for them to explore.

The girls are being set up all along, from the moment we meet them, and we know it. The first half of the film is banal enough that we might start to wonder if anything is going to happen. A few implied threats aside, everything is under the surface. One of the many films Hostel Part II calls to mind is Audition, directed by Takashi Miike (who made a cameo in Hostel). The film is set up, set up, set up, set up, with the delivery coming only at the very end. Once the film finally does deliver, it is incredible, and worth the time.

When the three finally meet, nothing goes as any of them thought it would. Stuart and Todd, turn out to be two rich guys who are only as powerful as their wives let them be. For all they have achieved, they are still pissed off at all the girls who wouldn’t fuck them. Lorna, the most innocent of the the three girls, and the one who is invited, it seems, out of pity, is the first to go. The image of her hanging upside down (which bares a striking resemblance to the impalement image in Cannibal Holocaust) is one of the film’s iconic images. We don’t see what happens to Whitney, but we know it’s bad, and as for Lorna, who has had one too many dicks in her face, an ounce too much male aggression, the only way out is in.

Hostel Part II brings many films to mind. This may be intentional, it may be inevitable, but it works. You don’t have to get every reference to enjoy the film, but it makes for a richer experience. Hostel Part II is not necessarily a great film; it has flaws. What wins this film points is the fact that it’s a movie with balls, and we haven’t seen too many of those lately.

What would a third Hostel film look like, assuming that possibility even exists? Maybe a young couple could be honeymooning in Europe, and they’re lured to a quaint lovers’ retreat, where they would spend a fraction of what they would for a Parisian getaway and get something ten times as romantic. Once they get there though, once they get there …


Video

Hostel Part II is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. This transfer on this DVD is excellent. The dark moments, the black levels, are unbelievably solid. A great example of the sharpness of this transfer is the scene where Lorna meets her end. We have a dark room, flickering candles, the deep red blood color, and the paleness of both Lorna and the woman she is with. The whole scene is crisp, and all the levels are rendered perfectly. The rest of the film gets the same treatment.


Audio

This disc offers an English track in Dolby Digital 5.1, as well as a French track in Dolby Surround. The presentation is sharp and well balanced. The smaller, dialogue driven moments, like when Todd and Stuart are jogging the morning before their session, are as sharp as the bigger, horror driven moments.


Special Features

Commentary With Eli Roth, Quentin Tarantino & Gabe Roth: Tarantino, who we rarely get to hear on a commentary track, brings some nice energy here. It’s always fun to listen to him ramble about movies, and this is no exception. Roth and Roth talk about working together, the faces that show up in the film, and more.

Commentary With Eli Roth: Roth talks about how the film came to be, corresponding with troops in Iraq and the popularity of Hostel and Cabin Fever on military bases. He talks about killing off Paxton, the characters and more.

Commentary With Eli Roth, Richard Burgi, Lauren German & Vera Jordanova: here the group talks about how the characters interact, how scenes were shot and a lot more.

Hostel Part II: The Next Level: a behind-the-scenes look at the film, starting with pre-production and continuing from there. The cast and crew talk about the expectations and intentions going into the sequel. (26:27)

The Art of KNB Effects: Roth and FX maestro Greg Nicotero talk about creating the effects for the film. Nicotero talks about his thoughts going into the sequel. (6:02)

Production Design: exactly like it sounds, this is a look at the set design. There is some good stuff here. (6:43)

Hostel Part II: A Legacy of Torture: a TV special on the film. We have interview clips with Eli Roth, clips from the film, all tied together by a tour through a torture museum. (23:44)

Deleted Scenes: 10 completed scenes here, and they are definitely worth a look, unlike most deleted material. Each is presented with an explanation as to why it was cut.

“The Treatment” Radio Interview With Eli Roth: a great interview. We go into the differences between the two films and more.

Blood & Guts Gag Reel: exactly that. (3:30)


Final Thoughts

Hostel Part II is an intense film experience and a great entry in the genre. The film is expertly presented on DVD, and the bonus material is substantial and interesting. This movie is perfect example of what is great about horror and what is great about DVD.

 

VERDICT: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

 

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Review posted on Nov 4, 2007 | Share this article | Top of Page


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