Turistas (2006)

Reviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 12/01/06 01:06:28

"Hostel La Vista"
1 stars (Sucks)

If you walked away from “Hostel” feeling giddy about the repellent imagery, the rabidly xenophobic view of the world beyond the U.S. borders and the complete lack of genuine fear or tension in what was theoretically supposed to be a horror film but bummed because the chilly Eastern European setting precluded the comelier cast members from strutting around in bathing suits, you are in luck because 20th Century-Fox–the people who brought you such fine films as “Just My Luck” and “John Tucker Must Die”–has answered your prayers with “Turistas.” One of the more blatant rip-offs in recent memory, the film offers up nothing more that a note-for-note lift of Eli Roth’s gross-out sensation on the assumption that slack-jawed teenagers will be too distracted by all the hot bodies in tiny swimsuits to notice the theft. In theory, this is a sound idea, I suppose, but “Turistas” is so idiotic and repetitive that not even the considerable sight of Melissa George and Olivia Wilde in bikinis flimsier than the screenplay will keep them from realizing just how cruddy it really is.

After the requisite prologue involving someone being gruesomely tortured by an unknown assailant for unknown reasons, “Turistas” cuts to a bus speeding through the jungles outside of Brazil and introduces us to the cast of pretty-ugly Americans (not to mention a couple of Brits and an Aussie for good measure) that may or may not be reduced to spare parts as the film progresses. There are Bea (Wilde) and Amy (Beau Garrett), a pair of nubile idiots backpacking their way through South America. There is Alex (Josh Duhamel), who is Bea’s older brother and who has been sent to tag along by their mother in order to pretend to be Bea’s boyfriend in case any swarthy types hit on her (a notion that, when you think of it, is far creepier than anything else in the film). There is also Pru (Melissa George), a hottie from Down Under who is apparently there so that Alex does have someone to pair up with and a pair of randy Brits (Desmond Askew and Max Brown) who are there to beef up the body count. After their bus is wrecked, the gang decides that even though they don’t know where they are (or apparently that they speak Portugese in Brazil), it would be better to wander into the jungle instead of waiting for the next bus like everyone else. Eventually, they wind up on a gorgeous beach filled with free drinks and friendly locals and party the night away. Alas, their drinks are drugged and when they wake up in the morning, they find that they have been robbed of their money, passports and belongings.

Not to worry, says friendly local Kiko (Agles Steib), my uncle has a place up in the woods that will be safe for you to stay in until a bus arrives. After a journey roughly as arduous as the one Klaus Kinski undertook hauling the boat in “Fitzcarraldo,” they arrive at a lush swimming hole a short distance away from the house. Now if you or I or any sentient human being were in such a predicament, I suspect that we would make some kind of vague indication about the prettiness of the locale before pressing on to the house. This gang, on the other hand, apparently realized that they are in a draggy horror film and stick around so that a.) Amy and one of the Brits can split off and make out so that they can prove themselves worthy of being slaughtered first, b.) Kiko can show the others an elaborate underwater cave system that just might come in handy later and c.)Kiko can crack his head on a rock and fall unconscious before he can reveal his terrible secret–his uncle (Miguel Lunardi) is a mad surgeon who has decided that the only way to redress the inequity between the poor native people of Brazil and the rich foreign tourists who exploit them is to kidnap vacationers and harvest their organs for transplants.

Of course, one doesn’t go into a film like this expecting brilliant plot developments and award-caliber acting. However, even on the level of mindless contemporary gore-porn, “Turistas” is a surprisingly anemic entry. Those hoping for loads of nudity will be disappointed to discover that while most of the characters spend their time in tiny outfits, there is relatively little display of anything further than that (and the one girl who does doff her top only does so in order to ensure her eventual doom). Those hoping for creative gore will be disappointed by the relatively banal tortures supplied by director John Stockwell (for whom this film, coming on the heels of previous efforts “Blue Crush” and “Into the Blue,” must mark the end of his Kieslowski-like Three Bikini Trilogy)–even what was clearly designed to be the gross-out centerpiece, an extended sequence in which the mad doctor operates on one of his still-living victims, is staged in a surprisingly dull manner and further undercut by the doc’s ludicrous monologue explaining his motivations. (Does he do this to every one of his victims in lieu of anesthesia?)

Those hoping for something that will top the giddy excesses of “Hostel” will instead find themselves counting the specific instances in which “Turistas” borrows most blatantly from that film, including some sexy local gals leading the guys astray, a pack of roving kids who cause trouble for our heros early on and later provide salvation and an eyeball plucking that recalls the most notorious bit of gore. And just in case all of that might come off as a little too subtle, the screenplay even has a character make some reference to the uncle’s house possibly being some strange kind of youth hostel. Stockwell does try to shake things up with an elaborate underwater chase that dominates most of the last act but he falls into the same trap that has ensnared virtually every director who has tried a long underwater action scene in the past–the results are so dark and murky that it becomes impossible to tell who is who and where they are in relation to everyone else and instead of holding our breath in suspense, we find ourselves wondering how the theoretically untrained characters have suddenly developed the ability to swim and fight for extended periods of time without needing to surface for air.

Say what you will about “Hostel”–it was a cruddy horror film but at least it was one clearly made by someone with an actual fondness for and working knowledge of the genre. “Turistas,” on the other had, is essentially a pre-fab product that feels as if it was quickly whipped together at a Fox production meeting between deciding how to screw over Mike Judge on “Idiocracy” and checking out the rushes on “My Super Ex-Girlfriend.” Lacking even trace amounts of suspense or even creative ghoulishness, it provides cinema travelers with an excursion about as entertaining as spending 89 minutes stuck in line at Customs while stricken with the ailment that inspired the all-too-fitting title.

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