Sequels are always worse than the originals, right? WRONG! I shall defend one of my favorite sequels.
Remember when you were terrified to go see Hostel? They really talked that movie up; I simply didn't believe I was going to make it trough the whole film. So, I dragged my husband along to the opening night because I didn't think I could go it alone. We must have been thirty minutes into the movie when the group of college boys behind us actually started complaining about too much nudity and no gore. Eli Roth was still only known for Cabin Fever, but the "produced by Quentin Tarantino" combined with Roth's horror director ingenue status really had everyone in this theatre ready for some seriously disturbing stuff. Boobies, boobies, bad acting, boobies, really bad acting, more boobies and then FINALLY! power drill to the leg and scalpel to the Achilles' tendon. So, while it wasn't the traumatizing experience I had been promised, it had officially ushered in the much maligned and controversial "torture porn" era of horror. Roth, specifically, does not like this description, nor does he like being held accountable for it; that is a whole other topic, though, isn't it?
So, like any horror movie, good, bad or terrible, the inevitable sequel came: Hostel; Part 2. The fact that they couldn't even come up with some clever/obnoxious title didn't bode well. Suffice to say, this time I went to the theatre alone. When the gentleman taking tickets saw mine, he said "good luck." I asked if it was scary; he told me that he was still recovering from watching it. Yay! Things were looking good for this sequel. Starting off where the first film left off, Hostel; Part 2 comes right out of the gate with suspense and gore. This time out, it is a group of women on vacation in Europe. Utilizing a pretty great homage to Night Train Murders, our group of American girls is expertly set up to arrive at THE hostel. (Note to self: as an American woman, I will NEVER travel on train through Europe without a bodyguard. Seriously, horror movies have really driven this point home.) The montage of people bidding on these american girls is hilarious. Well to do, normal looking people are bidding thousands and thousands of dollars to win these american girls the same way someone tries to win a Star Wars collectible on ebay.
Enter Todd (Richard Burgi) and Stuart (Roger Bart); these two friends have come to torture and kill American women. Todd is really excited and pumped up about this, but Stuart is looking a little bit apprehensive. Our dream team of women, Beth (Lauren German), Whitney (Bijou Phillips) and Lorna (Heather Matarazzo) are your usual suspects; a sweet one, a sexy one and a smart and tough one. Well, we all know which one will be the final girl. German is a fantastic final girl; her wit and strength are completely believable and her ultimate revenge is both gory and satisfying. I am aware that this a non-feminist thing to say, but I find the blood bath scene to be really beautiful. It is uncomfortable, unflinching and over the top, but in a great way. In fact, I happen to be in the small group of women who believe Eli Roth is a secret feminist. Or, maybe not secret, so much as extremely subtle about it. Women in Eli Roth movies are not, up to this point in his career, subjected to rape and any man who is dumb enough to believe that violence against women will satisfy a sick need within himself is always served his comeuppance by a woman. Most men in Roth's films are arrogant, misogynistic, ignorant, disgusting excuses for a human being. It is almost as though he has the traditional gender roles in horror reversed. For the most part, when someone dies in an Eli Roth film, they really had it coming. Watching the stories of Todd and Stuart play out is very interesting. You think you know what is going to happen and then things take a bit of a turn. Although Stuart's "change of heart" is generic and too easy, it's certainly easy to buy and, ultimately, it is his male ego that allows Beth to turn the tables. Very Eli Roth.
Hostel: Part 2 is one of those awesome and rare instances when a sequel is better than it's predecessor. The set up is better, the story is more involved, the characters have more depth, the gore and F/X are tremendous and the humor adds, rather than subtracts, from the overall tone. So, while it may be in that unfortunately titled category of "torture porn", it's more than that. No, it doesn't have a message (unless reminding men not to call women c*nts counts), and it certainly isn't going to increase your I.Q.,but it is fun. Horror should be thought provoking, disturbing and, somehow, some way, fun. Hostel:Part 2 manages to accomplish all of that AND end on a humorous, slasher-rific, female power note.
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