With films like HOSTEL and SAW taking over the box office every year, most studios are leaning on their horror directors to produce their product in a similar fashion -– meaning MTV-style editing and loads of flashy imagery. What John Stockwell (INTO THE BLUE) has delivered is anything but, which is the main reason I took a liking to this horror thriller starring Josh Duhamel, Melissa George, Olivia Wilde, Desmond Askew, Beau Garrett, Max Brown, Raul Guterres and Andréa Leal.
After a terrifying bus accident maroons a diverse group of young adventure travelers in a remote Brazilian beach town, they slowly discover that the white sand beaches and lush jungles are concealing a darker, unsettling secret.
Opening with a highly energetic credit sequence I was pretty much prepared for what would follow… an extremely suspenseful and tense thrill-ride that played out more like a chase movie than a horror film.
I believe I was well prepared for TURISTAS, which definitely helped in making it more enjoyable. Everyone keeps comparing the film to HOSTEL, which is a valid and yet completely inaccurate association. In the “tradition” of films like HOSTEL, the movie takes place in another country where American tourists are treated more like cattle instead of human – but let’s get this straight right now, the actual film itself is nothing like Eli Roth’s well received torture pic.
About a third of the way through the movie I came to the realization that the reason TURISTAS is so f-cking good is the screenplay. Through the entire movie I kept thinking to myself “man this is probably one hell of a read!” The characters were well developed, a lot of the situations were pretty damn realistic and the pacing of most of the film was fantastic. I don’t want to act like this is the “perfect” horror thriller, because there were some problems. One problem was in the pacing of a chase sequence, which knowing Stockwell’s track record made complete sense (yes, he loves the water). There’s an unbelievable underwater cave chase that goes on for just a bit too long. The underwater cinematography was stunning and gorgeous, but at some point it needed to be clipped just a tad. And even though most of the situations were highly believable, there were a few that made me scratch my head; but sometimes you have to assume people don’t always act logically.
Speaking of acting, the main villain in the film is superb. Although there’s a useless sequence early in the film showing us just how “bad” he is, it was remarkable how well developed he was. In one of the most intense sequences of the film, while cutting into one of our main characters on a surgical table, our villain gives what usually is a laughable monologue by explaining to another restrained tourist what he’s doing and why he’s doing it. Usually a monologue of this nature is followed by gallons of laughter by audience members, but the way in which he explains his devilish plans almost makes you agree with him. This scene in particular is the backbone of TURISTAS and if it failed, the entire movie as a whole would have failed.
TURISTAS is an incredibly suspenseful movie, mostly because of a little opening tick that teases you right off the bat. Stockwell gives away just a “little” taste of our backbone scene later in the film, which prepares you for our tourists’ fate. By knowing what was coming many of the sequences became extremely uncomfortable… the viewer becomes aware of the situation the actors are in way before they do, which leads to people like me screaming at the screen “Don’t trust him!!” In addition, Stockwell created other ways of adding suspense to the film, specifically by adding claustrophobia to the film. Much like THE DESCENT, there are numerous cave scenes that are underwater… which only makes it more uncomfortable than in DESCENT. To make matters worse it’s pitch black under there and not everyone has a flashlight… I’d rather die than end up in that scenario!
Director John Stockwell might not have delivered the perfect movie, but it’s still one of the best horror thrillers I’ve seen in quite some time. If you can get past the fact that the film feels a little too long, you’re in for a treat. It’s about time we moved past the look of SAW and went back to traditional filmmaking… creating suspense without needing quick, flashy editing to do so. TURISTAS will not only entertain, but it will leave a lasting impression on you… can you ever travel and be safe?