Turistas is a horror film about six hard-bodied 20-somethings whose vacation in paradise turns bad when they’re drugged, robbed and kidnapped on behalf of a crazed doctor who wants to harvest their organs while they’re still alive.
I think that about sums it up. Now let’s talk about why this film isn’t any good. First, while I realize characters in horror movies are supposed to fall into traps, never before have I seen characters this stupid. They don’t just make one or two dumb choices. No, these kids take every single chance they get to put themselves in danger.Even when someone – in absolute terror – tries to warn them away from the evil doctor’s home in the middle of the jungle, they insist on going anyway.
That leads me to the second reason Turistas is a bad movie. Since the characters were such idiots, I didn’t buy their choices, or their situation, which means I didn’t care about the characters. If the viewer can’t give a hoot about people in extreme danger there’s no tension, and all we can do is root instead for the insane organ farmer to get them all. So then we’re disappointed when he doesn’t, because the filmmakers assumed we’d care about the protagonists and thus let a few of them survive the ordeal.
To be fair, I shouldn’t lay all of the blame on the filmmakers. After all, they couldn’t accomplish this degree of unbelievability without the help of a committed cast. Aside from frolicking in skimpy swimsuits, this attractive bunch does their best to seem sincere while aiding and abetting a stupid story. Among the offenders here are Josh Duhamel (Win a Date with Tad Hamilton), Melissa George (Alias) and The O.C.‘s Olivia Wilde.
Thankfully, the film is not a complete wash. The upsides here include a beautiful setting, with sandy beaches, rainforest and underwater caves, and the fact that Turistas makes director John Stockwell’s other films, like Blue Crush, seem even better by comparison.
I can’t end on a bright note for Turisatas, so I’ll mention the problem with the film’s final 30 minutes. Several important, climactic scenes take place in dark jungle and even darker underwater caves. Sounds like it might be cool, right? On paper, sure, but in this film it means you’ll probably have no idea what’s happening.
So Turistas is a film to avoid. How’s the DVD?
Turistas (Unrated Edition) is presented on a single disc, in 2.35:1 widescreen format. Please note that my screener review copy is not a retail version of this release. For Fox’s sake, I hope the retail version has better video. This transfer is plagued by compression issues, with nasty pixilation on a lot of the motion shots. Underneath its rough exterior is a good-looking film, though. From the scenery to the actors, there’s plenty of beauty here, and when not marred by compression artifacts, the film looks colorful and detailed.
English audio is Dolby Digital 5.1, and it sounds pretty good. The surround channels are used often for directional effect, which helps engross viewers in an otherwise boring film. The film’s score and soundtrack are straightforward, but they sound nice and full here. Definitely a notch above the video.
My screener copy of Turistas (Unrated Edition) had only a 10-minute featurette on the film’s gore effects. It’s way more interesting that the film, thankfully, and shows how the make-up effects made the horrors come to life.
It should be noted that online details for the retail version list a director’s commentary and deleted scenes as bonus material. Unfortunately, they weren’t available on my copy, so I can’t comment.
Turistas has two redeeming qualities: bikinis and gorgeous locations. The rest is just plain stupid. If you go for this sort of thing, watch out for bad video quality and skimpy special features on the DVD.