A tradesman in the ways of directing half-naked women, director John Stockwell
has his hands full in his first foray into the horror genre. Stockwell has spent most of his career constructing exercises in bromidic romance and laughs, but here he attempts to follow up Into the Blue, his insipid take on The Deep, with a much darker trip into a tropical locale.
On a bus heading to a popular tourist town in Brazil, Alex (Josh Duhamel
) has been given the charge of looking after his late-teen sister Bea (Olivia Wilde
) and her friend Amy (Beau Garrett
). When a near-accident sends the bus careening down a mountain and leaves the passengers waiting for another one, Alex, Bea, and Amy hook up with two Brits (Desmond Askew
and Max Brown
) and Pru (Melissa George
), a tanned-up, bilingual woman who catches Alex's eye. They all head down to a beach bar where they proceed to drink themselves silly, grind against one another and practice the ancient art of putting on a bikini without getting naked (admittedly, my technique is lagging). When the sun comes up, the group realizes they have been drugged and that someone has stolen all their belongings, including passports and airplane tickets. Article continues below
Quickly, these turistas become bait for an evil doctor (Miguel Lunardi
) and a group of henchmen. It is not for simple bloodlust, you see, that the good doctor is chasing this pack of toned visitors: He wants their organs, and is pretty damn serious about getting them from live bodies.
It's the reasoning of organ harvesting that gives Turistas a slightly more interesting pulse. Though more recently a news topic in China, the idea of this being done for charitable reasons (sick children and adults in third world countries) lets the film dance with a more humanistic side of horror. Sadly, both Lunardi and Stockwell seem dead-set on turning the doctor into a monster, leaving the character with less dimension and depth. A scene where the doctor sticks a kebob spear through the eye of an insipid henchman paints the character as a man who delights in his torture rather than building on the "good" side of his doctor work.
Stockwell seems to be working from a place of fear like Eli Roth
's Hostel. Both films accentuate nightmarish scenarios of foreign travel and foreigners in general. Hostel took its cold mechanics to heartlessly gruesome heights, leaving an empty shell of a film with a hollow emotional core. Turistas has a decidedly sunnier disposition but it comes up short on horror and thrills. The film's climactic chase through an underwater labyrinth and a subsequent standoff in a cave stand out, but that leaves most of the film lacking any sense of character. What's most disappointing is that Turistas never acknowledges the market and cultural conditions that exist in its very real nightmare, and therefore contains itself in insufferable artificiality. Of course, that's not to say that a film with a lot of half-naked women doesn't have an audience.