Hostel: Horny goofs/college students (same difference) Paxton (Jay Hernandez) and Josh (Derek Richardson) are trekking Europe with their Icelandic pal Óli (Eythor Gudjonsson) letting their dicks lead them to as much sex as humanly possible. Their exploits take them to Slovakia where they stay at an opulent hostel (itself one hell of a movie time fantasy if my experiences are to be trusted…and they are creeps, they are…) sharing a room with the gorgeous Natalya (Barbara Nedeljakova) and Svetlana (Jana Kaderabkova). As expected sex is had…but shit goes south six ways to Sunday when our protagonists find themselves at the mercy of the hostel’s true purpose; a place where unsuspecting travelers are lead to their doom as victims of an elite club of wealthy patrons who get to enact their deepest torture fantasies on live, unwilling victims! Will anyone make it out with their lives and bodies intact?
One of the forerunners of the now rather cliche torture porn genre, Hostel seemed fresh as a daisy when it splashed gallons of blood (and other fluids) across movie screens in 2005. The film as seen today is still a solid if uneven fright flick watch. The beginning portion of the film is loaded with dude-bro shenanigans as our hapless horny heroes shag their way around Europe (think of it as a sort of Animal House mentality with a first act of An American Werewolf in London aesthetic). This goes on for quite a while making for a slow, if naked flesh laden, first act.
Things definitely pick up once the ghoulish gore makes the scene as the torture and bloodshed reach ever higher proportions, so too does the tension, as against all odds, we sort of come to care about our sex crazed lead characters…and even if we didn’t the level of pain inflicted on them is outrageously brutal (with absolutely excellent top-notch practical gore effects by the legendary KNB EFX Group) and is enough to make most folks cringe!
At the end of the day, Hostel sets out to titillate then nauseate…and to that end it’s incredibly successful (especially on the latter category)…and whether you dig on what it lays down or not, it deserves it’s place in horror history.
Moving on to the second feature on this release:
Hostel Part II: Three American art students; Beth (Lauren German), Lorna (Heather Matarazzo), and Whitney (Bijou Phillips) by name, take up an invitation by their nude model (and apparently travel agent) Axelle (Vera Jordanova) to join her on a journey to a spa in sinister Slovakia. The gaggle o’ gals check into a hostel, where their passports are secretly uploaded to a website where freaky folks can bid on them as victims for their murder biz vacays…and the winner is American businessman Todd (Richard Burgi) who sets off for Slovakia with his pal Stuart (Roger Bart) in tow.
After taking in some local color, Lorna is kidnapped and forced to partake in some fucked up Elizabeth Báthory bloodbath shit where she provides the blood (a truly great sequence that visually beats anything in the first film…pure Grand-Guignol “beauty from death” artistry). Before long the rest of our protagonists find themselves in dire straights, and once again the fight to keep your body intact is in full effect…but who is the bigger threat; Todd or Stuart?
Narrative-wise, Hostel Part II has it all over it’s predecessor. Instead of the dude-bro escapades that ate up the first act of Hostel, here we get a group of female characters that are far more likable than their male counterparts were at the start of their respective adventure…and have a bit more going on than simply questing for the next piece of ass.
Along with that we get to explore the head-space of those that participate in the murder biz at hand…which sets up a fascinating bit of dichotomy absent from the first film (minus one exchange late in the third act), and actually serves as a nice bit of expanded world building making it evident that Writer/Director Eli Roth grew as a filmmaker and storyteller in the two years between these features, especially since it takes even longer this go-around to get to the gory goods, yet things never seem drag before we get there.
As with the last feature, the grizzly gore is again top-notch, and once again provided by KNB EFX Group…but as mentioned above, this is a classier presentation for the red sauce at hand. Along with the downright painterly “Bathory” sequence mentioned above, we also get a nice Francis Bacon by way of Silence of the Lambs affair before things dovetail in a deliciously low-brow I Spit on Your Grave segment of genital mutilation before ending on a pure Looney Tunes moment that truly satisfies!
I can’t stress enough how much more nuanced Hostel Part II is than it’s predecessor…it’s a stronger narrative, with better characterization, and stronger gore sequences…a rare example of a sequel being better than the original!