Hostel Part II appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While the original movie offered a spotty transfer, this one seemed more satisfying.
For the most part, sharpness appeared good. A few shots looked just a bit soft, but those instances didn’t crop up with any frequency. Most of the film seemed accurate and well-defined. No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects materialized, and I noticed only a little edge enhancement. As for source flaws, unlike the first movie, this transfer looked clean and fresh. I noticed no defects of even a minor sort.
I didn’t expect a lively palette from a dark horror film, and Part II usually left us with subdued tones. The movie adopted a gray sensibility much of the time. Brighter hues appeared during the first act and they looked fine; just don’t expect much after that. Blacks were deep and dense, while shadows showed good clarity and delineation most of the time. Actually, the early Paxton sequences seemed somewhat thick, but after that low-light shots were fine. Overall, the visuals satisfied.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Hostel Part II strongly echoed what I heard for the first movie. That was a good thing, though, as I thought both flicks provided solid audio. Much of the mix stayed with general ambience, but it kicked into gear when required. The atmosphere helped set the creepy mood and establish tension. When the action hit, the various speakers worked to put the viewer in the middle of events and did so well. Lots of scary noises like power saws and screams emanated from all around to help make things involving.
Audio quality seemed fine. Speech was consistently accurate and concise, with no edginess on display. Music sounded clean and clear, though I thought the score and songs could have boasted more prominent low-end. Effects offered the right mix of definition and punch. They showed nice bass and represented the various elements well. This track worked nicely for the movie.
As with the original Hostel, the sequel packs in many supplements. It comes with three separate audio commentaries. For the first, we hear from director Eli Roth, executive producer Quentin Tarantino, and associate producer Gabriel Roth. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. They discuss the story’s origins and development, cast and crew, sets and locations, inspirations and influences, cinematography and technical elements, how the Grindhouse flicks affected the production, and a mix of other notes.
Roth and Tarantino may be the chattiest directors in Hollywood, so a commentary with the pair together leaves virtually no downtime. Along with brother Gabriel, the three guys present a pretty interesting look at the film. It comes with a moderate amount of the usual happy talk, but it also includes quite a few good insights and thoughts about the production. Though it doesn’t present the deepest view of the flick, it proves enjoyable and informative.
One surprise cropped up in this track when the participants discuss a scene in which a guy’s dick gets removed. Tarantino mentions an obscure film that showed this kind of scene, and Eli Roth displays ignorance of that flick or any other with similar imagery. I’m shocked that with all that film geek knowledge they didn’t remember the shot from Caligula. In fact, when I saw the dismemberment here, I thought it was meant as a wink toward Caligula, but apparently that wasn’t the case – unless Roth just doesn’t want to admit that he borrowed from that “classic”. It seems odd to me that two movie fans who can babble about scads of obscure foreign flicks never saw Caligula.
Oh, and one minor gripe about the back patting in this commentary. Eli Roth seems to think he handled the topic of Beth’s wealth in a subtle manner, as he mentions the low-key ways the movie presents this subject. However, he ignores the one major exposition sequence in which we learn very explicitly how much money she has and why she has it. Roth doesn’t present this info in a sly manner at all, so it’s weird to hear him discuss it as though he did.
Next we get a track from Eli Roth and actors Lauren German, Vera Jordanova and Richard Burgi. All four sit together for their own running, screen-specific discussion, though Burgi doesn't join them until about 30 minutes into the piece. We learn how the actors got their parts and why they wanted to work on the project, character and performance issues, various location notes, and general production anecdotes.
Until Burgi arrives, the commentary is a dud. We get little more than Roth’s praise for the actors and generally happy talk about the shoot. Once Burgi gets there, the information level stays pretty limited, but at least the track becomes more fun. Burgi contributes a lively personality to the proceedings and prompts plenty of amusing stories. This means the commentary lacks much information value but entertains much of the time.
Finally, we locate a commentary from director Eli Roth all on his own for another running, screen-specific chat. He tells us about the impact of Hostel’s success and his decision to make the sequel, the film’s political undercurrents, cast and performances, characters and story subjects, sets and locations, music, cinematography and effects, influences, and a mix of other scene-specific details.
As was the case for the commentaries on the first Hostel, Roth’s solo track proves the most satisfying of the bunch. He digs into a ream of useful subjects and does so with good specificity. Of course, some elements repeat from the prior tracks, but most of the info is new to us. This is a solid discussion of the film.
After this we get a collection of four featurettes. Hostel Part II: The Next Level runs 26 minutes, 26 seconds as it takes us onto the shoot. We follow the participants through location scouts and other aspects of the production. I like this sort of “fly on the wall” material, though “Level” goes a little too heavy on comedy for my liking. It still gives us a good look at some production elements, but it tends to take more of a joking tone than I’d like.
For the six-minute The Art of KNB Effects, we find notes from Roth, effects design supervisor Gregory Nicotero, makeup effects artist Kevin Wasner, and on set supervisor Michael McCarty. It looks at many of the practical effects used in the film. It’s gross but informative.
Production Design lasts six minutes, 42 seconds and includes Roth, associate producer Eythor Gudjonsson, actor Bijou Phillips and production designer Robb Wilson King. We get a look at set design and some other visual elements for the film. The show offers a brief but effective take on its subjects.
Finally, Hostel Part II: A Legacy of Torture goes for 23 minutes, 43 seconds and features Roth, Phillips, psychoanalyst Dr. Sheldon Roth, artist Cora Roth, Museum of Medieval Criminology director Aldo Migliorini, Cannibal Holocaust director Ruggero Deodato, and actor Edwige Fenech. “Legacy” looks at historical antecedents to the forms of torture we find in the film, and it also tells us a little about some of the flick’s cameos. The first portion works best, as it gives us an unsettling glimpse at various torture implements. The other aspects are okay but not as intriguing.
10 Deleted Scenes last a total of 12 minutes, 36 seconds. We find “The Trash Man” (0:58), “Whitney’s Sketch” (0:49), “Whitney’s Rant” (1:12), “The Plants” (1:04), “The Van” (1:37), “Rape Shower” (1:29), “The Tool Check-Out Room” (1:12), “The Changing Room” (1:14), “’This Is It’” (1:09) and “Nozdrovia” (1:52). Each one comes with text from Roth to set up what we’ll see and let us know why he cut the material.
Do any of the clips offer anything particularly interesting? Not for the most part, though a few are pretty good. “Shower” is amusing, and some minor character notes develop. I think “Nozdrovia” should’ve stayed in the final cut since it adds a layer to the finale.
An audio feature comes next with a radio interview. In this conversation on “The Treatment”, Roth chats with critic Elvis Mitchell about the movie’s themes and subtext as well as working with Tarantino. The parts about Part II tend to repeat what we hear elsewhere. The elements connected to Grindhouse are more interesting and amusing; they represent the most significant new aspects discovered here.
A Blood & Guts Gag Reel lasts three minutes, 28 seconds. A lot of it is the standard silliness, though some graphic gore makes its way into the clip as well. I can’t say it does anything for me.
A few ads open the DVD. We get promos for Blu-Ray discs, 30 Days of Night, Boogeyman 2, and Rise: Blood Hunter. These also appear in the Previews area along with clips for Resident Evil: Extinction, Kaw, Pumpkinhead 4: Blood Feud, and Fearnet.com. No trailer for Hostel Part II appears here.
If you saw Hostel and liked it, should you expect to enjoy Hostel Part II? Probably, as the movie delivers the gore you expect while it manages to avoid a simple remake of the original. If you saw Hostel and loathed it, will Part II change your mind? Nope. I think it throws out a few interesting twists but not enough to make it genuinely effective, and the extreme violence will continue to disgust most viewers.
As for the DVD, it offers solid picture and audio along with a very good collection of extras. If you’re a fan of this sort of flick, this DVD is a worthwhile purchase. Others should avoid it.