Three Americans lead Alex (Josh Duhamel), his sister Bea (Olivia Wilde) and her best friend Amy (Beau Garrett) are vacationing in Brazil when the bus that they take whips out and careens off of a cliff. Thankfully everyone gets out in time and there are no fatalities. Soon, the three of them find out about a beach nearby with a bar and, seeing as the replacement bus isn't going to be here any time soon, they head off in search of said cantina. Along the way they pair up with two British guys named Finn (Desmond Askew) and Liam (Max Brown) and a pretty Australian girl named Pru (Melissa George).After a quick jaunt through the jungle our five tourists find the beachside watering hole and meet a Swedish couple who have taken their motorcycle across the continent only to wind up here. The group decides that they don't care if they miss the bus, and they start drinking. The locals move in as night surrounds them, and a friendly local guy named Kiki (Agles Steib), who is learning English, starts chatting them up. The kids all get out and shake it on the dance floor, Liam gets it on with a local prostitute, and soon everything gets blurry. The wake up the next morning and all of their possessions are gone: wallets, passports, luggage – it's all missing.
The group moves on and finds a nearby village. They ask the locals where they can find a police station but they're given the runaround. This initially confuses them until they notice that one of the kids is wearing Finn's hat and that parked beside one of the houses is the Swedes' motorbike. An altercation ensues and soon enough, a local kid has been hit with a rock. Fearing for their lives, Kiki leads them through the jungle to a place he says is his uncle's home, the only place where they'll be safe. The next bus comes in two days, and if they hang around the village the angry locals will make short of them. The problem is that the locals, Kiki included, know a lot more about what's in store for these unwitting travelers than they do, and this will prove to be a very long wait indeed...
The obvious point of comparison for Turistas is Eli Roth's Hostel. They were both in theaters around the same time and they both play with the same basic concept – tourists in a foreign territory in trouble with the locals. Aside from that, however, the films are fairly different. The main difference is that in Hostel it's difficult to like any of the characters. They're more or less annoying frat boys who live up to the obnoxious stereotype, and they're very shallow characters. In Turistas the characters are still fairly shallow but they're not nearly as annoying. You don't dislike the tourists here the same way that you do in Hostel and that gives the inevitable finale a bit more impact and a bit more suspense. It isn't difficult to figure out where it's all going and the movie breaks very little new ground, but it is at least effective in making the audience hope that at least a few of these poor saps make it out alive. Again, the characters are fairly one dimensional, so don't go in expecting much in the way of depth (they're all typically 'beautiful people' in that the guys are all buff and the girls are all gorgeous and slender) but they don't seem like anyone you'd run away from if you were to find yourself at a party with them.
The film was shot on location in Brazil and while it may not do wonders for Brazilian tourism, it does give us a chance to enjoy some exotic locations and lush jungle scenery. Many horror films are set within the treacherous confines of a traditional North American forest so it's interesting to see what is very close to a backwoods slasher placed in a South American jungle. The film also does a decent job of not shying away from the poverty that affects large areas of Brazil, particularly when they tourists are on the bus and when they find themselves searching for help in the small town. There's nothing here on the level of what you see in City Of God but at least the camera doesn't try to gloss over this, and it serves to give the antagonists a bit more motivation than they would have had otherwise in that we can understand how people who live in abject poverty might be driven to more drastic measures than those who are provided for. The film also makes use of some great underwater footage and nifty shots filmed inside a cave to add some more nice scenery to the mix.
Director John Stockwell (yes, the same John Stockwell who starred in John Carpenter's Christine!) directs the movie with a fair bit of style and keeps the pacing tight. He wisely saves the more disturbing set pieces until the film's final half hour using the first two thirds of the film to drop none-so-subtle hints and prepare us for what is to come. Again, no one is reinventing the wheel with this film but it definitely delivers a few memorably nasty kill scenes and it does so in an interesting location. We get some skin, we get some solid gore, and the movie delivers a few superficial jumps scares that, while not really lasting, keep the tone right. Horror fans should enjoy this one as a decent time killer, even if its unlikely make its way to anyone's favorite films list.
NOTE: Fox's DVD is a 'flipper' in that it contains the R-rated cut of the film on one side and the un-rated cut on the other side. The difference in the running time between the two versions is two-minutes (93:18 for the R, versus 935:46 for the un-rated version) in total and the main differences between the two cuts are that the un-rated one is noticeably gorier (mainly during the one stand out gore scene in the film) and a little bit sexier (the scene with the prostitute) than its MPAA approved counterpart.
Turistas hits DVD in a decent 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that looks quite good. Color reproduction looks accurate and although there is some mild edge enhancement and a bit of shimmering present in some scenes there are no issues with mpeg compression artifacts or print damage at all. Flesh tones look lifelike and natural and the black levels stay pretty strong. Detail is good in both the background and the foreground of the picture and sharpness was fine.
Audio options are provided in a nice English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track, a Spanish language Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Sound track and a French language Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Sound track with optional subtitles available in English and Spanish and with English closed captioning available for the feature only. While the English 5.1 track isn't quite as aggressive as it could have been during the more horrific moments in the film, the jungle scenes sound very alive with plenty of well-placed rear channel activity. The bass response is fairly strong and dialogue is always clean and clear without any problems as far as hiss or distortion goes. Levels are properly balanced and the score comes through with a fair bit of punch as well.
Fox has actually given Turistas some interesting extra features beginning with a commentary track (on the R-rated version only) courtesy of director John Stockwell and producer Kent Kubena. They talk about what it was like shooting on location in Brazil, they cover how they did the 'bus spill' scene, and they cover the various spots that certain parts of the movie were shot. They also talk about how certain performers mirror their characters in the movie, and how a certain member of the crew was taking every chance he could get while they were shooting the beach scenes to hop on his surf board. They point out some interesting trivia as the movie plays out and they discuss some of the effects, pointing out how one of the executive producers pitched in and played a dead body. They cover how a mock head was used for the scene in which Kiki gets wounded, and they talk about how one of the actresses flexibility came in handy when she had to get out of her ropes and how all of the actors did their own insert shots. There's a bit of dead air here and there but for the most part these guys keep the discussion moving along and they do a pretty good job of covering all the bases you'd expect them to cover.
Fox offers up a selection of ten deleted scenes and an alternate ending. These are available by way of a 'play all' option or individually (these scenes total 18:28 minutes worth of material, combined). Most of these are fairly inconsequential though there are some nice character development bits in here (to describe them would spoil them) such as the shower scene and the discussion between two characters that takes place there and a scene where Kiki gives a speech. The alternate ending (3:15) is, again without wanting to spoil it, not a good as the one used in the movie but it's worth checking out if you're curious.
On the 'un-rated side' of the disc, check out the The Bloody Truth: Behind The Special Make Up Effects Featurette which is a ten-minute documentary about the make up effects used in the movie. Made up of some brief interview bits and some behind the scenes footage, it's a reasonably interesting look at how certain key scenes were put together. Stockwell shows up here and chimes in as do some effects artists, stuntmen and the 2nd unit director.
Rounding out the extra features on this release is a teaser trailer for the upcoming theatrical release of The Hills Have Eyes 2, some animated menus and a chapter stop index menu.
While Turistas is far from a modern classic, it's an entertaining and gory little thriller with a couple of nice twists and some great location footage. Fox has done a fine job on the DVD, affording the film a few choice extras, an alternate uncut version, and very nice audio and video quality. Recommended for genre nuts, a solid rental for everyone else.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.