A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this gruesome horror sequel absolutely isn't for kids, even though splatter-loving teens may well want to see it. The movie is full of non-stop images of graphic, bloody deaths. A naked girl is hung upside down and sliced until her blood creates a shower on her murderer (also a nude woman), a man is dissected alive and cannibalized, and other victims are subjected to decapitation, castration, vicious dog attacks, and more. Characters also swear, smoke, drink, and do drugs -- and there are hints of lesbianism -- but all of that plays second fiddle to the grisly torture scenes.
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What's the story?
In the first Hostel, an cheap European inn turns into a death trap for a group of college-age wayfarers when they're kidnapped, taken to a grim factory, and sadistically slaughtered by wealthy customers. At the beginning of Part II, Hostel's sole escapee is eliminated by the secret society, whose evil influence turns out to reach worldwide. Their wealthy clients, ensconced in cushy skyscraper offices and corporate boardrooms, bid via Internet and PDA on who gets to have the choicest kill, then fly over to Slovakia to do it. While the first movie's victims were primarily American college guys looking for easy drugs and sex, the sequel's premium prey consists of three female American art students. Wealthy, smart Beth (Lauren German); bookish Lorna (Heather Matarazzo); and party-girl Whitney (Bijou Phillips) are enticed by a slinky European model friend to the familiar Slovakian hostel and a colorful-yet-creepy ethnic festival. Viewers also meet the two American clients who paid to kill the girls: Todd (Richard Burgi), a boisterous, macho clod who can hardly wait to spill blood, and Stuart (Roger Bart), who's more hesitant and uncertain. Hostel barely gave viewers any details about the ordinary-looking sadists patronizing the place, but here Todd speaks eagerly of committing murder as a sort of rite of passage -- it proves that you've got the proverbial eye of the tiger, that you're superior person. He compares taking a life with having sex for the first time.
Is it any good?
There's a (feeble) argument to be made that HOSTEL: PART II is a "better" film than the original gore-torture hit. What's "better" about this equally sadistic sequel? This time around, the target audience (the sort of fans who instantly recognize the names of Italian gore-movie icons of the '70s in the supporting cast) are already in on the grisly secret. So rather than waste time going through the motions again, director Eli Roth uses Hostel: Part II to address -- a little bit -- the philosophical rationale for the factory and the working operations of the secret society of murderers that maintains it. But there are still gallons of blood and nonstop ghastly violence -- so viewers who thought the first film was an atrocity won't see many redeeming qualities here, either.
When a nude woman takes a blood shower under the spurting, suspended body of a dying victim, viewers will probably be too grossed out to do much thinking, but on a certain level, these Hostel movies do have a grim message: proposing that human nature really is this dark and depraved. (Stuart, having second thoughts en route to the factory, asks "Are we sick?" Todd responds "We're the normal ones!") Eastern Europe -- with its history full of wars, genocide, and Grimm fairy tales -- is portrayed as a place where recreational torture and death can become a profitable business. The factory, with its snarling dogs and gates, recalls imagery from Holocaust movies like Schindler's List. The American girls are somewhat more gracious visitors than the first film's sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll Yankee guys, but the message seems similar, and more than a little xenophobic: "These foreigners and their ways are different. Staying home is safer."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the appeal of extreme gore. Why do you think "torture" horror movies are so popular now? Is the movie making any kind of statement about violence in media? If so, what is it? Families can also discuss the murderers' motivation -- namely, to fulfill their own selfish fantasies. Is human nature really that depraved? Does the character who survives become as bad as the killers? Why or why not?
- In theaters: June 8, 2007
- On DVD or streaming: October 23, 2007
- Cast: Heather Matarazzo, Lauren German, Roger Bart
- Director: Eli Roth
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: sadistic scenes of torture and bloody violence, terror, nudity, sexual content, language and some drug content.