Rarely has a horror film been deemed the best movie or the worst movie in a director’s emerging career–yet this is what we have here. It isn’t just a simple case of loving or hating it either. The responses literally are “Wow! This is really good and underappreciated” or “This is one of the worst horror films I have ever seen!” For me, I fall into the first crowd. I think “Hostel: Part II” is pretty special.
I didn’t think I would ever say that. Until I saw this film, I really didn’t think much of Eli Roth as a filmmaker. In my humble opinion, I thought both “Cabin Fever” and “Hostel: Part 1” were amateurish (at best)–juvenile exercises in sleaze and bad storytelling.
Don’t get me wrong. I adore his commentaries on the dvds; especially the one he recorded for Troma’s release of “Bloodsucking Freaks.” I mean, anyone who can compare shots from that film to Oliver Stone’s “Nixon” has a special place in my heart. And I know he is very popular. I remember being at a Fangoria Weekend of Horrors a number of years ago, just before “Cabin Fever” got released, and any time his name was mentioned, Danielle Harris (who was sitting next to me) would just hoot and holler for him.
Since then he has really taken his acting career up a notch, most notably in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds,” as Sgt. Donny Donowitz (aka “The Bear Jew”). Originally created for Adam Sander, Roth came into that film blazing and I think he did a very commendable job.
In between that time though, he wrote and directed “Hostel: Part II.” Now, sequels to successful films are always easy to green light. After all, the title is known and the audience knows what to expect. Sometimes filmmakers use this to their advantage. Others just regurgitate what came before. With this film, Eli Roth was charged by many in the press as just remaking the first film with women and (to tell you the truth) at first glance, they’re not wrong.
However, for my money, “Hostel: Part II” is a much better film in all aspects. For one thing, Roth finally nailed down the tone of his films. In all of his previous projects, the films would move wildly from simply trying too hard to be gross and disgusting to pedestrian frat boy humor–and the tone changes were, to say the least, (put the brakes on) jarring. Here, the shifts are more easily paved.
What else is good about this film? Well, for one thing the characters are better grounded. There actually is a sense of mystery and romance when the girls first arrive. He deals more with the internal struggles of the men who are gearing up to kill these young women–and I find that fascinating.
Some people liked the first film, in which we discovered very little about this operation. Me? This is honestly the film I wanted the first one to be. If a filmmaker is going to introduce something as elaborate as Elite Hunting, I want to know (top to bottom) how it works. With this film, Eli Roth gives it to us. Boy does he. The way in which one character uses the rules to get the upper hand in one scene: priceless.
I also felt the violence in this film was much more controlled and epic, if that is conceivable. In the same film, there is a glorious nod to Elizabeth Bathory as well as a sick joke using Ruggero Deodato, the director of “Cannibal Holocaust.” And it all works.
Also, the way the film ends with one of the most brutally violent comedic jokes in cinema history just makes me think, “Wow.” It certainly takes guts and talent to go there and actually pull it off. With this film, everything just comes together beautifully–showing that the filmmaker has definitely come into his own.
If “Hostel: Part II″ has one drawback, it’s in the opening segment as it clumsily concludes the events of the first picture. We really don’t need the “Friday the 13th: Part 2″ shock opening, especially when it’s handled this strangely.
However, in the month following the film’s premiere, Eli Roth unleashed upon the press (via news outlets and MySpace) after it came out and underperformed. He stated that illegal downloading was responsible and that his film was now being critiqued by the masses from an earlier version. And with the exception of the brilliant trailer he made for “Grindhouse,” he has unfortunately not written or directed a single film since.
I really hope he is able to come back, refreshed from all the positive reviews of his acting performances, and once again, make a great horror film.
A horror film that he himself has always dreamed of making, ever since he was a little kid growing up in Massachusetts. One that would be so tense, so scary, and so gross that the eight year old in him would again throw up.
In the meantime, don’t miss Eli Roth’s “Hostel: Part II.” Whether you like it or hate it, the film is one of a kind.