If horror films can be considered a good barometer of contemporary anxieties, then last year's Hostel and the quickie cash-in Turistas offer the following warning: It's no longer safe for Westerners to behave like drunken louts overseas without expecting a little blowback. What a sad, sad world it's become when exploiting the locals for cheap beer and sex isn't the same thing as stimulating their dormant economies. In Turistas, the final chapter in John Stockwell's unofficial string-bikini trilogy (following Blue Crush and Into The Blue), at least two-thirds of the Brazilians onscreen are conspiring to gut a pack of hot young tourists in a beachside paradise. And when the other third catches wind of this appalling movie, they'll surely fall in line.
Like Hostel, Turistas opens with a group of thrill-seekers heading away from the standard tourist spots in search of a more obscure, debauched locale. Josh Duhamel plays the most cautious and level-headed of a rowdy group of six, roped into coming to Brazil to look after his sister (Olivia Wilde) and her party-girl friend (Beau Garrett). When their bus overturns in a remote area en route to their destination, they're relieved to discover that they've unwittingly crash-landed at the prettiest hideaway in the country. After a night of drinking and partying, they wake to find that all their money and possessions have been stolen and they're marooned in a small village with hostile citizenry. A sympathetic teenager rescues them from immediate danger, but leads them into far more disturbing trouble.
Touted as the first American production to be shot entirely in Brazil, Turistas may well be the last, if the country cares at all about its image; not since Tony Scott's Man On Fire detailed Mexico's lucrative kidnapping trade has a nation been thanked so graciously for allowing American filmmakers to defile it. Once the torture finally commences, the film attempts to float a political point about the Third World taking back First World health-care privileges, but the chief torturers' sadistic humanitarianism is never seriously considered. By all appearances, Stockwell's real reason for making the film—and Blue Crush and Into The Blue, for that matter—are the extensive underwater sequences, which find the heroes fleeing their captors through a gorgeous cave system. The message? Brazil's scuba scene is first-rate. Just don't get out of the water.