Hannibal Rising (2007)

Directed by Peter Webber [Other horror films: N/A]

While this isn’t really a horror movie, it’s in a series I generally consider horror, so I’ll just throw this one in, which is unfortunate, as I had to watch this pile of trash.

I’m not exactly sure what my biggest problem with this was. Partially, I suspect, my disdain is due to the fact that an origin story was entirely unnecessary. What doesn’t help is the fact that I couldn’t even once see this character as Hannibal Lecter. So he accidentally eats his sister, and then decides to be a cannibal? Oh, and a samurai? Love it.

To be fair, this movie had a decent kill every now and again. One was even actually good, and potentially memorable. It’s a shame that the same can’t be said for any of the characters (be it the generic serial killer lead or the pointless detective on his trail) or the movie as a whole.

Gaspard Ulliel didn’t once remind me of Lecter, but I guess he was fine. Dominic West (The Wire) was pointless. I didn’t like Li Gong’s character whatsoever. And no one else was particularly memorable or good either.

A few good kills doesn’t make a movie good, especially when the movie is otherwise entirely generic and unnecessary. Truthfully, this was a struggle to get through, and I’d easily take Red Dragon or Hannibal twenty times over as opposed to ever having to watch this piece of trash again. I legitimately didn’t enjoy this. I did not have a good time. I was displeased.


Hostel: Part II (2007)


Directed by Eli Roth [Other horror films: Cabin Fever (2002), Hostel (2005), The Green Inferno (2013), Knock Knock (2015)]

Looking a bit deeper into the business aspect of the torture industry, the second Hostel feels a bit more solid than the first, and doesn’t skimp out of any of the gore or brutality.

Picking up with Paxton’s life after his escape at the end of the first movie was an interesting beginning. I didn’t love the first sequence, but I found it acceptable, given the circumstances. After that’s dealt with, we dive into two plots: some young women decide to go to Slovakia to experience the hot spas, and two businessmen depart to Slovakia to torture and kill them. It’s sort of interesting to get dual perspectives on this, and I thought it generally paid off.

In part, I suspect, because most of the main characters were done pretty well. Lauren German wasn’t my favorite character, but as the main girl, she had guts. Heather Matarazzo, playing a geeky acquaintance of German’s, did well as the sweet, quiet girl with a rather depressing and brutal end. Richard Burgi and Roger Bart, who played the two businessmen, worked well together, and while obviously both were atrocious individuals, I thought both of them did a great job with their characters. The only main character I didn’t care for was played by Vera Jordanova – I didn’t like her character, and while she was a fine actress, I just felt sort of blah about the whole thing. Lastly, famous Italian horror director Ruggero Deodato had a fantastic cameo toward the end.

There are plenty of brutal scenes throughout the film. Occasionally some creepy ones pop up also. Insofar as gore, we get a pretty devastating bathing in blood scene, and you can’t help but feel bad as the individual in question is slowly cut open with a scythe. Someone gets their, shall we say, equipment, clipped off, which was done well. Another gets torn apart by dogs. Overall, the gore was strong. As for more subtly unsettling scenes, there’s a sequence where German wakes up in a misty hot spa, utterly devoid of others, which was filmed well. That leads into a chase scene that just sort of didn’t lead anywhere, but the spa scene alone was pretty good.

Hostel: Part II takes the best elements of the first movie and expands on them. I’d have liked some more background on the origins of the business itself, but still, it was okay. The bidding sequence early on was fun enough, I suppose, to cover up any lost potential in exploring the business deeper. The gore was top-notch, and plenty of scenes were decently suspenseful. I liked the first Hostel, and the second holds up also, and thus, I’d recommend it.


Hostel (2005)


Directed by Eli Roth [Other horror films: Cabin Fever (2002), Hostel: Part II (2007), The Green Inferno (2013), Knock Knock (2015)]

I’ve always enjoyed Hostel. It’s gritty, somewhat violent, and overall has a good punch to it.

The basic idea is one that I’ve always found fascinating. While it’s expounded on in Part II, having a business around capturing foreigners and, for a fee, letting people torture and kill them is, as the kids say, neat-o. It’s a fun idea, and setting the factory where these mutilations and massacres take place in Slovakia adds to the charm. Technically, the movie is filmed in the Czech Republic, but Slovakia has a more sinister sound to it, and I always liked the idea. Oh, and that torture museum was beautiful.

Another thing that I’ve always rather enjoyed are the main characters. It’s true that Paxton (Jay Hernandez) starts off as a stereotypical American douchebag, as opposed to Josh (Derek Richardson), who is a more reserved, serious individual, but what makes this notable is that while Josh seems like a good candidate to be the focal point, he’s not. What they do with Paxton is impressive – humanizing him by first letting us know he’s a vegetarian, and then later, having him relay a tragic moment in his past. I never liked Paxton, as a character, when I start this film, but I always find him endearing come the finale, and can’t fault him for any of his actions.

Hernandez (also in Quarantine) does a pretty solid job here. After his friends go missing in Slovakia, he drops his whole party boy aesthetic and goes in detective mode, trying to figure out where they went. The personality of his character is an interesting one, and I think Jay Hernandez was well-suited for the role. Derek Richardson (Reeker) had a Breckin Meyer vibe to him, and I always liked Meyer, so he’s aces in my book. Eythor Gudjonsson had some occasional charm (such as it was), Jan Vlasák was appropriately creepy, and Radomil Uhlir (“You want to get stoned?”) was quality.

Naturally, when it comes to Hostel, the gore is what a lot of people bring up. Perhaps I’m somewhat jaded, but it doesn’t really seem that over-the-top. Sure, you have scenes of fingers being cut off, or a chainsaw cutting through someone’s leg, or perhaps a blowtorch to the face, or an eye being snipped off with a pair of scissors. There’s dismembered body parts being thrown into an incinerator (during a sequence as a whole that was fantastic), and people’s heads being beat in with blunt objects. Overall, it’s a somewhat gory film, but I really don’t know if it’s as bad as some might remember it being.

I can’t say when I first saw Hostel, but I can say that it’s held up every time I’ve revisited it. It’s possible that I enjoy the second movie a smidge more, but this one definitely has a lot going for it, and I’m personally happy that Eli Roth made a movie that’s far better than Cabin Fever. It is a minor shame that some characters didn’t have quite the ending you’d hope for, but the finale as a whole was rewarding, and as many times as I’ve seen this, I still find it a tense and satisfying ride.