Hostel Part 2

Don't you know that it's different for girls?
Eli Roth
Lauren German, Roger Bart, Heather Matarazzo, Bijou Phillips, Richard Burgi, Vera Jordana
The Setup: 
Same deal as the first, now with women instead of men, and more behind-the-scenes look at the hostel's workings.

I was quite reluctant to watch the original Hostel, having believed all the hype about unpleasant "torture porn," but was pleasantly surprised to find that not only was it very careful and discreet with its gore, but it was packed with intriguing moral complications that it found numerous clever ways to explore. So obviously I was interested in this sequel, which was supposed to be not that bad, and in which writer/director Eli Roth was said to have put in a great deal of effort to make worthwhile and not just more of the same. However, most of the people I know and trust said it's just not as good as the original, and those are the people that turned lout to be right.

During the credits we see a guy going through possessions of people we know are victims of the murder business they have, with him preparing weapons, going through IDs and burning photos. You'll see that the whole movie is based on your being familiar with the first film. Then we join the survivor from the first film as he escapes on the train, then makes a complaint, but soon sees that the police are people from the hostel. Later he is in bed with some new blonde babe (apparently they just grow on trees... ? And he's all traumatized and in severe paranoia yet he can relax enough to pick up some babe and screw her?). She reveals herself as being extremely sensitive and understanding when she says "You're going crazy... And I cant sleep." But it's not too long before the bad guys have found him and suffice to say he won't be telling any tales. I personally didn't need this part, and really didn't need to know what happened to the guy from the first at all.

Anyway, we soon join these three women who are traveling together, taking a drawing class in Italy. They are brunette Beth, who we find out is an heiress, blonde Whitney, and Heather Matarazzo as Lorna. I don't know what the story is or why Beth and Whitney are with Lorna when they obviously don't like her and want to get rid of her, but probably I just missed the explanation. They end up meeting the woman from the first film, who I believe is named Axelle. After a bunch of bullshit on a train having to do with things getting stolen and suchlike, they come to travel with Axelle. She suggests they go to this awesome spa in Slovokia. They check in to the hostel from the first film and once their passports are scanned their pictures go out on the Internet and an auction begins--this time we see the various people bidding to kill them. It's perverse, but it doesn't really add much. One guy is a handsome go-getter yuppie and he dances on the golf course when he wins the chance to kill Whitney. This is Todd, and he has a friend in Stuart, who is apparently much more reluctant to engage in the whole thing.

Meanwhile our trio goes to this outdoor carnival, where some guy asks Beth to dance, but she refuses because he has gross teeth, and he says "I could have helped you." I think were supposed to be reflecting on how he could have saved her, but she refused because he's ugly, which we are meant to tsk-tsk at. Oh dear, superficiality! Only interested in men for their looks! Although dude from the first movie is schtupping a smokin-hot model, despite his tortured mental state. Don't you know that it's different for girls? Anyway, Beth tells Lorna not to get in a boat with this guy who is supposedly into her, but she does anyway (she's unattractive and therefore desperate, you see), and gets kidnapped.

As you know from the first film, we're now going to divert and watch Lorna get killed in order to spread out the killings. She is hung up nude over a big tub, and a woman comes in, slits her throat, and lets her blood run all over her. This is probably a reference to this real historical woman who would bathe in the blood of virgins because she believed it would keep her beautiful. There was recently a movie made about her. I would lay money that its a reference, but it isn't identified as such, which means we can't conclude the following inferences, but I have sneaking suspicions, given the rest of the movie. One is that OF COURSE Lorna is a virgin because, hello, she's like, UGLY. I mean, WHO would sleep with her? [Although women who reject men for having bad teeth are superficial heartless twits who deserve what's coming to them.] The second inference, from the old legend, is that the woman in the tub is bathing in blood in order to stay young and beautiful because, hi, what else do women want?

Meanwhile, Beth and Whitney have gone on to this spa, and show only the slightest concern that they haven't heard from Lorna. Beth falls asleep briefly at the spa, and wakes to find herself the only one there. Soon she sees a bunch of menacing men coming at her. Luckily they are quite identifiable because in this movie, bad guys really DO wear black leather jackets. She runs this way and that (it's a bit unrealistic that she knows so quickly that she is in mortal danger) and finally escapes to the road, where she runs into--the guy with the bad teeth! He says once again that he tried to help her but she refused. Eventually she is "rescued" by Axelle and taken to the big house of the hostel owner. One really good menacing touch is that he has a massive portrait of her hanging in his staircase. They dress Beth a certain way that will make sense later, and she once again realizes that they're coming for her. This time, they get her.

Todd and Stuart get paged that their victim is ready, and there's a touch meant to elicit laughs in the audience in which Todd is getting a blow job from some prostitute, and THROWS her off him like so much garbage to reach for his pager. It's moments like that where you see where this movie is coming from. They are shown to their rooms, where Todd meets Whitney, now dressed in "sexy" stockings and bustier. By the way, there has been a significant moment earlier where Todd has told the reluctant Stuart that once they have killed someone, everyone in their daily lives--like on the golf course, for instance--will be able to tell that there is something badass about them. Anyway, Todd is holding a power saw, and there's a swipe from Body Double as he's just about to get her when the power cord reaches its limit and is pulled out of the socket. He gets it working again and slips, accidentally taking a chunk out of her face! He then realizes the horror of what he's doing (not to mention that he can't have his fantasy if her face is all fucked up) and he gets out of the room, saying he's done. Well, you can't get out until you kill someone, and I don't think anyone is going to envy him on the golf course now.

Meanwhile, Stuart is in a room with Beth. She met him previously and talks to him, trying to get him to personalize her, and for a while it seems as though he's going to try to help her. But then he produces a photo of his wife who left him, and she looks exactly like Beth. He then does a total 180 from his character thus far and turns into this evil woman-hating bastard. The idea is that what we thought about these two guys was all wrong, and they end up reversing in surprising ways. It works for Todd, whose idea of killing someone was obviously based on a fantasy he hadn't thought through deeply, but not for Stuart, who is making a totally character-reversing change. You get what the movie is TRYING to say, only it rings false.

So Beth is able to reverse the situation and gets Stuart tied up in the chair, bolt cutter around his cock. She says that she'll buy her way out--she's an heiress, remember--but they tell her she has to kill someone to escape. Stuart is remarkably hostile for someone with a bolt cutter to his jewels. She chops them off and throws them to the dogs. It's another sign of where this movie is coming from that Stuart is shown to have a remarkably large cock.

So Beth gets out and we return to the outdoor fair where victims are snatched. Axelle is there, and wanders into the woods, where she meets Beth, who promptly axes off her head. Then, for a last little kick, we see the evil kids (from the first movie, who have made several appearances that I have skipped over) play soccer with Axelle's head. I guess this is supposed to make us contemplate what a harsh world we're in, where alliances turn on a dime. And it of course leaves the main bad guys alive in case we want to have another sequel.

Hmmm, just plain not as interesting. The first movie portrayed its protagonists as total selfish ignorant tourist assholes, making the audience hate them (and brought up interesting questions of how the audience is LIKE them), so when you see them caught and killed one morbidly cheered the killers on, as the victims were so obnoxious. Then the movie found all sorts of interesting ways to keep twisting the moral complications, like having one of the victims meet one of the killers and see how excited he is to kill someone.
Switching guys with women, while arguably admirable for not just repeating the same thing, just doesn't pay off. For one, the guys from the first movie were in Amsterdam to do drugs and have sex, setting them up for punishment. Here, the women are... Taking art classes? THAT'S their crime? And sure, maybe they're a little snide to Lorna, but is that it? Ultimately these women are no worse or irresponsible than anyone else, and are basically decent-enough people, so that charge of wanting to see something bad happen to them because they kind of deserve it is gone, and we're just watching something really bad happen to innocent people, which is harder to get into, and starts to make you feel a little sick for wanting to watch.

The movie's attempt to generate moral complication by letting us get to know the two male killers and their thoughts on the matter just doesn't really go anywhere. Then when we get to the reversal of their situations, it's okay (but still not that interesting) in Todd's case, but a character-denying reversal in Stuart's, which also throws the movie off.

There's also the matter of the movie's attitude toward women in general, which perverts the way we the audience can watch the movie. Touches like having Lorna go off with some guy when she's explicitly told that it's dangerous (but she's ugly, so of course she's going to put herself in danger for a little male attention), the idea that she's a virgin (and a socially-stunted nerd) just because she's unattractive, make the movie a bit ugly and make it hard to watch her being killed. Additional touches like having Todd throw the prostitute who is already SERVING him off like trash (and the expectation we in the audience will find that just AWESOME), and having another character wishing to vicariously murder his wife who dared to leave him get across the idea that women are of value insomuch as they make themselves pretty and please men. Not so new, to be sure, but it changes the tone of the movie from the distanced moral quandaries of the first to pure sadism. The movie is simply inviting you to get off on watching these women get killed, which they don't "deserve" for any reason--aside from being inherently disposable women. Frankly, I think women in general might be better off without Eli Roth trying to portray their point of view.

Ultimately, totally skippable. It's too bad, the first was genius. Stay with that one, and I wouldn't even bother with this one.

Should you watch it: