Hostel Part II (UK - BD RB)
Scott McKenzie wasn't expecting to like Eli Roth's sequel, but got a surprise...
Picking up where the original Hostel left off, Paxton (Jay Hernandez) discovers that there’s no escape from the company that sells tourists for torture to the highest bidder. The movie then focuses on two separate stories. The first is the tale of three girls who are taken to Slovakia by the mysterious Axelle, but things don’t go according to plan as it becomes clear their new friend has more in store for them than a nice weekend away. The second story follows two men as they travel to Slovakia to take out all their post-modern anger on some American girls…
Hostel Part II is not just a cash-in sequel, or so director Eli Roth and producer Quentin Tarantino would like you to believe. The addition of ‘Part’ to the title means that we’re supposedly in similar territory to the first Godfather sequel, expanding the universe, telling a more complex story and garnering more critical praise into the bargain. The fact of the matter is that Hostel Part II succeeds on the first two points, however it doesn’t soar anywhere near its intended heights and maybe because of the success the first movie in the series received, the sequel got a real bashing from the critics upon its cinematic release.
In the extra features, Eli Roth talks a lot about how the Hostel concept is the logical progression of capitalism, as people with more and more disposable income seek the ultimate buzz. He also seeks to make the point that the people with all the money control who lives and dies. This may be true, but to manifest these ideals in a gratuitous horror movie seems to me like the filmmakers are left with a conflict of interest. You have to deliver decent scares if you want to deliver a good horror movie, but when you combine that with the need to spell out your view of the world to the audience, it’s likely that you’ll need to compromise somewhere.
As a result, the real horror doesn’t get going until the halfway point as we follow the journeys of two sets of characters into the lion’s den. Since we already know where these people will end up and how they will get there, what the sequel lacks in tension when compared with its predecessor, it makes up for in exposition about the world of Hostel. In a clever split-screen sequence we find out how potential customers bid for the tourists on offer and how it affects their lives as seemingly upstanding members of society. We also get to see the whole story from their side as they arrive at the warehouse, pick out their weapons and deal with the task ahead of them. There’s a common theme of two sets of people trapped in a situation they can’t get out of and this is where I found myself drawing an appreciation of the movie.
The main problems I had with Hostel Part II can be found in the screenplay. First of all, with the exception of one person who has less than a minute of screen time, every European is either evil or at the very least not to be trusted. Even the American characters are thinly drawn stereotypes, with only Lauren German’s Beth offering any believability. Most of all, the movie doesn’t seem to know how to end. The tension builds nicely as the girls are prepared for the men who arrive at the warehouse in a scene edited together to suggest more emotional depth than is actually on offer. Unfortunately, once the guys get into their chambers with the girls the screenplay seems to run out of steam and the conclusion centres around one significant character change and the main protagonist depending on something that is out of her control.
I’m not a huge fan of either entry in the Hostel series, but I think Part II just edges it for me. The atmosphere isn’t as tense and the political motivations of the director get lost in his attempts to combine them with the conventions of the torture porn sub-genre he helped create. On the other hand, I thought the two-stranded story was a good idea as it could have been so easy to tell the first movie’s story again and the added complexities of a world where people are sold for torture was more rewarding, even if it wasn’t in the way the director intended.
Hostel Part II is shown in 2.35:1 (1080p) widescreen. The use of colour is important to the movie, with bright early scenes in Italy, then washed-out colours when the action movies to the dingy torture chambers. The black level is good, with no charcoal tones to be found, but it’s in a small number of dark scenes that problems arise with the video quality. In particular during the early scenes with Jay Hernandez, large patches of dark blue contain a lot of grain but other similar scenes later on look perfectly fine. The opening scenes are particularly impressive though, with plenty of bright flames and dark backgrounds to show off your high definition TV.
The English 5.1 soundtracks are available in both regular and PCM flavours. As with the other Blu-ray discs I’ve been lucky (or not so lucky in the case of The Marine) enough to review so far, the audio tracks here are predictably free from interference, contain clear dialogue and powerful music, but it’s the little details that really impress. The volume adapts to the action on-screen, becoming louder during the torture sequences and dropping down to a subtler level for less tense scenes. During the scene where the American men are jogging by a river, ambient sounds of the river trickle through the surround speakers, which is just one example of the attention to detail that is evident in these high definition releases.
There are three commentaries available, all involving Eli Roth with different members of the cast and crew. The first track is his solo director’s commentary and I’m happy to report that he makes a point about why there are three commentaries and the fact that he doesn’t expect everyone to sit through all of them. I decided to take his advice and sample between twenty and thirty minutes of each depending on how interesting they were. He also goes into detail about the career changes that occur when your movie tops the box office chart and how much easier it is to cast the sequel to a successful movie.
In the second commentary Roth is joined by his brother Gabe and Quentin Tarantino. As expected, it’s a lively affair with plenty from the motor-mouthed Tarantino about the Giallo influences and homages in Hostel Part II and the detail they went into to develop the minutiae of the Hostel world. In the third track Roth is joined by Lauren German and Vera Jordanova for a discussion that focuses on the characters, the actors and the audition process. A radio interview with Eli Roth is also available, just in case you haven’t tired of listening to him after four and a half hours of commentary.
The four featurettes are a bit of a mixed bag, some of them over twenty minutes long and others clocking in at around five minutes. The behind the scenes featurette is the best of the bunch, showing the work that went into pre-production and for some reason following the crew to the gym. ‘The Legacy of Torture’ focuses on the social commentary aspect of the Hostel movies and tracks the history of torture and violence in art. The shorter featurettes touch on Greg Nicotero’s special effects company KNB and the production design.
There are ten deleted scenes that unfortunately don’t come with director's commentary, and it’s not possible to play them all at once but they are preceded with short notes from Eli Roth. They’re all relatively interesting, but come on Sony; do we really need credits and piracy warnings for every scene? Next up is a short set of outtakes that may as well not be there and the ‘Surveillance Cameras’ extra is an odd inclusion, allowing the viewer to act like the warehouse guards in the movie and spy on some torture in security-vision. Trailers for Spider-Man 3, Wind Chill and Vacancy round out the extras on this feature-packed disc.
While I can’t really recommend Hostel Part II as a great piece of horror entertainment or as biting social commentary, it’s nowhere near as bad as other critics might have you believe and it definitely has its moments. The movie looks and sounds good for the most part and there’s enough extra material to keep fans interested for a long time. If you’re already a fan then you should definitely pick this up but if not, give it a rent first and you might be surprised to find that it’s better than you were expecting.
* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Scott McKenzie
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 22nd October 2007
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: PCM 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 Czech, Dolby Digital 5.1 Hungarian, Dolby Digital 5.1 Polish
Subtitles: Arabic, Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, English, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Slovene, Swedish, Turkish
Extras: Director's Commentary, Producers' Commentary, Actors' Commentary, Behind the Scenes, The Art of KNB Effects, Set Design, Blooper Reel, The Legacy of Torture, Eli Roth Radio Interview, Deleted Scenes, Surveillance Cameras, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Eli Roth
Cast: Lauren German, Bijou Phillips, Vera Jordanova, Roger Bart, Jay Hernandez, Richard Burgi
Genre: Horror and Thriller
Length: 95 minutes