Notes from the back row 

Lots of blood but film lacks guts


Hands up, who wants to see a bloodbath? Decapitations, nudity, castration, gore violence, blood, blood, blood!

If your heart rate just jumped a level then you probably need a hug and some counseling. But if that sounds too lame you can just go watch Hostel 2 at the Village 8 this week and get your freak on.

Director Eli Roth, a B-grade director who thinks he’s really pushing the envelope of horror, has once again delivered a flick that’s low on horror, subtext, characterization or empathy, and high on gore-porn.

This time around the protagonists are three young female cardboard cut-outs who are enticed by an eastern European supermodel to stay at the same deadly hostel as part 1. The “dream backpacking trip gone wrong” scenario plays out again as the three become ensnared in the gruesome world of Elite Hunting, a set up where the rich (two Yankee businessmen this time) can pay to torture and kill innocent people.

Taboo is Roth’s playground and gore and ultra-violence are his favourite toys. For certain this movie will shock and disgust many viewers but true horror fans will probably walk away disappointed. The increasingly inventive murder/torture scenes (following a trend of creative gore started by the Saw franchise) certainly are gruesome, but that’s about all Hostel 2 has to offer. The characters are worse than typical, the themes about human needs to control and torture are never fleshed out, and lots of the nastiest gore and violence are barely glimpsed or occur just off screen, which can add tension but doesn’t in this case because we either know what’s gonna happen to these characters before it does, or we don’t care.

Hostel 2 is Eli Roth trying to prove he’s the most extreme filmmaker out there, and while he does have a decent style this film is little more than visual masturbation (using blood as lube) building to a sub-par money shot. Hostel 2 , including the dog’s lunch scene, just doesn’t have enough real horrorific-ness for me. There’s plenty of blood onscreen but the film itself lacks guts.

You know who’s got guts? Nancy Drew. I mean, she totally solved the Scarlet Slipper Mystery all by herself, and discovered the Secret of the Old Clock. Seriously, I was never into Nancy (more of a Three Investigators kind of guy) but the kiddie fiction star has finally leaped back to the big screen. (Warner made some Drew pictures back in the late ’30s and there were a couple lousy TV series.)

The updated Nancy Drew opens Friday, and stars Emma Roberts as Nancy, a small-town girl detective who ends up in Hollywood chasing clues about an unsolved murder and a long lost heiress. All that and she has to fit in at Hollywood High, perform an emergency tracheotomy, diffuse a love triangle involving her and a 12-year-old boy, and dispose of a bomb (the best scene).

The problem with Nancy Drew is that its plot is nothing like the formulaic standards that made the 200-plus Nancy Drew books a hit. The film is a mash-up, a mess of nostalgia and new school — think Scooby Doo meets Clueless (only far inferior than both) and add some shadowy figures, scary text messages and creeky boards, (only the characters are wooden and stiff). If your daughter/sister wants to see this, I suggest you just buy her a book.

Speaking of books, comic adaptation Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer opens Friday. The Silver Surfer is cool looking, Jessica Alba has a nice dumper, and the only other good thing I’m hearing about this is at least it’s only 90 minutes long. Hands up, who wants their money back?

AT VILLAGE 8 June 15-21: Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer; Nancy Drew; Hostel 2; Ocean’s 13; Surfs Up; Knocked Up: Shrek 3; Pirates of the Caribbean.

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