Set in a remote Brazilian beach town and effectively playing to the xenophobic instincts of a traveler’s worst nightmares, Turistas details the gritty misfortunes that befall a group of young adventurers when they first get marooned and then stalked in the nearby jungles. A tangled combination of thriller elements, travelogue and more streamlined bits of gruesome imperilment, the movie successfully wrings some novel tension out of its exotic besiegement before eventually unraveling in its final third.
Young Americans Alex (Josh Duhamel), his sister Bea (Olivia Wilde) and her best friend Amy (Beau Garrett) have traveled to
A hazy night of exotic liquors and sensuous dancing later, they wake up alone, their possessions gone, and with no idea of the nightmare yet to come. Wandering into a nearby town, they reacquaint themselves with Kiko (Agles Steib), a friendly young villager who was among the last people they saw the night before. After an incident with the townsfolk, the group follows Kiko into the jungle — but is it to safety or into even further and worse danger?
With both Blue Crush and Into the Blue, director John Stockwell has shown himself to be adept both at showcasing toned actors and actresses in skimpy attire, and at capably capturing action in and around water. Here, abetted by cinematographer Enrique Chediak’s highly saturated, rich chroma touch, Stockwell renders the film’s locale in memorable strokes. He also gets an admirable amount of grounding detail right, such as the group’s delicate barefoot negotiation of a rocky street after they’ve been stripped of their passports and extra clothes.
Turistas isn’t as strictly interested in brutality as some of its genre brethren, but it does evidence a hearty acknowledgment of recent commercial trends. Debut screenwriter Michael Arlen Ross seeds his generally restrained narrative with a few innovative moments of shock violence and gore. While not compulsory, per se, early on these moments help give Turistas a careening sense of possibility; one is involved in the story because it seems un-tethered to convention. The envelope is eventually pushed off the table, though, with one scene in particular seeming to exist for no other reason than to guarantee some word-of-mouth regarding its graphic nature. Similarly, recalling elements of David Marconi’s 1993 indie The Harvest, the movie also overplays its hand a bit in the particulars of its third act torment; when the antagonist, a sadistic doctor named
Where Turistas really comes off the rail, though, is in its murky final third. As it moves to more explicitly define its threat, the movie takes on a de-saturated, bleach-bypass look, which might be fine were it not eventually mixed with a nightfall of harsh, crosscutting shadows. Jittery or willfully dark camerawork can sometimes effectively feed a film’s tension or claustrophobia, as in 1999’s The Blair Witch Project or this year’s The Descent, for example, with which I still had a lot of problems. The third act of Turistas, on the other hand, just feels like a dark and stressed-out mess. The movie is additionally mightily hamstrung — mortally wounded, really — by an utter lack of spatial clarity.
Presented in anamorphic widescreen, unrated cut transfer that faithfully replicates the evocative photography of its theatrical exhibition, Turistas includes an English language 5.1 Dolby digital sound mix and French and Spanish Dolby surround mixes, as well as optional English and Spanish subtitles. Rather surprisingly, apart from a one-minute teaser trailer for the recently released sequel to The Hills Have Eyes, the only bonus feature on this DVD is a 10-minute featurette on the effects work in the film. A big strike for quantity, then, but a high mark, at least, for quality. In this bit, Stockwell talks about the verité importance of some of the gruesome effects, lest audiences be pulled out of the moment. Interviews with he, underwater DP Pete Zuccarini, prosthetic specialist Michael Manzel and others shed light on gambits both classic (a fake appendage for a shot in which a hook slices into a foot) and complicated (a grisly surgery sequence in which a special breathing mechanism had to be applied to a body cast, to simulate the rise and fall of the chest cavity of a living person whose organs are being taken out). C (Movie) C (Disc)