The latest effort from director John Stockwell, "Turistas" continues on the graphic horror trend that gained steam after the success of "Saw" and "Hostel". The film opens with a bus full of tourists riding through the hills of Brazil, only to crash in the middle of nowhere. Americans Alex (Josh Duhamel), younger sister Bea (Olivia Wilde) and her friend Amy (Beau Garrett) decide that there's strength in numbers and pair up with Australian Pru (Melissa George) and British pals Finn (Desmond Askew) and Liam (Max Brown).
After hitting the beach, the group manages to make it to a nearby beach resort where they party most of the night - at least until they're drugged by someone. When they wake up on the beach, their passports and money have been stolen. Without anywhere to turn for help, a friendly local who had chatted them up the day before promises to help, taking them to his grandfather's house. Unfortunately, he (Miguel Lunardi) happens to be a doctor who makes a living taking the organs from tourists.
While the comparisons to "Hostel" and other such films are inevitable (it kind of reminded me of a more horror-ish remake of "The Beach" at times), "Turistas" coasts along on the visuals, which first make the jungle appear lush and beautiful and then pull the rug out, making the dense forests appear almost like a South American "Blair Witch". Certainly skilled after "Blue Crush" (which, flaws aside, is still an underrated drama with spirit and heart, not to mention some beautiful cinematography) and "Into the Blue" (the less said about that one, the better), Stockwell does fine work in an impressive underwater cave sequence.
However, once the horror-driven second act starts kicking in, Stockwell uses minimal lighting in some of the most intense sequences, making it difficult to make out exactly what's going on. The story's rather thin and character development minimal, although it's almost expected in a film like this (oh, and the fact that the characters aren't that bright.) Stockwell's first entry into horror almost is more effective in the opening moments, as when things start to go downhill and the scenery gets more ominous, the film manages more tension than the more horror-driven last thirty minutes or so.
"Turistas" manages a few creepy moments early on, but the picture starts to fall apart in the second half. This DVD edition is "unrated", adding about 2 minutes worth of footage.
VIDEO: The review copy that arrived offered the special features that came with the final product, but the video presentation is not the same as final copy. However, the video quality of the review copy was reasonably good, aside from some minor shimmer and light artifacting in a few scenes.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation was a little less than expected, but got the job done. The scenes through the jungle had the surrounds kick in to provide decent amounts of ambience, but the audio could have been put to more use to kick up the tension in the jungle sequences and elsewhere. Audio quality was fine, with crisp dialogue, crisp effects and occasional moments of punch. A decent sound design effort.
EXTRAS: A 10-minute featurette on the film's make-up FX and a trailer for "Hills Have Eyes II".
Final Thoughts: "Turistas" manages a few creepy moments early on, but the picture starts to fall apart in the second half. Horror fans may want to try it as a rental, but I'd recommend going in with low expectations.
The Film C-