Review: 'Hostel II' gruesome as its predecessor 

Not for the faint of heart, "Hostel: Part II" picks up where director Eli Roth's brutal original left off, in a dimly lit Slovakian warehouse where the term "flesh for fantasy" takes on a diabolical new meaning. Paxton (Jay Hernandez), the lone survivor from the first film, has just escaped his captors, but naturally he's not in the clear — these Slovakians are a nasty bunch, and it's not long before they track him down, seeking their pounds of flesh.

The "Hostel" universe is inhabited almost entirely by eager killers, even those who at first seem horrified by the idea. After revisiting (and unceremoniously disposing of) all remaining ties to the original, Roth throws himself into the splatter, as three American students attending school in Italy are steered toward Slovakia for what amounts to a permanent vacation. This time, the victims-to-be are women, but thematic similarities are easy to spot: Once again, all three will be lured to a youth hostel that auctions its inhabitants off to rich businessman with elaborate murder fantasies.

And once again, only the cunning will survive. Neither Whitney (Bijou Phillips), the ever-responsible Beth (Lauren German) nor the painfully introverted Lorna (Heather Matarazzo, star of "Welcome to the Dollhouse") is prepared for the painstakingly graphic bloodbath that follows, much less the vast network of collaborators set on sending them to their grisly ends. But, like the original, "Hostel:Part II" is a revenge fantasy at heart, constantly building toward the moment when the tables turn and the predators (most notably Roger Bart, of "Desperate Housewives") become the prey.

As such, it's gruesomely effective, with a sharp (and appropriately dark) sense of humor to offset some of the quieter, more sickening moments. Those eager for greater bloodshed and more elaborately conceived slayings will not be disappointed. Roth delivers enough tattered flesh and sliced appendages to satisfy even the most hardened voyeur. His storytelling is more ambitious, too: Although "Hostel: Part II" doesn't deviate far from the original's savagely simple playbook, it broadens the focus just enough to include a level of back story that is illuminating and fresh.

Is "Part II" a great horror film? No, but it's devilish fun, and a further indication that Roth is on his way to grander, gorier things.

CREDITS

Hostel: Part II

***

Starring: Lauren German, Roger Bart, Heather Matarazzo, Bijou Phillips, Richard Burgi

Written and directed by: Eli Roth

Rated: R

Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes

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