01 March 2012

TURISTAS/2006

I am listing the 2006 film Turistas (aka Paradise Lost) under my torture porn category if for no other reason than I like the term suddenly. The truth is other than one scene the film is not really of the gory, brutal nature of Hostel and its ilk. But there are all the other ingredients here that make the film fall into the same general category. American teenagers (and a few Aussies) travel to some remote area of the US or, even better, some developing nation like Brazil. By taking the kids out of the US and placing them somewhere remote and alien you have the potential of ratcheting up the stress level quite a few notches once things start to get out of control. Elements such as the inability to communicate in the local language, xenophobia on the part of the locals, loss of money and passports and the likelihood that the local authorities are totally incompetent, corrupt or part of the evil plot add to the paranoia and disorientation the vacationing teens will experience. Also adding to their disorientation will the fact that they tend to allow themselves to get wiped out on drugs and booze and lured into suspicious sexual situations without little forethought. Of course if teenagers thought ahead there probably would be many fewer horror sub-genres than there are these days. And what fun would that be?

To be fair Turistas is not a bad movie really, not as bad as reviewers make it out to be. Is it a great horror movie? No. But as far as horror films go it is not that bad either. Director –and sometimes actor- John Stockwell is not a horror film director and seems to be his first, and so far, only exploration into horror and exploitation. And ultimately “torture porn” is exploitation cinema, sort of reviving the ultra-violent and gratuitous films of the 70’s.  Most of his work is teenage comedy/romance type stuff with some action/adventure work as well. Some of his films –like Blue Crush, Into the Blue and Dark Tide- display his skill at working with beach shots and underwater scenes, which plays a big part in this film. He handles the chores well enough for someone not a horror film and maybe he avoids many horror cliches that fill up so many genre films these days. But that is not to say there aren’t problems, especially in the second half where one of the underwater scenes just goes on too long, and too much action is spent in caves rather than in the lush Brazilian jungles where the film was shot. When there is violence it is brutal and there is plenty of boobage action as well that gives the film that exploitation feel. But like most all torture porn flicks the nudity is secondary to the violence, which is the real money shot in these things.

American brother and sister team Alex and Bea (Josh Druhamel and Olivia Wilde) are traveling by bus in Brazil with friend Amy (Beau Garrett).  After a bus accident they meet Aussie Pru (Melissa George) and a couple Brits. Not sure what to do until a new bus arrives they go down to a nearby beach bar and party spot where they meet a pair of Swedes and soon the swimming, drinking, dancing and mating rituals begin. Everyone decides they have stumbled onto a secret paradise and decide to hang out for a while. Of course it is a bad idea. The all wake up on the beach after being drugged to find themselves the victims of the friendly locals. All their money, bags, passports and even shoes have been stolen during the night. As well the bar girl has made a phone call to the film’s sinister villain Dr. Zamora (played a little over the top by Miguel Lunardi) to let him know some new gringos have arrived. He soon enlists the reluctant help of two drug addicted Indians from some local tribe. And soon enough the games begin. Lunardi collects organs for resale on the black market, and he especially prefr4s the organs of rich tourists who he sees as nothing but a plague on Brazil and its various resources. The previous day they had a beach buddy in the form of the broken English speaking Kiko, and he comes to the gang’s rescue after an altercation in a local village. What was the problem? Well, lets just say if you’re lost with no money or passports in an impoverished Brazilian village don’t go hitting the local boys in the head with rocks. The group –sans the Swedes who went off on their own earlier and have since wound up buzzard food-  and  head off into the hills and jungles around the village, taking them to the “safe refuge” of his uncle’s place.