Review: “Turistas”

Move over morally responsible and athletic girls in tight tank tops, it now seems that Western tourists with good bodies and bad attitudes have become the new cannon fodder in the realm of teen horror films. “Turistas” is the latest in a recent sub-genre of slasher flicks – cautionary tales of stupid tourists in foreign locales getting their comeuppance at the hands of evil locals only out to carve them up.

Sound familiar? The thin premise bears much resemblance to Eli Roth’s self-indulgent but nevertheless effective “Hostel”. With John Stockwell (“Blue Crush,” “Into the Blue”) at the helm though, “Turistas” is a more straightforward, less campy effort than that memorable example of ‘gore-ography’.

Yet it’s also less of an outright horror film and more of a dumb action thriller with a mess of a third act suddenly pushing the subject matter into that increasingly common (and increasingly dull) celebration of torture that the horror genre has devolved into lately. It also kind of spoils the film which up til that point had been a silly but serviceable little time passer with a building sense of dread.

Set on the beaches and jungles of a remote area of Brazil, the backdrop is actually one of the film’s better elements. Despite not portraying the country well, the scenery does make the earlier scenes more engaging to watch whilst the metaphor of sex and death in this libidinous and yet oddly puritanical country bring up some interesting ideas (never explored of course in the film).

The cast is also serviceable. Despite being pure caricatures, and cliched ones at that, most of them have worked before on shows and films so their acting is vaguely passable for this kind of film. It also comes as no surprise that the least experienced one of the bunch is also reduced to basically one line of dialogue – “is it alright if I take my top off?”.

More importantly though they look good in bikinis and tight wet clothing – most notably the surprisingly fit Aussie actress Melissa George always wearing thin cotton shirts or skimpy bikinis to the genetically perfect Josh Duhamel with the immaculate tan and perky pecs. In an effort to spread the hate around, the film takes its pain out on six leads who just happen to represent three of the most Western English-language based first world nations on Earth – The USA, The UK and Australia (Canadians at least know better).

The results are highly predictable – you know dimwitted topless girl is going to get it, you know Duhamel and George will likely survive, and of course both the horny Brits out only for sex are likely to meet a fitting end – though one’s still left waiting for the film someday where some character like this gets his penis chopped off with a cigar clipper.

What’s missing here – aside from any sense of originality, terror, or intelligence – is at least a sense of conviction. For all their silliness, at least “Hostel” and the “Saw” & recent “Texas Chainsaw” films never danced around their sadistic indulgences. Here Stockwell gets it done in one nasty scene and then it’s out of the way.

In fact much of the film’s last half he spends as much time as he can on familiar territory – underwater. Most of the last half hour involves running around rain-soaked forests and swimming into and out of dark underwater caverns. Unlike “Into the Blue” where the clear waters made everything quite visible, here the water and rain only add to the confusion and render what could’ve been tense chases into a tedious and murky blur.

Ultimately it’s trash, admittedly not as bad as it could’ve been but certainly a disappointment considering some strong efforts in the genre of late such as “Wolf Creek” and “The Descent”. The concept itself is a decent one, the locale a great choice and the casting half-decent. A good script and a director with a keener sense of suspense could’ve made this work – sadly we have neither on this trip.