Turistas (2006)

Turistas reviewStarring Josh Duhamel, Melissa George, Olivia Wilde, Desmond Askew

Directed by John Stockwell

If horror films have taught us anything, it’s that traveling only gets you killed. Hell, is there any safe place to vacation anymore? Let’s go down the list:

Japan? Death.
Australia? Death.
Slovakia? Torture and death.

Now the trend of xenophobic horror continues in Brazil with the arrival of Turistas, a brazenly mediocre “tourists in trouble” movie that kick-starts the new Fox Atomic division.

All early promos pointed toward a straight-up Hostel clone, but this is nothing of the sort. Instead, Turistas steals from a more obscure source – a little Italian exploitation cheapie called Dr. Butcher M.D. (aka Zombie Holocaust), swiping plot twists and even full lines of dialogue. Instead of raising the dead, here we have black market organ donors. On the receiving end of the punishment are a group of teens (who else?) who become stranded in the jungle after a tour bus accident and are tricked into the domicile of a sadistic medical harvester. Your standard survival plot ensues as our captive tourists try to escape before they’re massacred by Dr. McStabby and his dreadlock gang.

Turistas review (click to see it bigger!)Let’s start with the good: This is far from the dreadful teen slice-n-dice flick the trailers have indicated. Director John Stockwell takes a thin concept and executes it with a certain level of maturity and skill, not to mention a gorgeous visual touch. Amazingly, Turistas completely avoids the whole “old school throw-back” style and is neither a straight-up slasher film nor a visceral gore-porn shocker. While there are a few disturbing and graphic moments, the filmmakers stay clear of any real visceral tone, opting for the aesthetic of a standard Hollywood suspense film. Sure, it’s all carried out with a certain level of class, but in the end, it also works against the film. Turistas just feels like another cog in the giant studio machine.

The missing ingredient, as usual, is a good script. Many viewers have commented that the characters are a breath of fresh air, but here’s a better analogy: They’re more like a whiff of stale air after sucking down smog. They’re not annoying or obnoxious; rather they stir up no feelings whatsoever. They exist to be put in harm’s way, nothing more, and fail to elicit our sympathies even in their darkest hour. As for the antagonists, they’re equally bland. The evil doctor comes off as a shallow action movie villain who looks icy and barks orders while the rest of his men are just faceless goons. There are scenes and situations that are undeniably effective, but the whole predicament leaves you feeling as neutral as the characters.

Turistas review (click to see it bigger!)As expected, the last act of the film generates into a full-on chase through the jungle, and this is where the suspense deflates faster than a popped tire. The nighttime locations are so dark, the villains so interchangeable, and the cross-cut editing so spastic, there are times when it’s virtually impossible to keep track of who is chasing whom. Toss in a conclusion that feels both pedestrian and utterly random, and you have a horror film that’s every bit as disposable as the ones it tries to avoid.

Turistas may not be the dud we all expected (which will no doubt earn it a heap of praise), but it’s a wholly unremarkable movie. If you’re looking for a cheap ninety minutes of routine suspense, this may very well be your cup of tea. If you’re looking for something more, take the poster’s advice and go home.

Check out Rick Trembles’ illustrated Turistas review right here for another take on the film!

2 ½ out of 5

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