Why You Should Watch: Hostel: Part II

Heather Matarazzo, Bijou Phillips, and Lauren German in Hostel: Part II (2007)

From IMDb: Three American college students studying abroad are lured to a Slovakian hostel, and discover the grim reality behind it.

In interviews about Hostel: Part II, Eli Roth describes how amazing sequels like Aliens and Mad Max: The Road Warrior were. He said he only wanted to do a second Hostel if he has a great idea. He asked himself what fans of the first would want more of, what were the key elements he needed to build on, and how to make the story and world feel bigger without going off the rails. And he delivered. Hostel Part II is enriched by knowing the first, but even without seeing the first one you could watch and enjoy the second.

Hostel: Part II is a great film horror film to watch if you want to see just how politically smart horror films (and specifically “torture porn” films) can be. This film has a lot of say about American ignorance, xenophobia, toxic masculinity, and the overpowering influence of money and capitalism in our modern world. It is also an explicit reaction to timely issues around its release, namely the prison torture incidents at Abu Ghraib and Iraq war.

This film has smart, interesting protagonists that make us want to root for them. Beth, Whitney, and Lorna play off each other in a relatable dynamic. This is one of the few films I’ve seen that remind me of my friends in the way the characters interact. Yes – Beth is the perceptive, responsible one, Whitney is “the slutty friend”, and Lorna is the the virginal, naive nerd. But they are also deeper than those tropes in part because they are written to be likable even in their trope-filled glory (Lorna and Whitney play off each other in a surprisingly charming Odd Couple sort of way vs. the “why are these people supposedly friends again?” way most horror film friend groups come across. They are also relatable in different ways. I swear the older and more self-aware I get, the more I identify with Lorna. And as you will know if you read my Underappreciated Final Girls and Lesbian Representation in Modern Horror Films, I absolutely adore the main character Beth in this movie.

The film also captures a few moments of everyday terror in moments the women are made uncomfortable by strange men. In one scene, Whitney tries to score some drugs on the train from a handsome stranger. When he brings them back to his car to complete the deal, the first thing we see is a man absentmindedly stabbing a picture of a naked woman’s genitals. The conversation quickly gets awkward, with the implication that the men are relieved there are three women and three men, “so then they won’t have to take turns [with the women].” The quick turn from fun to something unnerving is so perfectly captured it makes me wonder how Roth has such a nuanced picture of the undercurrent of sexual violence that can be palpable in everyday interactions. There is a later moment when a young guy asks Beth to dance, and she says no thank you in the kindest way she possibly can. I think this is meant to show how sweet her character is, but it also shows just how gentle women feel they have to be when saying no to someone, especially to a strange man. She should just be able to say “I’m not interested”, but instead says things about how she isn’t drunk enough to dance(implying she is bad at it) and how tired her feet are to protect his feelings and ego.

The first Hostel starts slow, but the second half is an adrenaline-filled suspense ride that has you on the edge of your seat. How on earth was this sequel going to capture that level of heart-pounding action again? But it does. The final scene in Hostel: Part II is one of the most satisfying finales I’ve ever seen in a horror film, and it will have you cheering even if you are watching the movie alone in your house. Watch this with a group of your closest friends, and when you have seen it, come back next week to read a bit of spoiler-filled analysis!

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