Turistas is to Hostel what Cannibal Holocaust is to Cannibal Ferox. While both films embrace the lurid excesses of 80’s splatter cinema, and feature young tourists caught up in nightmarish scenarios, the two films are actually quite different in tone. Hostel’s entire first act/setup is something of a throwback to the 80’s teen sex comedies, while Turistas maintains something of a straight face throughout, making it a darker, bleaker film. The reason I used the Cannibal Ferox/ Holocaust (I could have picked any number of slasher films, but the exploitative nature of the cannibal films seems more apropos in this context) comparison is that, while both films are thematically the same, the two movies are quite different in execution. The fact that Ferox came after Holocaust doesn’t make it any less relevant in the eyes of fans of the genre, and proves that there’s room for more than just one “cannibal film” in the annals of horror history. While it’s too early to tell if people will even remember Hostel and Turistas twenty five plus years from now, it isn’t too early to tell whether these two films can not only coexist, but, ultimately, complement each other.
Turistas opens with a brief bit of foreshadowing, with a close-up of a young woman staring up into a bright light, begging for her life, before we are thrown into a reckless bus ride into the wilds of Brazil, where we meet our main characters. Alex (Duhamel) is the older, protective brother of Bea (Wilde), who is also traveling with her wild friend, Amy (Garrett). The bus crashes, and the three find themselves stranded along with Pru (George), an Australian traveling alone, and brothers Finn and Liam (Askew and Brown). While waiting for the next bus, the group are told of a beach bar within walking distance, and decide to go there and blow off some steam rather than spend ten hours waiting on the roadside. The beach bar turns out to be a slice of paradise where they meet two other travelers, Swedes Svend and Annika, who inform them that the booze is cheap, the food fantastic, and the lodging nearly free. Even the distrusting Alex finds himself won over by the lush surroundings and friendly locals like Kiko (Agles Steib), and agrees to wait until the morning to seek out alternate transport to their destination. After a night of dancing and drinking, the travelers wake to an abandoned beach, and discover that their possessions (as well as Svend and Annika) are gone. They run into more trouble in town when Liam injures a boy wearing Alex’s stolen baseball cap, and are whisked away by Kiko, who promises them safe lodging at his uncle’s house deep in the jungle.
When Turistas was unceremoniously released in December, 2006, it was dismissed by mainstream critics as needlessly violent, xenophobic, and a rip-off of Eli Roth’s film. What made matters worse was the ad campaign that featured a quote from Fangoria magazine, saying that Turistas was “Better and Scarier than Hostel”, which both alienated much of Eli Roth’s fiercely loyal fanbase, and made Turistas look that much more like an attempt to cash in on the success of Hostel. The reality is Turistas was made at the same time as Hostel (May, 2005) and even Eli Roth admits that he was aware of the other film while making his. This, alone, should have quelled all of the cries of “rip off” and “cash in”, but, alas, no one stood up for John Stockwell’s (Into the Blue/Blue Crush) gorgeously shot, well-acted, and truly entertaining film.
Hopefully, now that Turistas is on DVD, fans will give it the chance it deserves. This unrated cut features some truly stomach-churning stuff that I won’t give away here as I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot (although I’m sure that, by now, many of you are well aware of what I’m talking about), and I think that Turistas will benefit from home viewing as this isn’t the sort of “crowd-pleaser” horror flick that plays best in theaters.
Fox releases Turistas on DVD with a nice assortment of special features, including a feature length commentary from Stockwell and producer Kent Kubena, a collection of deleted scenes, and a fairly meaty special effects featurette.
Forget about the debate over which film came first, or which film is better, and do yourself a favor and watch Turistas on its own terms, and then team it up with Hostel for a kick-ass exploitation homage double feature.