A cat laps up a wound, dogs wolf down a businessman, cameo-ing Cannibal Holocaust director Ruggero Deodato enjoys a leg, kids watch axe-wielding puppets... Self-referential manoeuvres? Oh, Eli Roth’s got ’em, here seeming to suggest that gorehounds just lap up his dark meat. Shame HPII hasn’t done half as well at its predecessor at the US box-office…
Declining returns for torture porn? Maybe, but fans might eat up the DVD. Three toothsome featurettes range from effects anatomisation to highbrow takes on the history of violence in art. Three talk-tracks range from Tarantino and the Roth brothers’ engaging cinephiles’ love-in, to Eli’s solo spiel on subtexts and style. With goofs and interviews, it’s one fleshed-out carcass.
The movie has muscle, too: the slow-scald tension of the first half, Roth’s evolving formal panache, the played-for-plausibility torturers bidding for a kill on Blackberries. The latter scenario also packs political purpose, shifting from Abu Ghraib fears to home-based horrors.
Then predictability cuts in. Hostel’s bloke-packers give way to girls cut from slasher cliché and bundled into fetish gear (Bijou Phillips, Lauren German). Self-referentiality becomes self-satisfaction, from a pre-kill cutaway executed to tease, to a post-credits jock-boy punchline. Roth wants to have his blood-cake and eat it, to claim socio-cultural relevance and play the taboo-flaying, nudge-wink naughty boy. Granted, he talks a good tussle, making for a low-gristle DVD. But he should be careful: he could lose bite where it counts.