Call me a sadist, but Hostel’s most egregious failing (of which there are many) is that it wants to be preeminent shock cinema, but doesn’t have the balls to fully follow through on its promise of unbridled carnage. Eli Roth’s banal follow-up to Cabin Fever spends its first half charting the ugly, arrogant behavior of three hedonistic backpackers (two American, one Icelandic) as they wend their way through Amsterdam and, after learning about an idyllic Eastern European hostel filled with nymphomaniacal beauties, Slovakia. A portrait of repugnant touristy egotism that periodically, and tantalizingly, hints at its story’s forthcoming grisliness, the film seems to be setting itself up as a gory cautionary tale about ugly American behavior and the consequences of treating the big, bad world like one’s personal playground. Such subtextual concerns, however, are treated with facile indifference once the three travelers find themselves lured by malevolent sex kittens into a slaughterhouse where the wealthy pay handsomely for the opportunity to torture, mutilate and murder humans, as the weak-kneed Roth – his brand of extreme horror a pale echo of the work of Takeshi Miike, an admitted influence who appears in a cameo – fails to wholeheartedly indulge in the kind of unrepentant, unrelenting mayhem his premise both suggests and necessitates. Culminating with a painfully abrupt, deflating finale (not to mention illogical, or do you no longer need a passport to cross European borders?), the wannabe-nasty film also exhibits some toxic trace amounts of misogyny and homophobia. Though in the end, what’s primarily unpleasant about the insincere and only mildly hostile Hostel is its refusal to be truly unpleasant.