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Yeah, been there, chopped up that

Do we really need to see more young people tortured and butchered? `Hostel II' perpetrator Eli Roth must think so.

June 08, 2007|Gene Seymour | Newsday

To say that "Hostel: Part II," as with its predecessor, isn't everybody's flagon of grog is understating matters in the extreme. Those who would rather eat day-old garbage than watch even the most obnoxious of our nation's youth senselessly and elaborately butchered may as well stop reading here and go on with their lives. Those with stronger constitutions and more open minds may already know that this isn't just any bloody horror show.

The first "Hostel," which slithered its way into the zeitgeist of horror cinema early last year, injected satire on Bush-era American pleasure principles into its savage story line of young American backpackers lured into libidinous indulgences only to be tortured, maimed and killed by wealthy sickos.

The easiest thing for writer-director Eli Roth to do after making such a big splash would have been to serve up bigger helpings of raw entrails and shattered bones. He does. But he also does something more cunning -- and more distressing. He widens his view to take in not just the slaughter, but the motives behind it; to poke at the monstrous impulses asleep within so-called rational minds.

So after "Hostel II" ties up loose ends from the previous installment, it quickly moves on to the next set of prospective victims: Beth (Lauren German), a self-possessed rich girl; Whitney (Bijou Phillips), a tawny smart-aleck; and Lorna (Heather Matarazzo from "Welcome to the Dollhouse"), a nerdy romantic. They're all enticed to leave their Roman holiday by a statuesque model (Vera Jordanova) who says there's this neat little town outside Prague that's just so much fun, you'll never leave. Um, yeah.

Roth's also tending a story line about their potential murderers: Todd (Richard Burgi from "Desperate Housewives"), a swaggering Type-A drip who persuades his drippier friend Stuart (Roger Bart) to come along for recreational slaughter. Todd thinks such a vacation can only help hone their edges in the corporate world. Stuart isn't so sure, especially when the game requires getting tattooed. He hates needles.

One could say that, through this concurrent narrative, Roth is forcing gore hounds to examine their motives for getting off on such grisly exhibition. But "Hostel II" is far too shrewd and savagely witty to be caught engaging in higher seriousness. Roth could probably go even further with this particular franchise if he wanted to.

Yet somehow, I think he's meant for grander, subtler and more intricate distractions than this.

"Hostel Part II." MPAA rating: R for sadistic scenes of torture and bloody violence, terror, nudity, sexual content, language and some drug content. Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes. In general release.

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