A lot has been said about Eli Roth's HOSTEL being an extremely xenophobic movie--showing naive Americans what could happen to them when touring Europe, how they're hated by foreigners, etc. etc. I didn't follow that train of thought too terribly far--the foreign setting allowed the club of sickos to get their kicks while the victims were completely isolated from anyone who could help them... in other words, traditional horror set-up.
On the other hand, TURISTAS is very much a "don't go to Brazil" movie. Brazil HATES you. Brazil HATES being exploited by Americans (to be fair, we once again have an international medley of victims, but then again, the villains SPECIFY how much they hate Americans). Brazil especially HATES the way rich Americans go to Brazil for emergency organ transplants, so it's time to repay the favor!
Now, I can't say that I don't have a grudge against Brazil of my own. If MY inbox is any indication, half of the SPAM in the freaking WORLD comes from Brazil, and there's not a thing I can DO about it. Had TURISTAS been about an anti-spam squad hunting down and torturing Brazilian spammers? Now THAT's a movie! Instead, we essentially get HOSTEL Lite, as if the ads didn't make it clear enough already.
But we don't follow a crew of young adventurers and experience the entire movie from their perspective. No, we get a scary surgery scene at the very BEGINNING, and there are various cutaways to villains conniving against the "gringos" and spelling out their evil plans in detail. In other words, the movie doesn't think you'd be able to follow it otherwise.
As mentioned, there's no thrillseeking on the part of the surgical baddies... they don't do it for kicks, they do it for money and for political reasons. See above. Brazil hates you (but of course, there's at least ONE sympathetic Brazilian in the film just in case anybody gets the idea that the film is in any way anti-Brazil... not to mention the HUGE Brazilian crew reflected in the credits--guess they did what they had to do, too, even if it did make their country look like a deathtrap).
Even if TURISTAS, by sheer coincidence, wasn't intended as a HOSTEL ripoff (see BAD DREAMS/NIGHTMARE 3), you can bet that there's only ONE reason it got greenlighted in the end (and would someone please explain what the line "What is this--a youth hostel for drug addicts?" is doing there if I'm wrong?). Years ago, something so bald-faced would have been sent directly to video, but this one has something most quickie knockoffs don't--major studio production values. You've got the director of INTO THE BLUE (not that that was a draw in my book), you've got the ability to do spectacular bus accidents and to show off some beautiful scenery (including excellent underwater photography in the cave diving sequence). On the flip side, you've got to come up with a REASON to do a time-killing cave-diving sequence, so you can expect the same water caves to show up again by the end of the film. And so on. (Those caves look great, all right, but between the nighttime jungle fighting and cave swimming, it's often difficult to discern just what is happening to whom--did anybody behind the camera notice that?)
And there you have it. Love or hate HOSTEL, I'd bet that you couldn't say with authority exactly what was going to happen before it happened in THAT film. TURISTAS gives you the gory conscious surgery highlight, sure, and other moments meant to make you flinch, but almost none of it really WORKS because it's so precisely constructed that there isn't a single SURPRISE to be had. Not only that, but once the "main" story is concluded, we're just handed a toss-off "ending" which opts for the one-liner over the details we would have been entitled to had we been expected to care for any of these characters at all.
Cheap thrills on a glossy budget. Some tits, some gore, some fabulous scenery--they welcome you to the restaurant, but dinner never arrives.
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