Directed by: John Stockwell
Premise: A group of backpackers traveling across Brazil find themselves targeted by natives who intend to sell the tourist’s organs for profit.
What Works: Turistas earns a lot of points in audacity. The film has some of the most gruesome sequences seen in a theatrically released horror film in years, bypassing Saw and its many imitators, and hearkening back to exploitation films like Pieces and Maniac. Although the film does not do much different from the rest of its genre in terms of story and conventions, it does do some of them very well or adds some new elements, including a chase scene through underwater caves. The script’s treatment of its characters, as abbreviated as it is, surpasses some of the genre’s other entries and spares its female characters from simple virgin-whore dichotomies.
What Doesn’t: Turistas is essentially a repeat of the premise and plot of Hostel, released earlier this year. While this film has a better opening than Hostel’s soft-core porn first act, it does have a weaker second and third act. Turistas also closely resembles is The Descent, another horror film of extreme gore in a cave setting. Turistas lets too much slip early on and the reversal that was so shocking in Hostel comes as no surprise in Turistas. The lighting of many scenes is so dark that is difficult to make out exactly what is going on, and so the film crosses from being atmospheric into being unintelligible.
Bottom Line: Turistas is very derivative and imitates a lot from Hostel and The Descent, two films released earlier this year. While Turistas might have a bit more narrative cohesion than those films, it is not as effective in staging the scares and ends up going for the gross out when it cannot attain genuine frights. Gore hounds and fans of 1970s and 80s exploitation films will want to check it out.
Episode: #121 (December 10, 2006)