Posted on June 8, 2015

Hostel 2: Eli Roth’s Homage to Friday the 13th, Part 2

Dawn

Friday the 13th (Sean S. Cunningham, 1980) famously culminates with the Final Girl, Alice (Adrienne King), decapitating Pamela Vorhees (Betsy Palmer). Although she survives the first round of carnage at “Camp Blood,” Alice’s luck runs out as Friday the 13th, Part 2 (Steve Miner, 1981) begins. Still traumatized, she lives only long enough to see the worst of her nightmares realized: while making tea and feeding her cat, Alice is attacked and killed by Jason Vorhees, bent on avenging his mother.

Alice’s death is shocking for any viewer who may have expected (and hoped) she would reprise her role as plucky survivor: it approximates the devastating murder of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) halfway through Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960). It’s also a narrative trick that Eli Roth adopts in Hostel: Part 2 (2007), offering more evidence of his allegiance to the slasher tradition.

Hostel: Part 2 begins with the survivor of Hostel (2005) back at home, still suffering nightmares after his traumatic experience at the distinctly inhospitable Slovakian hostel. Although both his friends were killed, Paxton (Jay Hernandez) managed to escape—killing, along the way, the man who mutilated and killed his friend. He’s haunted by the fear that members of the Elite Hunting Club will find and execute him, however—and he’s right. As was the case for Alice, fear becomes reality and Paxton’s girlfriend finds his bloody body, minus head, in the kitchen one morning (fig. 1).

Fig. 1. Paxton’s death

Fig. 1. Paxton’s death

The mise-en-scène of this moment of horrifying discovery strikingly evokes the scene of Alice’s murder (by an ice pick through the head) early in Friday the 13th, Part 2. Alice walks to her refrigerator, opens the door, and sees Mrs. Vorhees’ head (fig. 2); seconds later, Jason kills her, and then the camera cuts to Alice’s cat—signally indifferent (as cats are wont to be) to the death of its owner (fig. 3).

Fig. 2. Alice’s fridge

Fig. 2. Alice’s fridge

Fig. 3. Alice’s cat

Fig. 3. Alice’s cat

What’s striking about both these scenes is not only the cats that feature in both, but the virtually identical milk cartons in Alice’s fridge and on Paxton’s table. On Alice’s table, moreover, we see the word “News,” while Paxton’s table sports a newspaper.

These details seem too precisely to mirror each other to be an accident, and it seems Roth is purposefully evoking Friday the 13th, Part 2 in his own sequel. Indeed, these parallel mise-en-scènes, along with the obviously similar opening deaths, might alert us to other similarities among the first two Friday the 13th films and Hostel and Hostel: Part 2. The way Beth (Lauren German) beheads Axelle at the end of Hostel: Part 2, for instance, is very much like Alice’s decapitation of Pamela Vorhees at the end of Friday the 13th, and clues us in to Beth’s role as a “new” Final Girl, taking over the role of survivor from the now-dead Paxton.

Perhaps the most intriguing question raised by the parallels among the films actually involves Beth, the undisputed protagonist of Hostel: Part 2, and whose actions at the end of the film veer into the morally ambiguous and suggest that she has been co-opted by the powerful, sadistic ideology of the Elite Hunting Club.

The Final Girl of Friday the 13th, Part 2, Ginny (Amy Steel), survives by pretending to be Mrs. Vorhees—and thus momentarily distracting Jason from planting a pickaxe in her head.

Similarly, Paxton escapes at the end of Hostel by pretending to be one of the Elite Hunting Club’s patrons. It is only an act, though: he remains un-implicated in its practice of kidnapping tourists and putting them up for auction to be tortured and murdered. Indeed, he killed one of the club’s patrons in flagrant defiance of the Club’s rules.

Beth, on the other hand, at the end of Hostel: Part 2, escapes her own torture and death not by pretending to be a Club patron (as Paxton does) but by actually joining. She plays by the rules (unlike Paxton) when she kills her would-be torturer.

Alice (of Friday the 13th) and Paxton (of Hostel) both die, in the end. But Ginny (in Friday the 13th, Part 2), pretends to be a killer and survives. Which raises the question: is Beth, in Hostel: Part 2, only pretending to embrace the Elite Hunting Club, with its murderously exploitative practices? Or does she skirt too close to the “monsters” of the Hostel franchise and survive only at the cost of becoming one of them?

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