I was out of the country for the June 8 opening of Hostel: Part II, and was surprised to discover upon my return last weekend that the sequel had tanked at the box office.
It earned $8.2 million its opening weekend, a mere $3 million the following weekend and a paltry $900,000 the next (compare all this to the original's $19.5 opening weekend).
With Ratatouille, the Die Hard sequel and the upcoming Transformers movie taking up screens this week, the film has all but disappeared from theatres.
All this in spite of the fact that Eli Roth's sequel got better reviews than his original. I liked the first, especially the nasty cultural message it imparted in between cleverly filmed torture sessions. The sequel is even smarter, especially in the final third, where it toys with audience sympathy. Roth's terrific in exploiting young kids' fears that successful adults are really just blood-thirsty sadists.
So: how to explain the quick death at the box office?
Maybe it's timing. The original opened the first weekend of January 2006 - an excellent case of counter-programming against Oscar hopefuls and seasonal films. Summer's a way more competitive time.
In addition, it was probably unwise to release a movie about backpackers getting tortured and mutilated ... during backpack tourist season.
And maybe the whole nasty torture trend in horror movies has been beaten to death, like the victims in H:P2.
Still, the movie's failure is a shame. At least one of the death scenes has a Grand Guignol flourish that's nightmarishly fun. And the capitalist message at the end is wickedly funny.
Don't cry for Roth, either. He made the thing for $10 million, so it's already turned a little profit. And he's lined up his next gig in the meantime: directing the adaptation of Stephen King's thriller Cell. Which should be a much easier box office sell.