To celebrate Women in Horror Month, I will be highlighting some of my favorite undersung female characters in horror films each day this month. These posts will contain some spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movies mentioned, do yourself a solid and check them out before reading all the way through.
Today in honor of Valentine’s Day I’m celebrating Beth Salinger from the 2007 Hostel: Part II. When I made the rash decision to start this series, at first I was going to make it a point to avoid “final girls” because most high-profile ones are not undersung. But I feel Beth is an important exception because she is the first queer final girl I ever came across. And like someone who realizes how thirsty they were only after starting to drink, I didn’t realize how hungry I was to see a lesbian final girl till I saw one.
It is wild to think Eli Roth created this character, but I do think this film shows him at his best and most restrained. This movie is not about being “politically incorrect” or as provocative as possible. I think he is just trying to tell an interesting story expanding on the first film, but featuring characters you like.
When we first meet Beth, she is a college student studying abroad in Europe with her friend and classmate Whitney. They and a classmate Lorna end up traveling together.
Although Whitney plays the proverbial “bad girl”, Beth has her “bad” side as well. This is evident when a stranger off-handedly calls her an “American cunt” and she snaps at him – resulting in a disturbingly realistic sequence when him and his friends stalk and intimidate her, Whitney, and Lorna on a train. Luckily at first but not later, a gorgeous woman named Axelle comes to their rescue, and mentions a fantastic hot spring in Slovakia she is on her way to.
The scene where Axelle mentions the hot springs is definitely the scene that convinced me Beth is a lesbian. The look Beth and Whitney exchange pretty clearly indicates, “I am smitten and you need to do me a solid, be a good wingwoman, and agree we should change plans and follow this goddess to Slovakia.” Whitney begrudgingly agrees.
Unfortunately, Axelle is part of the network of bad actors who lure unsuspecting tourists to their deaths at the expensive “pay for play” torture site these movies revolve around. Beth’s fury at being deceived is palpable at the end of the film as she seeks escape and then vengeance for her friends’ deaths.
I can see why some viewers including other queer women feel the film’s end stinger indicates queerness is something bad to be repressed. Beth’s attraction to Axelle is what leads to Lorna and Whitney dying. But I just don’t feel that way watching it myself. I appreciate that Beth is empowered to kill Axelle for what she did to her and her loved ones, and because I read Beth as a lesbian from the start, I think Axelle is just a femme fatale and not indicative of a one-time exploration of queer desire. My headcanon is after years of therapy, Beth meets a lovely woman she learns to trust and settles down with.
If anything, I feel the movie makes for a delicious critique of capitalism and the Bush era of the United States, only to basically have Beth’s access to wealth be her ticket out of danger. The movie goes from “aren’t these rich & connected people messed up?” to “yes queen show off your trust fund!” But I think focusing entirely on that discounts Beth’s resourcefulness.
She twists Stuart’s sense of misogynistic garbage against him, and manages to turn the tables on him in the process. And need we forget, this movie ends with her being told she has to kill someone to leave the facility, so after Stuart calls her a cunt one last time, she castrates him and feeds his genitals to a dog. Juvenile symbolism aside, Beth is one of the only protagonists I know whose victory lap includes a castration meant to illicite applause.
The biggest criticism I have is her getting the required Elite Hunting Club tattoo as a tramp stamp…I’m just going to continue to pretend she chose a tramp stamp to be as discreet as possible.
Hats off to you Beth, and hope you got that therapy and wife. Ideally in that order.
To read even more about Hostel: Part II checkout: