Hostel: Part II

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Starring Lauren German, Bijou Phillips, and Heather Matarazzo. Rated 18A.

I've never been so disturbed by a horror flick as I was by the original Hostel; its notorious dangling-eyeball scene literally had me grinding my teeth in revulsion. So when word arrived that taboo-blasting director Eli Roth was planning a follow-up to last year's subversive torture flick, I got a little worried. Imagine that, a lifelong horror fan scared of a little sequel?

As it turns out, I needn't have been such a chicken shit. Hostel: Part II follows the same plot line;young Americans lured to a Slovakian hostel and killed by filthy-rich sadists;but this time around the nasty stuff isn't nearly as drawn out and cruelly applied. There are some grisly deaths gore hounds would approve of, but the focus is more on the motives of the murderous pervs and the inner workings of the snuff corporation. The sequel's tone is lighthearted in comparison, if you can call a bound human getting sliced up lighthearted.

Wealthy nice girl Beth (Liv Tyler look-alike Lauren German), impulsive wild child Whitney (Bijou Phillips), and sheltered dork Lorna (Welcome to the Dollhouse's Heather Matarazzo) are American college students in Italy who, during a trip to Prague, are talked into switching destinations by the model (Vera Jordanova) who befriends them. As soon as they relinquish their passports to the hostel's smirking desk clerk, their images are relayed to an international network of wealthy sickos and the bidding starts on who'll get to leisurely off them. American tycoon Todd (Richard Burgi) interrupts his golf game to post a winning bid of US$65,000, then gleefully calls mild-mannered buddy Stuart (Roger Bart), whom he has bullied into joining him in the "adventure". A seemingly ordinary family man, Stuart gets the news at the breakfast table while his kids race off to catch their suburban school bus. The notion that pure evil exists where you least expect it is delivered with all the subtlety of a Skilsaw to the face. Oops, forgot to issue a spoiler alert.

Plenty of surprises unfold once the two ugly Americans enter the well-equipped torture chambers and come face to face with the beautiful ones, but nothing happens to keep you riveted to the screen the way Hostel did in its final 40 minutes. It actually comes as a relief that Roth sacrifices tooth-grinding terror in favour of routine decapitations and twisted black humour. My dentist thanks him as well.