Hostel: Part II

Last year’s “Hostel” wasn’t the most persuasive piece of violence I’ve encountered, but where writer/director/carnival barker Eli Roth really lost me was in his decision to turn the dark into light. Laboriously spending time taking the film into a bleak area of pain, he abruptly turned the feature into a “Naked Gun” sequel in the closing 30 minutes, decimating whatever prayer the picture had to make an impression beyond the superficial. Well, now there’s a sequel, and Roth is in no mood to switch up the recipe.

Departing from Rome to see the sights of Prague, three American tourists (Bijou Phillips, Lauren German, and Heather Matarazzo) are snookered by a lovely local to stay at the infamous hostel. Once there, the girls fall right into danger, inciting a bidding war between international businessmen (including Roger Bart) over who gets to slaughter them.

I have no idea how the “Part II” of the title factors in here; the film feels more like “Hostel: Part 1…Again!” or “Still Hostelin’” to me. Roth has created what has to be one of the laziest pieces of screenwriting a splatter film has encountered in this decade, simply swapping the gender lured into the rusted mayhem. Other than that, the films are almost identical, save for some POV alterations we’ll discuss in a moment.

To combat narrative exhaustion, Roth has upped the shock value of his “kills” to nudge “Part II” over the imaginary line of civility to best exploit assured critical backlash. “Part II” is an exceptionally violent film, but more than that, it’s an immature display of gore; like a petulant child who whines louder and louder at the toy store until you just have to pay attention to him. Roth is brazenly crossing taste barriers here, serving up literal blood baths, violence against children, and genital mutilation to flavor his souffle of sadism.

What this aggressive overkill offers the average viewer, I don’t know. Perhaps I don’t want to know. “Part II,” as much as Roth hilariously has asserted in the press, contains no social commentary or finesse whatsoever; no crystal clear moment of justification that more violent pictures have managed to cough up. The obviousness of the whole shebang grows tiresome rapidly, especially when it’s apparent Roth is simply reheating moldy leftovers to make a quick summer time buck from audiences who should demand more for themselves. “Part II” is vile, but it commits an even worse sin by being so aggressively boring and hilariously one-note.

The film’s lone change of pace follows the businessmen who bid big bucks to brutalize in Eastern European comfort. In “Hostel,” they were the shrouded evil; the dark heart of suburbia, taking their aggression out on the strapped-down innocent. “Part II” tries to snuggle up to the emasculated mindset of these monsters, but with a script this Crayola, you know exactly where Roth is going the minute it begins. It’s the kind of plot device that should’ve been more carefully nurtured and prevalent in “Part II” to separate it from becoming such a tedious rehash. Under Roth’s watch, the subplot becomes another colorless cliche in a film overflowing with a lack of imagination.

In an effort to save the film, Roth trots out his harebrained sense of humor in the final reel to get the audience back on his side (I guess “Smints?” is the new “Pancakes!”). I don’t know if it was the five-minute-long takes of young women pleading mightily for their lives or the usage of bolt cutters on the male sex organ, but in the end, the “comedy” emerges from a desperate place within Roth. Perhaps genre apologists (and what a full time job that’s become in recent years, poor bastards) can will it away.

After three pictures, it’s apparent Eli Roth has no imagination for the horror genre. Given a rare opportunity to build on his rather inexplicable success story with the first “Hostel,” the director cowardly retreats to the comfort zone of a flaccid remake. Ho-hum.

Rating: D-