15 November 2014

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 region of the developing nation of Brazil. The backwoods of Georgia are not enough. 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 -torture porn for example- then 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 type 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 gal 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. They 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 prefers 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- follow Kiko and head off into the hills and jungles around the village, and are led by him them to the “safe refuge” of his uncle’s place.


Kiko is showing off and doing belly flops into a tranquil, emerald colored pond when he knocks his head on an underwater rock. The group rushes him to the house of his uncle to help him. It is a given that his uncle is Dr. Zamora of course and that Kiko, like the bar girl, is part of the plot to get kidneys and livers out of white teenagers. Zamora arrives by helicopter (!!) in the middle of the night –and in the middle of the jungle- and wastes little time or formalities with the kids who have crashed at his place and have been drinking his good imported scotch. Up to this point in the film things are genuinely tense and scary. Despite a long scene –and I feel unnecessary- where Amy gets her organs removed (and we know this is going to happens because she flashes her boobs earlier in the movie) the violence from here on out is fairly tame and nothing that would not appear in most cop movies. For a bit they film seems like it might head off into a “most dangerous game” type storyline, but that does not happen. Kids are killed off but they are shot rather than tortured to death by Dr. Zamora or his cronies. Typically being shot by a gun does not really equate to a horror movie death in my book. Of course it can, but I normally associate this sort of death scene with crime thrillers or cowboy movies.

The second half of the film just does not hold up compared to the first half up and yes it even falls apart bit. Surprise! I was really disappointed in the long underwater chase sequence –though it is well shot and has moments of genuine suspense- and even more disappointed in the final confrontation between our three leading protagonists and Dr. Zamora in a cave. I just am not a big fan of cave scenes compared to jungle scenes. Okay, lets say you have a choice between a cave scene and a desert scene I will lean towards the cave, but so much more could have been done with the final scenes here had they been shot in the thick forest ouotside. The film does not end as fatalistically as most of these types of movies do. Nor is the villain –though he is a bit too evil and ruthless when compared to the other characters to be believable really- superhuman in some way. I prefer this to the comic bookish super villains in films like SAW. Zamora is not a super genius nor is there some final scene where there is some implication that the brutal cycle continues (though I understand a direct to DVD sequel was made). Almost every horror movie can be criticized for its clichés and let down endings, and this one is no different. Yet something does not have to be remarkably unique in order to be entertaining on some level. This film is watchable on most levels and not a total waste of time.

Video captures are mine. 


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