Review: Turistas

Posted by Peter Hall - January 22nd 2007 @ 4:30 am

Directed by John Stockwell, 2006
Written by Michael Ross

Turistas Poster

I’ll wander blindly out onto this lonely limb, but reflecting back on the eligible candidates Turistas is actually one of the best horror films of ’06.  Worth note, however, is that ’06 boiled down to a rather slim list of candidates.

Going into the flick, I didn’t think I’d ever claim those words as my own, but it actually is.  Perhaps misrepresented as a Hostel cash-in, Turistas is a story of a group of tourists who are united, unintentionally, on the shores of an isolated beach in Brazil.  They happen upon a coastal bar, party with the locals and quickly have their drinks rufied by a ring operation whose net goal is to harvest their organs for the black market.

Michael Ross’ script, combined with Stockwell’s direction, gears the familiar seeming scenario into a film that could aptly be described as the most ’70s studio horror film made since the ’90s.  Whenever other directors, such as Rob Zombie or Eli Roth, try to hark on the qualities that defined ’70s shock fare for them, they tend to focus only on elements of style, not of actual story, character, or arch.

In fairness, I’m not convinced that Stockwell or Ross had intended any such ’70s mentality, but it exists all the same.  The quality in question is hard to pinpoint, but the general scent of newly realized sexuality, shock torture, wild chases and adventuring-whities-out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere is a cologne Turistas is drenched in.

Unlike its inevitable comparison film, Hostel, the characters on display aren’t instantly despicable.  This is an odd paradox, considering several of them behave identically to the three backpackers of the former crapfest.  What sets them apart is that Stockwell never glorifies any behavior in the film – good or bad.  Any actions taken are treated in the interest of personal freedom, not some typical, stoner’s pilgrimage across Europe.

There is even a decent portion of social commentary at play.  It hardly blows the lid off the Brazilian black market for organs, but it at least shows more thought than the average teen aimed slasher.  And, surprisingly, the core of its "message" (if it can be called as such) has less to do with a fabricated, thriving market for tourist organs (in fact, a rather intense surgery scene is slightly spoiled by some ham-fisted dialogue regarding just this) and more to do with Brazil’s own, internal conflicts.

Fuck!  Did I seriously just discuss social commentary against Brazil’s exploitation of their own indigenous population in Turistas, the first movie released under Fox’s new, youth oriented banner, Fox Atomic?

What is wrong with me?  Perhaps I should get back to the horror portion of the movie before I seriously start losing my mind.

The gore is delayed quite a bit, but when it eventually arrives, it does a good deal to impress.  The movie isn’t a bloodfest, but the few key effects required are elaborate and well crafted.  The style is pretty straightforward, the acting equally standard.  Josh Duhamel (aka that dude from Las Vegas, that show on NBC that is always on when there is nothing else to watch) is a tad overbearing in the beginning, but the other cast members level it out.

A bonus, and one of the contributing factors that inspires the ’70s vibe, is the fact that the cast spends 95% of their screen time in swimsuits.  Save for a thimbleful of skin, the movie contains relatively no nudity, but a great deal of tidal sexuality by way of constantly bikini clad heroines bouncing about the woods – a trait definitely parented by the aforementioned era.

At the end of the day, Turistas is more than a decent little piece.  It is smarter in its subtext than one would have ever wagered, but it isn’t penetrating.  The gore is gripping, but not twisted for twisted’s sake.  The characters are average, but they’re at least not annoying.  It’s sexy, but not trashy.  The villains are human, but not monsters.  It may not be comparable to any one film from the decade, but it would fit right in with any of the adventure/escape themed romps of the ’70s.  More so than it was probably ever intended to.

But hey, some accidents work.  And at least I’m aware that I’ll be in the minority in saying that Turistas does.


rss 2 comments
  1. R.J. Sayer
    January 22nd, 2007 | 2:49 pm | #1

    I agree with that… it was honest, realistic, non-judgmental and all that.

    but it was just SO BOOOOOOOOOOOOORING.

    seriously.

    and that underwater chase sequence? what the hell was going on there?

    the highlight to me was the amazing bus crash.

  2. January 22nd, 2007 | 3:19 pm | #2

    I know I’m in the minority here. I don’t know why I liked the movie as much as I did. I do know that I didn’t want to, but I found myself doing so against my better judgment.

    And, yeah, that bus crash was a kick.

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