You know, as I was editing Kevin’s review of the first Hostel movie yesterday, I couldn’t help but think to myself: it’s just not fair that he’s getting all the fun trashing Eli Roth, you know?
Which is why I, dear reader, a dumbass extroadinaire, saw that review and decided to raise it. No, not in the Vegas way, this isn’t a review of Hostel III – but it seemed only right that I take a crack at the second Hostel movie. And I want to make one thing clear: Kevin really made a sincere effort with his review of the first film. He put the effort in. He deconstructed that shitshow on a number of levels, and I love him for it. This, though? This is just going to be a deeply immature rant, and I hope that you know that going in.
Because I fucking hate Eli Roth as a director. I can’t even begin to explain to you how deep the depths of my loathing for all of his fictional works go. I love a bad horror film, I really do, but Roth’s movies are uniquely irritating watches that fill flimsy runtimes with dreadful writing, appalling character work, and rampant misogyny hidden behind a thin veneer of “throwback homage”. Maybe I wouldn’t mind so much if his back catalogue hadn’t been jammed down my throat since the very moment I got into horror movies as one of the great modern directors of the genre – stop telling me that Eli Roth can direct good horror movies! I’ve fucking seen too many of them! I know that’s a fucking lie! He’s had too many attempts, too much big-name backing, too many opportunities to prove himself that he has firmly blown for me to believe that there is even one singular once of remote filmmaking talent in that man.
Roth’s early work was championed by Quentin Tarantino, which makes a lot of sense, really, since both of them committed the majority of their careers to knock-offs of better directors – though at least Tarantino knows how to frame a shot and write dialogue, Jesus fucking Christ. Eli Roth makes really good documentaries about the horror genre, but his knowledge of the industry just translates into these ugly, repetitive, derivative messes stripped of all the soul and grit that made these stories good in the first place.
With that out of the way: Hostel II. Now, you’d think, really, that this would be an improvement on the first Hostel movie. And in some ways, I’ll admit, it is – the really rough edges of terrible continuity have been filed down, and the camera quality has been upped by a couple of notches. The grindingly silly music from Hostel has been dropped, and at least there is some basic attempt to write characters who are not agonisingly unlikeable douchebros.
And, in fact, this movie revolves around women. Yes, women! Can you imagine? After the genuinely stomach-turning way that they were treated in Hostel, I hardly had much hope that Roth would be able to pull out some Mary Beard-style commentary on the place of women in power structures like this. And, in all fairness, I’m entirely correct. The only thing that Roth does differently here is to shift the victims of violent misogyny into the front of the shot – it makes our leads a touch more sympathetic, but seeing Roth try to write women when he clearly hasn’t spoken to one for longer than it takes to tell her to get her shirt off is genuinely painful.
As a somewhat-experienced human female myself, watching these women put themselves in pointlessly dangerous situations with horrible, shifty dudes is just so obviously dumb that it hurts – it’s so blatantly written by someone who’s never been socialized into these norms of protection that it rings stupidly hollow. I’m not saying men can’t write good female characters, but, like…talk to one first? One time? I don’t know, dude, but these women don’t act like any women that I’ve ever met. For the moments they do, it only makes the moment they don’t stand out more.
And then we’ve got to come to the actual violence itself. Because Hostel II is decidedly grosser and more horrible than the first movie, in a way that one would expect from a sequel – and this is where the misogyny comes creeping back in again. Most of the women have managed to keep their shirts on till the third act, but Roth can’t contain the urge to sexualize women in some truly despicable ways.
The worst scene in the whole film – fuck it, one of the worst scenes in horror that I’ve ever seen – features one of our female leads strung up, naked, over a bath, and scythed at by another naked woman who bathes and writhes and moans around in her blood.
The premise is horrible enough, but the way it’s shot actually makes me pretty nauseous – panning shots of the victims weeping, gagged face up to her naked tits, over the scythe slashing at her bare butt, of the perpetrator full-frontal naked and slithering around in the gore like she’s me having run into Michael Rooker. Of all the killers in the Hostel series thus far, this woman is the only one we see framed in this fashion – the rest are dressed up in surgeon’s scrubs and masks, covered from head to toe. Oh, and they’re all men, too, go figure.
Everything about this scene is shot and framed to titillate. There’s no other reason for the lavish panning shots on these women’s naked bodies, the naked, blood-soaked shot of the victim screaming in terror and agony as the camera hones in on her ass, the perpetrator soft-core humping in a pile of gore underneath her. This is genuinely disgusting, truly, actually, Why is this horrific murder scene being framed like jerk-off material? I’m asking. I want to know. Also, there’s a completely random close-up shot of the victim’s bound, bare feet at one point, and this film was produced by Quentin Tarantino. Make of that what you will.
Hostel II manages to squeeze in an upskirt shot of another bound-and-gagged victim, as well as thrusting her into a bustier and schoolgirl skirt; funny that none of the men from the first film got the same treatment. When our final girl ends up getting a tattoo that denotes her involvement in the killing club, she gets a fucking tramp stamp – all the men get it on their biceps. The Hostel franchise hates women, and, as a woman, I hate it right back. Get fucked, you horrible, nasty little films. Get fucked.
Perhaps the part that makes me want to scream the most is that Eli Roth spoke about how this movie was one that he had made specifically to appeal to the female audience in the horror genre. You know what his answer was to the constant objectification of the women in the first film? Here’s a dick in the first scene, ladies, you’re welcome! If anything underlines more bluntly how little Roth seems to understand his female audience, it’s this. Making a film catered towards women doesn’t just involve flopping out a peen – it involves committing to changing the way you depict women across the whole movie. Ladies, do you love it when you can audibly hear Quentin Tarantino masturbating behind the camera? Chime in below!
I hate these fucking films. I think they’re genuinely meritless – no, worse than that, I think they put something out into the world that actively makes it worse. If Eli Roth never makes another film again, I’d be a happy woman. And I’d be even happier if, once he stops for good, all his horrible little movies slide into the ether of nothingness where they belong.
By Louise MacGregor
(header image via Where’s The Jump)