Harry books a room in Eli Roth's HOSTEL: PART 2, it seems like a nice place to stay!
Sunday night, at midnight, I was joined by 225 other horror geeks in a packed full to the brim Alamo Drafthouse that absolutely had their collective salad tossed by HOSTEL: PART 2. Eli received a standing ovation from the audience – and that is not typical at an Austin screening with a filmmaker in attendance.
Now, let’s talk about HOSTEL: PART 2.
I hadn’t read the script to this one, never visited the set, didn’t have a cameo – and didn’t really chat much with Eli during the production. I do know that when he announced he was making a HOSTEL: PART 2 – I was disappointed. I didn’t want to see Eli fall into a formulaic tired retreading of what I thought was a fantastic stand alone movie.
I’ve enjoyed the trailers for the film, but they never really grabbed me, and I think the two female posters and the “meat” posters have been absolutely fantastic. The final poster, not so much.
That said, I was hoping for the best last night. The word on HOSTEL: PART 2 has been very hard to judge, since there seems to be so many people that hate Eli personally, and can’t seem to differentiate between their own personal agenda and his film work. Of course, that’s what they would say about me. But I know my heart and it, by no means, colored my experience Sunday night. I fucking loved HOSTEL: PART 2.
The chief criticism of the first film was that it was an ugly film with no characters to care about. Ugly Americans getting their just deserves, that ultimately you didn’t give a shit about. That the film was an exercise in brutality.
I agree that the 3 main characters in that film were not the type of guys I like, but that was kind of the point. There are ugly Americans that go to foreign countries to treat the women as whores, could give two shakes about the “culture” of where they are – and that would go anywhere that they thought pussy would be cheap, willing or free. Again, not a pretty thing, but I felt it was a brave choice to have characters that were unsympathetic in a situation that… well nobody should ever be put in. That said, I can totally see how it would piss some of you off and make that film feel heartless and ugly.
In Massawyrm’s review, he seems to fire off that there’s little new here, even though he enjoyed the fuck out of the film. I’m going to take him to task on that. This film is completely different in the fact that the three girls in the situation, I felt protective of, invested in, and had private movie crushes on all three.
Lauren German plays Beth, an American heiress that is in Europe to superficially learn more about art. In reality, her character is trying to get away from her own wealth, to find someone to connect with out of shared experience, not for what she can do for them. She’s a sweet, reserved girl. She’s cautious of being hurt emotionally or physically. She has her guard up, even as she’s trying to relax. She’s a good friend.
Bijou Phillips plays Whitney, American, but the sort of girl that enjoys to get wasted, that then allows the intoxication to serve as her excuse to hook up with whatever boy would take advantage. She’s carefree and a free spirit. She’s young and beautiful and wants to experience and feel as much as she can. She’s headed towards being a lost girl, but Beth looks out for her. Pulls her out of oblivion and they care for each other.
Then there’s Heather Matarazzo as Lorna. Now, if you know Heather from her roles in things like THE PRINCESS DIARIES and SAVED! – you know her character. She’s the mousey girl that misses home, doesn’t feel pretty, she’s a little weird in a “spiritual” way. Doesn’t want to drink or do drugs. She’s a good little girl that nothing good ever happens to. What I love about this character is she’s the character that we see begin to really love. I know I’ve had a friend like Lorna. Back in High School, my best friend was the male version of this character. Slightly funny looking. Very uncomfortable in a social setting. And I remember those tiny triumphs… that party where a girl actually did ask him to dance. When he did stand up for himself. Like Lorna, he was the first friend I lost to death. It was traumatic. Especially when you realize how he never lived to experience so much in life.
There’s nothing ugly about these characters. They’re not here to exploit the peoples and the country. They’re there for the natural spa. They could afford to stay in the swankiest hotel in the village, but choose to stay at the Hostel on the hope of connecting with people their age. If the first film was a drunken story of excess gone wrong, this is a Grimm’s Fairy Tale about princesses and peril.
This is a far more seductive descent. This isn’t about debauchery. The victim side of the story is… well understandable. There’s not big warning signs. They’re simply taken, taken in the way that people seemingly go missing all the time. Whether it is a story that gets press like Natalee Holloway, who went missing in Aruba and has never been found or those that go missing that we don’t see reported on CNN.
This film has a feeling of real horror. Of being in comfort and relaxation, then plucked from existence to some unmentionable torment in the hands of a sicko.
There are critics out there, that don’t deserve mention, that have decided that Eli’s film is a deprived act that has officially pushed our society to the edge of oblivion… and to that, I have to say… GROW THE FUCK UP!
There is nothing crossing the line here that you can’t point to something that an aficionado of horror couldn’t reference. Or that a student of history can’t point to.
Take the magnificent death of Heather Matarazzo’s Lorna. Go watch Hammer’s COUNTESS DRACULA (1971). Bathing in the blood of virgins has been a European Horror staple since the history of Countess Elizabeth Bathory murdered some 600 women and girls in the 1600’s out of the belief that virgin blood would preserve her youth. Oh, but Eli didn’t know that. He was just playing to his depraved mind, right? Hmmm, let’s see what the name of the character being bathed in the blood of Heather Matarazzo was… Mrs. Bathory. Hmmm, that’s probably just a coincidence. Now, let’s take a look at the scene. It’s wonderfully staged, bloodily erotic and sensual in the best Hammer tradition…. Which yes, did show Ingrid Pitt naked in the blood of virgins being bled. Of course that film was rated PG in 1971, but was rated as 18 and up in the UK, GERMANY, AUSTRALIA and so forth. My how we’ve become priggy. However, Monika Malacova, who plays Mrs. Bathory in full blessed nudity is a goddess. Just stunning and I dare say, a worthy successor to the bath of blood from Ingrid Pitt.
As for the castration that takes place? Well, in my audience – women were actually cheering and applauding – as the men in the theater were groaning and screaming and hunched over sympathetically cradling their own groins. Maybe these critics are just too attached to their own cocks – and that’s the line that Eli has crossed. Well, the Italian Cannibal in the film is Ruggero Deodato, director of the infamous CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST back in 1980, and director of possibly, still the most graphic castration. So that’s a nod to history, but we’ve seen it before in films like GRINDHOUSE, SIN CITY, LITTLE CHILDREN, THE HOLY MOUNTAIN, QUILLS, HARD CANDY, FARINELLI – well – IMDB actually lists 134 films as having castration in place. That said, I dare say – it has never been used as the DEATH STAR blowing up or JAWS blowing up – in terms of causing so jubilant a crowd reaction. After the film, as Eli was signing autographs – he asked one grey haired lady… “What was your favorite kill?” – I could tell Eli was amused to see a grey haired lady getting an autograph poster from him, and she responded, “Ooooh, the COCK SCENE!” with a gleeful smile. I lost it.
Or perhaps people are getting upset over the death of the child. An act that has been committed 431 times in cinema history according to IMDB. And – far more graphically – as in this film, it’s off camera.
Maybe it’s the soccer scene? Well, I’ve seen heads sported with in films like THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING, RAMBO III and that’s just quickly off the top of my head. Personally, my fave removed head is in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS in the jar… but I don’t know… what’s yours?
The point of all of this is… the violence isn’t remarkably grotesque. Is it tough? Absolutely. Is there some tongue and cheek to it? Absolutely, Paul Bartel would be pleased.
I’m genuinely shocked by how so many seem to be so bent out of shape over acts of violence that are frankly… kinda common place in the history of film. That these acts actually are felt in the movie is to be commended. This isn’t like the SAW films, where you couldn’t give a shit about the characters – and the entire film is about the torture of inevitable self-mutilation… which I feel is far worse than the violence here.
I don’t come to movies like HOSTEL: PART TWO for the gore. I love KNB’s effects work, but I’m not in the audience getting my rocks off to the violence. I see these films, to see how someone ESCAPES. For me, it’s about the survivor. Like in ALIEN… it isn’t the chest bursting and face eating… it’s about Sigourney Weaver escaping. In the EXORCIST – it isn’t about crucifix masturbation, but about a little girl being plucked from the clutches of Satan. In HALLOWEEN, it isn’t about those killed, it’s about Laurie Strode, the one that got away.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m alone that way, but I love to see characters put in impossible situations that they can escape from. And in this film… the bad guys have really stepped up their game in terms of preventing escape. It’s officially impossible. So how does she do it? What happens? THAT’s what I wanted to find out. That’s the reason to watch the film. To share that feeling of elation over the tension evaporating. To feel an entire audience relax on cue. To here the shock, the muffled scream of surprise and the cheers when something right happens.
This HOSTEL is actually not at all about THE HOSTEL. We’re there for perhaps 4 minutes of the movie. Rather – it’s about girls in a beautify city – being stalked by rich and powerful men. But it’s about the survivor. That’s what all Horror films are about.
Horror films are SURVIVOR STORIES. The family in POLTERGEIST, Marilyn Burns in TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, Kurt Russell and Keith David in THE THING… You know the story. You know how it goes. We watch because it’s a haunted house carnival ride… and we will always survive.
If none of that makes any sense to you, then perhaps horror isn’t your genre. But for me, it’s one of my favorites – and Eli Roth is quickly emerging as one of the best working in the genre. His films have continually gotten better. His talent has been growing.
This is his best film to date.