When it comes to the horror outpourings of what has come to be known as the "Splat Pack", Eli Roth takes his splatter very, very seriously. And he’s got the formula pretty much nailed down: teens, gore, a few breasts, more gore and a smidgen of introspective musings on just what vicious bastards we really are underneath. However Hostel: Part II, Roth’s own anti-Slovakian advertisement, meddles with this formula in some quite surprising ways.
The hostel, where unsuspecting nubile American teens are lured to become playthings for rich and violent, torture-tourists is still there. Three American guys have been swapped for three American gals (German, Matarazzo and Philips). The stage is set, the actors placed, now let’s look at the other props.
Gore: Surprisingly the gore factor is much lower this time around. Or maybe it’s just not very good. It’s hard to tell because some of the shock scenes are genuinely crumby, including an Elizabeth Ballory homage that seems really out of place. However, the big hands-to-face moment is left right to the end, which actually works quite nicely — in as much as brutal torture can ever be "nice".
Breasts: Not so many, thankfully, despite the mainly female cast. Roth is obviously growing up in this respect. But that does not mean that the ladies fair any better in the character department either. They are largely horribly clichéd and unlikeable. So, much like the characters in the first movie then! Certainly, when it comes to characterisation and dialogue in horror movies, Neil Marshall is still the Splat Pack king.
Introspective Musings: Now this is where Roth ramps things up as the story also follows a pair of torture-tourist (Roger Bart and Richard Burgi) as they prepare for the "thrill" of their first kill. This makes a neat little parallel and certainly makes up for the lack of aforementioned gore and boobies.
So what we end up with is a bit of an oddity that never quite truly gels. The first half of the movie is fairly slow and although Matarazzo does a decent job with her uber-geek character, by about 15 minutes in you’re already offing the cast in your own head. It’s certainly more far-fetched that the first instalment, which takes away some of the sting. But Roth’s stab at looking at the horror within as well as the horror without largely makes up for it. However, although this approach is likely to gain a few new fans, it will undoubtedly lose a few gore-hungry old ones in the process.