Turistas

Cast:
Josh Duhamel as Alex
Melissa George as Pru
Olivia Wilde as Bea
Desmond Askew as Finn
Beau Garrett as Amy
Max Brown as Liam
Agles Steib as Kiko
Miguel Lundardi as Zamora

Directed by John Stockwell

Summary:
A pointless addition to the horror genre that does less for Brazil’s tourism than “Borat” did for Kazakhstan.

Story:
While on vacation in Brazil, six young travelers wind up stranded in the middle of nowhere when their bus crashes. After a night of partying on a secluded beach, they wake up in the sand, having been drugged and robbed, leading to an even darker secret about the isolated Brazilian community and their use of tourists.

Analysis:
What do you get when the director of “Into the Blue” and the editor of “Wrong Turn” pool their resources for a thriller that transports the latest tourist terror craze onto the beaches of Brazil? You end up with “Turistas,” a formula-driven thriller that succeeds only in its ability to move many horror clichés to a different country and then try to pass it off as an original movie.

As always, the tried-and-true premise comes down to a group of stupid young tourists including the rugged Alex (Josh Duhamel), who’s only there to chaperone his younger sister Bea (Olivia Wilde) and her wild friend Amy (Beau Garrett). When their buss falls over the edge of a cliff–don’t worry, no one dies–they meet up with Pru (Melissa George), an Australian traveler who speaks Portugese, and two Brits, Liam and Finn, who are always on hand to offer the “comic relief” of their witty British sayings. All of them end up on a secluded beach where they party the night away, only to wake up the next morning stranded without any money or communications after being robbed.

Being all about rehashing old horror movie clichés, it won’t take a PhD in the genre to know who will live and who will die. As a matter of fact, if you’ve watched the trailer, you’ll already know what to expect as much of it is stretched across the first hour of the movie. The movie’s “twist” won’t be much of a surprise after the opening scene of a girl pleading for her life while undergoing surgery, and by the time the bad guy Zamora shows up, we’ve already figured out that the self-appointed doctor enjoys culling organs from unlucky tourists to provide hospitals with inexpensive transplants. While there are some noble intentions behind the thought of tourists only being as good as the organs they offer–if you hadn’t guessed, I’m not a fan of tourism–this simple premise is convoluted with needless plot developments over the first hour, all piled onto the travelers to make their situation seem worse than it is. After waking up with their belongings stolen, they chase after a boy wearing Alex’s cap, Liam hits him in the head with a rock, angering the villagers and forcing the group to flee with a local named Kiko as their guide, who then gets injured himself for no apparent reason. By the time the bad guy shows up to start collecting our protagonists’ organs, you’re already wondering why they needed to go through such an elaborate scheme rather than just taking them while they were unconscious on the beach.

Classifying “Turistas” as horror is almost a travesty, because true horror fans may be left wanting more. John Stockwell doesn’t have the instincts to make it as a horror director, as he clearly doesn’t know how to make the best out of the gore opportunities that come with the R-rating. When fingers are hacked off in “Hostel” or “Wolf Creek,” you really feel as if a piece of you has been removed. When something similar happens in “Turistas,” it happens very fast with little time for it to sink in. Same goes for the few other gory bits, as the movie’s mostly ineffective at conveying the sense of terror and thrills necessary for this kind of movie to work, even when Zamora shoves a skewer into a henchman’s eye to show how ruthless he is. Again, it’s all about obvious clichés. Sure, there’s some nice irony in Beau Garrett flashing her breasts only to have them spoiled by over-exposure during her operation, but the movie lacks the humor of “Hostel” or the type of characters you want to see come out okay.

As weak as the writing is, nothing can quite prepare you for how bad Josh Duhamel is as an actor. Continuing the legacy of hunky TV actors trying to make the transition to the screen via horror movies ala Ian Somerhalder and Tom Welling, Duhamel doesn’t even seem like a step up as a leading man from Paul Walker (and that’s saying something). He just makes his female co-stars Melissa George and Olivia Wilde look even better than they are.

Although being shot in Brazil allows Stockwell to capture the country’s beautiful scenery, “Turistas” paints an ugly picture of the country’s people, making them look like savages ready to capitalize on the stupidity of unwary tourists. True, there’s plenty of crime in the country’s larger cities, and it’s not unheard of that something like this might be possible, but it does a disservice to the country to make the people look less friendly and welcoming than they actually are.

The movie does have a few things going for it, such as Stockwell’s penchant for filming bikini-clad babes with beautifully-toned bodies gracefully gliding underwater, a theme begun in “Blue Crush” and “Into the Blue,” and it does include a soundtrack of snappy Brazilian pop tunes that we may never had been heard otherwise.

Still, the movie never really delivers on the premise, and the last half hour is a complete mess, so poorly lit and shot that you can’t really tell what’s going on or who is whom, culminating in the most confusing underwater chase sequence ever put on film. Considering the writer’s background, it’s embarrassing that the action scenes aren’t even edited very well.

The Bottom Line:
“Turistas” isn’t the worst horror movie ever made, but in a year where the bar has been raised by innovatiions like “Hard Candy,” “Hostel,” and “The Descent,” it’s little more than an embarrassing step backwards, a “wannabe” trying to capitalize on the thought that changing location makes the clichés more original. Maybe in the hands of a good horror director, this could have been something worth remembering, but like even the best vacations, this one is quickly forgotten.

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