Czech boost for ‘Hostel II’

IPC also helped secure financing

PRAGUE — Eli Roth, who just wrapped “Hostel II’s” Prague and Iceland shoots, ventured into more than a new threshold for gore on the project.

The energetic, prankish helmer returned to the Czech Republic for the seven-week production, bringing his Raw Nerve company into partnership again with Prague’s Intl. Production Co. because, he says, “They know how to put the money on the screen.”

The four-year-old Prague-based venture run by American Dan Frisch and Brit Philip Waley was recommended by “Pink Panther” editor George Folsey, Roth’s friend, after its work on the laffer, involving 27,000 extras in the town of Teplice. The recommendation, along with the country’s “beautiful rotting buildings,” won over Roth for the first “Hostel” shoot.

IPC also helped secure financing, which didn’t hurt on such a risky project. All part of the plan, says Frisch, who conceives of his small production company as a boutique business, taking on a select few clients and offering them production guarantees and line producing in addition to the typical production services.

The four-year-old Prague shingle, which moved beyond servicing work after doing “Running Scared” in 2004, typifies a Czech trend in which service providers are assuming more responsibilities and involvement.

Prague’s Stillking has just taken on packaging and financing for Ehren Kruger’s adaptation of the novel “The Keep,” but has been co-producing pics from “Casino Royale” and “The Illusionist” to “Everything is Illuminated” and “Van Helsing.”

Prague’s Milk and Honey outfit has also moved into financial guarantees and other involvement, says prexy Tomas Krejci, both to remain competitive and to tap into government funds. In the absence of film incentives from the Czech government, production service companies must get their clients VAT refunds of 22% on goods and 5% on services. In order to qualify, he says, real financial responsibility must be shown. “It’s necessary that the company in Prague be in ownership of the material.”

Although Roth’s budget more than doubled with “Hostel II” and Sony has kicked in $19 million in P&A, his first outing spent just $2.2 million on production in 38 days.

Czech shoots can’t compete dollar for dollar with Bulgaria or Romania these days, but Frisch says, “We don’t sell cheap; we sell value.”

Roth, for his part, has ramped up the creepiness in “Hostel II,” which carries on his tale of kidnapped backpackers sold off to sicko businessmen for dismemberment with a custom built train car, a bigger torture complex (“We’ve got actual theme rooms”) and more locations in derelict buildings around Bohemia.

This time around, the victims are college girls in Rome (Lauren German, Bijou Phillips and Heather Matarazzo) who foolishly take the advice of an exotic Czech woman, who recommends a lovely spa vacation in Bratislava, Slovakia.

Slovak tourist authorities were already annoyed by the gory “Hostel,” and this time around, Roth cast former Slovak culture minister Milan Knazko as one of the heavies.

Roth is clearly thrilled at auds’ recent taste for torture. Roth, an NYU grad with an encyclopedic knowledge of his craft, points to the greats of American horror from the 1970s, like “Jaws,” “The Exorcist” and “The Shining,” and says “I felt American horror had gone soft. I wanted to amp it up.”

More fresh visions are on the way, says Frisch, such as psychological thriller “Psych 9” and a WWII true story set on the soccer field, “Baker’s Dozen,” which IPC is developing.

“Hostel III” is all but signed as well, to possibly follow Roth’s next shoot, Stephen King’s “The Cell,” although “Hostel II’s” release date will affect timing, Roth says.

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