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Hostel Part II (2007)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 10/23/2007

All Ratings out of
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/22/2007

When I write about sequels, for some reason I become very philosophical and wordy. I find myself discussing the hows and whys of sequels and I delve into why specific sequels exist. That won't be the case with Hostel Part II. It's easy to see that the movie was made based on the success of the first film. It's also clear that this is one of those films that falls into the "sequel which is nearly a remake of the first film" category.

Following a prologue which features the Jay Hernandez character from the first film, Hostel Part II's story opens in Rome. There, we meet Beth (Lauren German), Whitney (Bijou Phillips), and Lorna (Heather Matarazzo), three young Americans. (Who are either art students or tourists...it's never made clear.) They strike up a conversation with art-model Axelle (Vera Jordanova), who tells them about the great spas and hot springs in Slovakia. The three girls decide that it sounds like fun and accept Axelle’s invitation to join her. They take a train to Slovakia, and Axelle leads them to a local hostel. (Yes, the hostel from the first film.) Axelle and the creepy hostel attendant pass a knowing glance, and soon Beth, Whitney, and Lorna find themselves being stalked.

Meanwhile, American businessmen Todd (Richard Burgi) and Stuart (Roger Bart) get information about the three girls and place bids on them. We then see them traveling to Slovakia. It becomes clear that they are going to be participating in the “pay to kill” operation.

When Hostel was released, there was a great deal of hype concerning the violence and brutality in the film. There’s no doubt that the movie is violent, but I actually found it to be a bit tame. Beyond the violence, there really wasn’t much to the movie, save for some interesting plot twists concerning the characters and the order in which the characters are attacked.

If nothing else, Hostel Part II is an improvement because there is a bit more depth to the story. The first film dealt with stereotypical horny guys who are lead to their demise due their desire to find loose European women. The sequel takes a more thoughtful approach with the idea that these young women simply want to relax and take a break from their studies...travel? One of the biggest issues in Hostel was that the “killers” were basically faceless individuals. Writer/director Eli Roth has wisely opened up the film and taken us into the world of the “hunting club”. Exploring (to an extent) who the killers are gives the audience something else onto which to latch.

I can’t say that Hostel Part II is more violent than the first film (I watched the unrated version of Hostel Part II and as of this writing, I haven’t viewed the unrated cut of Hostel yet.), but the death scenes do have more of an impact. Now, if you’ve come to this film only to see the gore, you A) may have issues and B) are going to be disappointed. There’s no doubt that Hostel Part II is more graphic than most movies, but only the death of one character, which is drawn out for several minutes, is truly effective. There is one other moment which is totally unexpected and shocking. The scene in the finale -- the one that most audience members will leave the film talking about -- is so over the top and cheesy that it will leave most viewers laughing.

So, on the surface, Hostel Part II appears to be a more accomplished work. But, a peak underneath reveals that the movie is basically a carbon-copy of the first movie with the genders and character personalities changed. The three girls certainly reflect the three guys from the first movie as far as their personalities, attitudes, and motivations are concerned. Roth simply changes around the order in which horrible things happen to them. With Todd and Stuart, the two killers, Roth has given us characters which seem original (when compared to Hostel), but closer examination reveals that their character traits fall into line with the kind of people that Roth likes to write and the kind of plot twists that he presents. Combine all of this with the film’s opening, which is an obvious nod to Friday the 13th, Part 2, Hostel Part II reveals itself to be incredibly unoriginal.

As a horror fan, I think it’s great that Eli Roth is a true cheerleader for the genre and that he’s not afraid to make brutal, violent movies. However, I don’t think that Roth is a very good filmmaker. Of the three films which he’s directed, Hostel Part II is definitely the best, and it’s still only a sub-par film. The movie is good for some cheap thrills, and Roth is good at writing characters who ring true, but he has a way to go to make a complete movie.

Hostel Part II pays good money to kill someone on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. Apparently, Roth has attempted to shoot this film using a John Carpenter-esque lighting style where one half of the frame will be very dark. This doesn’t look very good on this transfer. The contrast between light and dark is too great in some scenes. Thus, the dark half is too dark or the light half has a “blown out” look. The light parts also exhibit some grain, while the dark show some video noise. In contrast, the daytime scenes in Rome look fairly good and show bright, natural colors. So, some of the transfer looks good, but many scenes are very contrasty, which I found distracting. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track provides a nice amount of stereo and surround effects, most easily demonstrated by the street scenes in Rome and the festival scenes. There is a nice amount of surround sound in the torture rooms. Those scenes provide some intermittent subwoofer effects which boost the intensity of the moments.

The Hostel Part II DVD is laden with extras. The DVD has three AUDIO COMMENTARIES. The first features writer/director Eli Roth, executive producer Quentin Tarantino, and second-unit director Gabe Roth. Of the three commentaries, this is the most scene-specific, as the three comment on the production of the film, pointing out locations and how scenes were shot. Eli and Quentin also talk a lot about how the movie was influenced by European horror and thrillers. The second commentary features Roth on his own. He states that this track is for potential filmmakers and he talks about how his films are made and he comments on the state of the horror film industry. The last commentary has Roth with actors Lauren German, Vera Jordanova, and Richard Burgi. This one is scene-specific at times, but they also talk about how they got their roles and what it was like to make the movie.

Hostel Part II: The Next Level” (26 minute) is an on-set video of the film’s production, beginning with production meetings, going through location scouting, and finally focusing on the shooting of the film. Roth comments directly to the camera throughout. “The Art of KNB Effects” (6 minutes) features comment from the makeup FX artists and behind-the-scenes footage of the effects being done. “Production Design” (7 minutes) gives us a detailed look at the sets, concept art, and special costumes. We get an overview of violence in film and a the history of torture, complete with a visit to a torture museum, in “Hostel Part II: A Legacy of Torture” (23 minutes). The disc contains 10 DELETED SCENES with no play all selection! Each scene carries a text introduction from Roth, and they are all very brief, adding no new information or gore. “The Treatment” is a radio interview with Roth where he discusses his ideas for the movie and more. The final extra is the “Blood & Guts Gag Reel” (3 1/2 minutes).

Hostel Part II is also coming to Blu-ray Disc. The disc features a 1080p HD AVC transfer and the film is letterboxed at 2.35:1. This transfer smoothes out some of the rough edges seen on the DVD, as the brightness and the artifacting aren't as prevalent. Still, this transfer reveals the Hostel Part II to be a very dark film and the image suffers from this, as some scenes appear nearly totally black. On the positive side, the daytime exteriors in Rome reveal a sharp, clear picture which has a nice depth and satisfying colors. But, even these shots show some grain. The main audio track on the Blu-ray is an uncompressed Linear PCM 5.1 track. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. There are some nice details in the audio here, which reveal themselves in scenes such as the festival. But, despite being somewhat louder and clearer, the track isn't that much better than the Dolby 5.1 track on the DVD. Surround sound effects and some limited subwoofer are present here, but not enough to make one sit up and take notice. The extras on the Blu-ray mirror those of the DVD, save for "Surveillance Cameras", which allows one to look around the abattoir. Of the two mediums, the Blu-ray is superior to the DVD, but not by much.

Review Copyright 2007 by Mike Long