The Austin Chronicle

Hostel: Part II

Rated R, 93 min. Directed by Eli Roth. Starring Lauren German, Roger Bart, Heather Matarazzo, Bijou Phillips, Richard Burgi, Jay Hernandez.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., June 8, 2007

Director Roth has accomplished the near impossible with Hostel: Part II: He's crafted a vastly superior sequel to a film already considered something of a classic by genre aficionados, one that supersedes its predecessor's sadistic entertainment quotient by orders of magnitude while also upstaging its own outrageous gore effects with a script that's smart, vicious, and occasionally, gleefully subversive. Hostel: Part II will kick your ass, blow your mind, and then mount you with a rusty, barbed-wire strap-on, and to hell with the Astroglide. The first film followed a pair of randy American twentysomethings to Europe where, instead of finding the promised land of girls gone wild and copious copulation, they ended up lured into a series of very bad ends in the former Eastern bloc country of Slovakia. The original and this sequel are both cunningly updated riffs on The Most Dangerous Game, with wealthy, usually Western men of means blowing their Christmas bonuses on the chance to slaughter helpless tourists in the anonymous safety of some abandoned Bratislavan backwater. Hostel: Part II ups the ante in every department. Instead of libidinous American machismo running amok, Roth has cast a female trio: Philips, German, and Welcome to the Dollhouse's Matarazzo, whose character suffers a fate even worse than that of Dollhouse's Dawn Wiener. More important, the script gives equal time to the bad guys (Bart and Burgi). The banality of evil, and the lengths to which such white-bread power brokers go to shore up their flagging egos, is a terrifying conceit that makes perfect, creepy sense. It's an ambitious film, and, despite the over-the-top subject matter, it borders (very loosely) on the Hitchcockian in terms of incongruous yuks amidst all the ick. It's not for every taste, and it's unlikely the cultural arbiter the Rev. James Dobson and his Focus on the Family gang will want to focus on anything other than pillorying Roth for what I suspect they'll regard as his part in the downfall of "traditional" family values. (In all honesty, though, I'm hoping for a Fox News-televised "flay-off" between Dobson and Roth, à la Uwe Boll's money-where-your-teeth-used-to-be boxing challenge, the most inspired critical sucker punch of 2006. Just as long as they keep it fair and balanced and, um, flensy.) But, really, where else can you see the cameoing horror director Ruggero Deodato (Cannibal Holocaust) in such an – ahem – meaty role? Social commentary, gore galore, and a truly disturbing denouement: This is Roth's best nightmare yet. (See p.58 of this week's Screens section for an interview with Eli Roth, who was in Austin last week to present a sneak preview.)

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