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Second Take: Good…But the Original Is Still the Best

I liked Hostel II, but I enjoyed the original a bit more.

One of the things I liked is that it assumes
you’ve seen the previous film.  They don’t waste time setting up
characters and situations because the filmmakers assume you know
what’s going on.  We do spend a lot of time with our three new leads
(Lauren German, Bijou Phillips and Heather Mattarazo),
but unlike the first film, it’s made clear that they’re being set
up.  We begin to see the inner workings of the secret society behind
the torture club (which lends itself to some clever satire) and we
spend equal time with two of the members, jerk businessman Richard
Burgi and repressed family man Roger Bart
(who’s terrific). 

All of this helps to add to the growing sense of
dread and violence throughout the first two thirds, and interestingly
enough, once we get to the torture dungeons, we’ve been imagining the upcoming violence so much that Roth is actually able to get away
with making this film less violent than the original. (There are still some choice moments that will have you squirming, trust
me.)

But where Hostel II lost me is that, like a lot of sequels, the freshness and surprise of the original isn’t there.  It feels like Roth has taken Hostel as far as he can go and now has nothing new left to show us.  The bag of tricks feels like it’s been emptied out. 

The appeal of the original Hostel for me was in how it set up something terrible about to happen and then allowed an opportunity for escape.  Roth seems less interested in that this time out, but he is commendably focused on themes and subtext. (There is an anti-male vibe throughout the film that is probably the most interesting thing about it.) But a good ending can sometimes make the movie and a rushed one can easily damage it.  Unfortunately, it’s the latter case here.

Roth has already gone on record saying that he’s not planning a Hostel III and he’s right to do so.  He’s certainly getting better and better as a director with each film, so it’s time to move on from this and try something new.  Hostel was an interesting place to visit, but it’s time to check out.

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