"Any time people see women in a horror film, they say, 'Oh, these girls are just pieces of meat.' And, literally, in Hostel: Part II, that's exactly what they are," declared director Eli Roth during a recent press conference. "They are the bait, they are the meat, they are the grist for the mill."
He's talking about why he loves one of his publicity posters so much (which features a close-up photo of butchered boar meat). And he's not kidding. Eli Roth loves to make movies about death, the more blood and guts that accompany it, the better. "Everybody says that I'm different on the days we're shooting the gore—that I'm just extra happy," he told Interview magazine. "I try to have that same excitement and enthusiasm for every scene, but when we're doing some really disgusting scene I'll catch myself gleefully jumping up and down at the monitor. I'm so happy I could cry."
And it's on that note that Hostel: Part II arrives in theaters. What sets Part II apart from Part I? "I'm writing Hostel: Part II for girls—it's going to be three girls this time," Roth told MTV a full year before its release. "Quentin [Tarantino] was really helpful when I told him the story idea. I was like, 'What do you think about this?' and he's like, 'Oh man, what if we did it with girls?' I saw Quentin last night, and we started to talk about some different death scenes, and anytime I'm like, 'Oh, what if we killed someone like this?' he's got three different ways to kill them."
Kill them they do as Beth, Lorna and Whitney are inexorably drawn to a Slovakian hostel. From there they're kidnapped and brought to a factory of death catering to rich killers who'll do anything and pay any price to butcher another human being.
Full-frontal male and female nudity is commingled with sadistic acts of torture, mutilation, rape and murder. Bare breasts and backsides get even more screen time as several female characters disrobe (or are forced to) for the camera. Pole dancers wear g-strings and bikini tops. A nameless, faceless woman wearing only a g-string is seen performing oral sex on a would-be killer. (He flings her aside when he gets the call informing him that his victim is "ready.") A female model flirts with Beth, touching and kissing her bare shoulders.
"This film is creepy and weird for the first 45 minutes," Roth told Interview, "but it doesn't get gory until this one scene that's so horrific and graphic that it punishes the audience. There should be a moment where people are passing out and throwing up and storming out in protest."
If only. Instead moviegoers are sticking around in droves to see how hard Hostel: Part II pushes. Here's how hard: The film ends with a direct shot of a man's penis being cut off and thrown to a dog to eat. The man it was formerly attached to loudly and spastically bleeds to death.
Wait. Actually, it ends with a group of children (perhaps 8 or 9 years old) luring a woman into a woodsy ambush. After the story's heroine (who has rounded them up for the occasion) whisks the wretched soul's head off with a clean sweep of her two-headed battle-ax, the children play soccer with it while blood gushes from the stump of her neck. Earlier, those same children had bludgeoned the heroine with sticks before a man put a gun to each of their faces in turn, then forced them to give up one of their own for slaughter. They do so. And he puts a bullet in the child's head.
To bookend his gleeful descent into the depths of depravity, Roth opens the film with a cat feeding off the gore of another decapitated human. Dogs devour a man who can't stomach going through with a kill. A woman slowly drives an ice pick-type piece of metal into a man's ear. An elderly "killer client" cuts chunks of flesh from a screaming and writhing man's legs and prepares to eat the raw flesh in front of him.
And I still haven't written about the horrific and graphic scene Roth is so proud of. In that sequence, a naked woman is hung by her feet above another naked woman who, while slowly killing her victim with a scythe, revels in the blood that rains down on her.
I'll not document a single other act of perverse—and I would say animalistic, but animals don't kill for pleasure so I'll not implicate them unfairly here—viciousness. There's simply no reason to do so. But I will raise to the surface something that bothers me far more than watching raw violence for the sake of raw violence. It's a festering idea that has begun to be fostered by more than just one or two twisted pieces of entertainment lately: It's the idea that murder is more satisfying, thrilling and even orgasmic than sex. In Hostel: Part II, sex merely fills time for bored men who yearn for a bigger fix. Killing is an extreme sport played by those who've tried everything else and still want more. It's the highest brass ring to be grasped by those devoted to power, revenge and lust.
"Do you think we're sick?" asks a soon-to-be murderer who's traveled to Slovakia from America.
"F--- no!" replies his alpha-male friend. "Dude, you look anywhere in the world where there's no law, whether it's f---in' Chad, or New Orleans, and this is the s--- people are doin', pal. We're the normal ones."
Crude or Profane Language
Close to 75 f-words. Half-a-dozen s-words. The most obscene anatomical references possible are assigned to women. The young boys spit on Lorna and call all of the girls "b--ches." Jesus' name is turned into an obscenity five or six times.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Beer and hard cider are consumed in great quantities at an outdoor festival. On a train, boisterous and threatening college-age guys drink and smoke (some cigarettes, some what appears to be marijuana). The girls also drink hard liquor. One would-be killer snorts either heroin or cocaine.
I paid for my ticket and walked into the first available showing of Hostel: Part II in Colorado Springs. (Lionsgate Films declined to screen the film in advance in most cities, evidently feeling that the franchise's fan base was already locked in.) I was vainly toying with a fantastical idea. It went something like this: If director Eli Roth is really trying to be the king of all things shocking on the big screen, the most shocking thing he could do here is present a film without a single act of violence. It'd be a hyper-funny gag, wouldn't it? He'd get so much attention for a stunt like that that Paris Hilton herself would have to hire a new publicist to invent more inventive stunts.
I write vainly toying because that's exactly what it was, an overactive imagination hoping against hope that an hour-and-a-half of the most brutal images of torture and slaughter ever conceived by man—and perpetrated against women—wasn't really in my immediate future.
I looked carefully at the people seated around me, mentally multiplied their number by every town and city in the country (and moviegoing world, for that matter), and quickly came to a much less imaginary conclusion: While I had been hoping for a reprieve, literally millions of my neighbors and even a few of my friends were hoping Roth would do his worst.
Were they as happy about it afterwards as he was? I sincerely hope not. Had they finally reached their limit, had their fill, would refuse to see Hostel: Part III? Alas, I fear that they hadn't.
To what end is their attraction? Plugged In, among other Christian and conservative publications, has been voicing caution on the subject of violent influences in our culture—especially when that violence involves and/or targets women—for a long time. Now we're finally being joined by a growing chorus from what are often considered "mainstream" newspapers and magazines. England's Guardian newspaper recently printed this dismayed response to the world's growing affection for a genre of films that's being dubbed "gorno" or torture porn: "Watching one of these films won't turn a sane, decent individual into a killer or a torturer, but you have to wonder what effect this widespread meshing of sexuality and graphic violence will have on the young men at whom they are primarily aimed. The clear logic behind all these films, TV shows and images appears to be that if a young, good-looking, barely-clad woman is sexy while alive, she's even sexier when she's being tortured, or when she's a bloody corpse."
Still not concerned about what's happening on big screens in multiplexes and malls everywhere? Still believe that a movie's just a movie and that violence has always been a part of literature—look at Shakespeare!—and it isn't that big of a deal? After watching Hostel: Part II, you've got no chance of swaying me. And you won't convince Hollywood screenwriter Mike White (School of Rock) either. He wrote that "to defend mindless exercises in sadism like The Hills Have Eyes II [which is far tamer than the Hostel movies] by citing Macbeth is almost like using Romeo and Juliet to justify child pornography."