[To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the cult classic Heathers, we're celebrating all week long with "Heathers of Horror" special features highlighting our favorite horror performances by women with the same name as the iconic clique from the 1989 dark comedy! Check here to catch up on all of our "Heathers Week" special features!]
While the film has certainly received a lot of grief from a variety of sources—fans, critics, even ratings boards—ever since its release in 2007, you can count this writer amongst the fans of Eli Roth’s Hostel: Part II. There’s no denying that the sequel took the brutality of the original Hostel even further, but what I have always appreciated about both movies is how Roth took on how we examine violence in cinema and made it something that was both thoroughly uncomfortable and endlessly entertaining in the same token, ushering in a new wave of ultra-gore horror (sorry, I still refuse to acknowledge the term “torture porn” as a valid label to this very day), for better or worse.
And where in the first Hostel Roth centered his story around a group of young, haughty American men traveling overseas (which was rather refreshing to see), for Part II, he decided to flip the genders around, and this time focused on a trio of twentysomething women—Beth (Lauren German), Whitney (Bijou Phillips), and Lorna (Heather Matarazzo)—who get way more than they bargained for after they set out to visit a day spa in Slovakia, which turns out to be run by the Elite Hunting Company, who raffles off unsuspecting victims to the highest bidders. In this instance, two of the auction winners are a pair of American businessmen, Todd (Richard Burgi) and Stuart (Roger Bart), who head to Slovakia early in order to get a sneak peek at their “prizes.”
Many might feel like putting women in peril once again in Hostel: Part II was Roth backpedaling a bit on what he does in the original Hostel, but for me, I think the twist in the film’s final act involving German’s character more than makes up for it, and the three actresses and their characters who become the heart of this Hostel sequel are a vast improvement over the men in the first film (sorry, dudes!). And while I enjoyed the performances from both German and Phillips immensely, it was always Matarazzo’s work in Hostel: Part II that stood out to me as some truly excellent character work we weren’t seeing that much of during this era in the genre, and I totally related to her “grandma in her twenties” persona with every fiber of my being.
When she was approached to be a part of Hostel: Part II, Matarazzo recalled what initially compelled her to come aboard the sequel. “The first thing that drew me to it was getting the opportunity to work on something where Quentin [Tarantino] was involved, and also the death scene, too. That moment in and of itself, I thought it would be incredibly challenging and something that I would like to explore as well. Not to mention that getting to spend three months in Prague would be a wonderful, fabulous time. But the truth is that I have never been a huge fan of horror. I am slowly starting to come around as I get older because I'm able to detach from my initial empathetic reaction of, ‘Oh no, someone's getting hurt,’ and look at it from a wider-angle lens now, for lack of a better term.”
“I liked my character, though, and the truth is that the reason Lorna is so relatable is because I think that we all have that within us, right? We all have something that we’re struggling with. But I thought it was interesting how she was also dealing with some mental health issues, which was something that I also think was often overlooked then, too. It’s interesting for me to look back now, over 10 years from when I initially came onto the project and getting to see how she was this young woman who was very sheltered and very naïve, but also still there was this slight sense of privilege and entitlement to her and her friends.”
“I do think that we all have lessons to learn in life, and I feel that one of Lorna's ultimate lessons was what happens when you decided to say f--k it and do something different, and the consequence of that for her was ultimately her death. But I also think that what happens to her does perpetuate this stereotype that when you're a young woman and you drink, bad things can happen, which I don't really desire to promote or support as a woman today, but I do think there’s something very tragic about what happens to Lorna, and I did enjoy the opportunity to get to explore that.”
When it came time to film Lorna’s grueling death scene in Hostel: Part II (which this writer would argue is still one of the most disturbing setups we’ve seen in the last 15 years of horror), Matarazzo had to work hard to prepare herself for her character being hung upside down as she’s slashed with a scythe, as her blood pours down onto the woman (Mrs. Bathory, a nod to the real-life Elizabeth Bathory) who purchased Lorna in the Elite auction.
“That scene was about getting back to this primal thing, where she is hanging there defenseless, completely naked, and she's crying out for her mom. To get me ready, they had given me an inversion machine, and for every day for about a month and a half, I would use this inversion machine and hang upside down for two minutes at a time, then for three, then for four, and I eventually ended up getting it up to 20 minutes. That way on the days that we were shooting, they weren't going to have to take me down every five minutes, which cuts like 10 minutes into the schedule. And then imagine having to do that every five minutes? That scene would end up taking a week to shoot, and we had to shoot it in two days.”
“In terms of getting naked and having to show my body, I felt really lucky and grateful that everyone was incredibly respectful. The days we were shooting that, I had this pink robe on and I would get on the set and everybody's just very tense. You could hear a pin drop. There was this saying that I learned in Prague, and its a Czech saying that goes, ‘Dobrý Den, Prsa Ven,’ which means ‘Good Day, Tits Out.’"
"So, when I walked on the set for the first time, I could just feel the palpable tension in the room. I took off my pink robe and said in front of everybody, ‘Dobrý Den, Prsa Ven,’ everyone struggled for a second and they started laughing hysterically. That broke the tension and it broke the ice, and that was it. But the truth is, those two days of filming were a complete blur. I was hanging probably 15 feet up in the air, and the only thing that I have that's a safety precaution is that my feet are in these stirrups. Also, I have very small feet and very small ankles. At one point, Eli's asking me to wriggle around like a fish, so you're using your entire body to move, and I started to feel my feet start to slip out of the harness.”
“I had the gag in my mouth and I had those chains around my wrists, and I remember specifically thinking, 'I'm going to fall,' or, 'I'm going to die.' I calmly took the gag thing out of my mouth and I told them that my foot was slipping and it needed to be tighter. They brought me down and made it tighter, and everything was great. But from that moment on, that seed of fear was planted and I couldn't shake that feeling that I might die, which worked very, very well for that scene. And the result of that scene was that Hostel: Part II was banned in three countries.”
“And the truth is that I don't know if I would ever do anything like that again, just simply based on what I know now. I know that a lot of people are affected not only by the film, but particularly that moment, and I feel like I never have the need to repeat it in the future.”
In the most recent issue of Fangoria, Lorna’s death scene and Heather’s performance in particular were brought up during an interview between Paul Thomas Anderson and Jordan Peele, which Matarazzo found genuinely surprising, and this writer could not wait to ask her about it.
“I was so surprised. I adore Paul Thomas Anderson, and I look forward to getting the opportunity to work with him one day. And I think that Jordan Peele has this brilliant mind, and I would also love to work with him someday. But anytime there's genuine praise from one's peers, it signifies to me, especially in moments when I am forgetting that, 'Oh, my work does make an impact,' that my work does have a lasting statement and in people's minds, which is incredibly awesome. It inspires all of us when we get that kind of recognition, and it helps foster that sense of wonder within me, in terms of what is possible. It was a really great feeling.”
Check here to catch up on all of our special features celebrating "Heathers Week," including more "Heathers of Horror" retrospectives!