Starring: Josh Duhamel, Melissa George, Olivia Wilde, Desmond Askew, Beau Garrett, Max Brown, Raul Guterres, Andréa Leal
Director: John Stockwell
As my boy Bill Clark of FromTheBalcony.com said when the lights went up, “Tropical Hostel.” That’s “Turistas” in a nutshell, though to its credit “Turistas” is not nearly as vapid or morally bankrupt as “Hostel” was. The bad guys in “Turistas” may be performing heinous acts on their prey, but the movie is not solely about the act itself. In other words, it’s not torture for the sake of torture. But either way, it still isn’t any good: it’s just not as bad as what I consider to be the worst movie ever made.
The story begins with a group of strangers on a Brazilian tour bus. The driver attempts to pass a couple on a moped, and in the process plants the bus on a ledge. Everyone gets out, but the bus rolls off the hillside and is destroyed. The few WASPs on the bus huddle up and start talking about their options after retrieving their luggage from the wreckage, and decide to grab a drink at an exotic nearby beach until the next bus arrives. The group forgets their troubles in a hurry once they hit the beach, and begins drinking heavily. It is way too late before they realize that they’ve been drugged, and when they wake up the next morning, they’ve been robbed. No cash, credit cards or passports. And the Swedish couple they partied with last night is missing.
The group stumbles into the nearby sleepy town, and Kiko (Agles Stieb), a local who practiced his English with them the previous day, offers to take them to his uncle’s place out of town once the locals turn on them after an incident between Liam (Max Brown) and a little boy wearing the baseball cap of Alex (Josh Duhamel). His uncle’s place is way out in the sticks, but once they arrive, they find a lovely home that’s stocked with food, clothes, and clean water. At night, the “uncle” arrives. That’s when things get interesting.
Sounds just like “Hostel,” doesn’t it? It begins as a party, with drinking and sex (Beau Garrett’s topless scene is beyond gratuitous, though you’ll hear no complaints from us). The fornicating victims are drugged and violated, and that’s only the beginning. It’s the same damn movie, with one huge difference: “Turistas” has a moral center, whereas “Hostel” doesn’t. Both are appalling, of course, but the fact that “Turistas” bears a passing resemblance to humanity ends up being its saving grace. As much as it could be saved, anyway.
The movie never really had a chance from the very beginning. Due to the nature of the plot, the most shocking act in the movie can only be done once. After that, it’s not shocking anymore, and while the filmmakers seem to be aware of this, they did not come up with a good backup plan to account for this problem. Indeed, the third act does nothing but combine elements of various thrillers and horror movies from the last year, namely “The Descent” and “The Cave.” Was this movie even assembled by human hands, or a random idea generator?
Movies like “Turistas” bring out the Republican in me. I mean, when I’m spouting off about a movie’s lack of morals, you’re talking about serious depravity. And before you write me off as some fuddy duddy, look at the movie’s I’ve anointed with four stars this year. “Jackass: Number Two,” “Beerfest,” “The Descent” and “Snakes on a Plane” all received high praise from me. That may say more about me than I intend it to, but I can live with that, as long as it establishes that I’m no prude. But this soulless, snuff film junk has got to go, stat.
A 10-minute featurette on the special make-up effects (“The Bloody Truth”) used during production is the only remnant of bonus material that appears on the single-disc DVD release of “Turistas.” Not very surprising, really, considering how terrible it performed at the box office during its short theatrical run.