Hostel II Hostel, by Ric Meyers
As author of For One Week Only: The World of Exploitation Films (as featured in People magazine and the National Enquirer [when the National Enquirer was the National Enquirer]) and the original head writer for Fangoria magazine, don’t get me wrong: I love horror films. Of course what I’m dealing with in this installment are not horror films, no matter how often the filmmakers and actors refer to them as such. Horror is fear of the unknown. These are terror flix, involving the fear of the known.
But I dabble in semantics, which is only fitting because semantics are crawling all over the ample special features on the DVDs for the two-disc Hostel: Director’s Cut, and the single disc Hostel Part II: Unrated Director’s Cut – both of which are dragging their tortured carcasses into stores October 23rd.
First things first. If you loved Hostel, the overkill (all puns intended) of the Director’s Cut edition will leave you writhing in bloody delight. To give you an idea just how much you need to love it, there are four, count ‘em, four, audio commentaries – every single one with director/producer/writer Eli Roth, each supplemented with different friends; from “Presenter” Quentin Tarantino to aintitcoolnews.com honcho Harry Knowles. Yes, they expect you to watch the movie four times as Roth brings in producers, executive producers, and others to tell you what they did and how much they liked it.
That’s only the beginning. There’s also an interesting three-part featurette detailing the entire production, from concept to après-premiere, as well as individual docs on the music and sound effects, set design, and special (gore) effects – all of which are most interesting. There’s also a radio interview with Roth and a “making of” International Television Special. But the most interesting extras for me was an interview with the brilliant Japanese goremeister Takeshi Miike (who does a cameo in the film and really knows how to do these kind of movies right), a short “how-to” with Icelandic crew member Eythor Gudjonsson eating a goat head, and an “all new” Director’s Cut” ending, which is truly more disturbing than the one they already had.
All in all, this Director’s Cut is a completist’s dream, with, thankfully, a minimum of repetition ‘tween docs. But the gobs of self-reverence on display makes me think a better description of the package would be The “Are We Not Men?” Edition, given that everybody plays close attention to all the careful work lavished on the production so they don’t necessarily have to deal with the film’s subject matter.
That tunnel vision gives way to elaborate rationalization in the sequel’s single disk, which boasts similar featurettes on the gore fx, production design, international TV special, making of, and radio interview. There’re only two audio commentaries here, both with Roth, but one with filmmakers (including Tarantino) and the other with actors backing him up. All share the enthusiasm of the director’s stated credo of “building on what we created” in the original and expecting that the response would be as “overwhelming” as the first.
These were probably filmed and recorded before the movie tanked in theaters – which, naturally, shouldn’t have been surprising to anyone, given that the first film involved the stalking, abduction, and torture of men, while the sequel deals with the psychology of the killers, the structure of the company which sponsors the torture, and the slaughter of women. It is one thing to share your delight of hedonistic men getting disfigured with an audience. It’s entirely something else to do the same when young women are the targets.
Roth seems to know this, so the disc comes armed with the slightly unseemly Hostel Part II: A Legacy of Torture documentary, in which the eager director has his mother and doctor father defend his film, using history and fine art (Picasso and Goya, among others) as examples of “torture as art.” Roth himself trots out the film’s supposed real-life inspirations, including the Iraq war, natch, then yields the floor to an expert in historical torture, as if to say: “See? Nothing in this film is nearly as bad as medieval racks and the like.” It’s a shame, in a way, that he simply didn’t borrow Woody Allen’s line from What’s Up Tiger Lily – “There’s always guys around when there’s a woman to tie up” – and leave it at that. Instead he succumbs to the urge to defend and rationalize the seeming universal desire to have power over others . So there’s lots of Escher logic (falling in on top and wrapping around itself), both in the extras and the film itself.
The problem with the second film is not that the victims are attractive girls, but Roth has chosen to “build on” the first by concentrating on the villains. In the original film, there was some suspense and conflict as the hero battled for his life. In the sequel, Roth unfortunately uses the Friday the 13th Part 2 gambit (beheading the previous film’s survivor within minutes) – signaling that all that effort was for naught, and dooming his sequel to be a series of well-made scenes which only end in a sense of pointless misdirection.
The first was a strong, involving, interesting, even witty, gore film, like Scream. The second is the king of the torture porn flicks, like such circle jerks as Wolf Creek. It’s not the gore that’s really ever a problem, it’s the gore’s context. For great examples, check out such Japanese classics as Battle Royale and Takeshi Miike’s Ichi the Killer. They are far nastier, but much greater than Hostel Part II. View, analyze, compare, discuss. But don’t fret for Eli. I’m fairly certain that Hostel Part II will be muy successful on DVD in the privacy of viewer’s homes. After all, there’s always guys around when there’s a woman to tie up.
Ric Meyers is the author of Murder On The Air, Doomstar, The Great Science-Fiction Films, Murder in Halruua, For One Week Only: The World of Exploitation Films, Fear Itself, and numerous other books and has (and sometimes still is) on the editorial staff of such publications as Famous Monsters of Filmland, Starlog, Fangoria, Inside Kung-Fu, The Armchair Detective and Asian Cult Cinema. He’s also a television and motion picture consultant whose credits include The Twilight Zone, Columbo, A&E’s Biography and The Incredibly Strange Film Show.