While vacationing in the North Eastern coast of Brazil, Alex, his sister Bea, and friend Amy find their vacation plans altered when their tourist bus is involved in a near-fatal accident. With the bus destroyed and nothing to do for the next 10 hours until another arrives, the trio hook up with an Austrailian and two Brits and decide to party on a nearby picturesque beach, where there’s an idyllic beach bar and plenty of good-looking people.
After an evening of hard partying the group wakes up on the beach to find that they have been drugged and robbed losing not only their money but also all of their identification including their passports. Following a run-in with some disgruntled locals, Kiko, a local who offers to help them out promises to take them to his uncle’s house, where they can remain safe until the next bus comes along. Leading them through the jungle for several miles Kiko brings them to a beautiful waterfall where the group frolics, dive, and swim. He later takes them underneath the waterfall to a series of underwater caves that, at times, require long periods of breath holding to get from one pocket of air to the next. Eventually the group returns to the waterfall to resume diving.
Kiko confesses to one of the girls that he has never befriended “gringos” before and seems to be genuinely happy that they are enjoying his company. In a moment of misjudgment, he dives off a cliff, bumps his head on a rock, and is knocked unconscious. Realizing that they are near Kiko’s uncle’s house, the group takes him there for medical attention. After finding medicine and fixing Kiko’s gaping head wound, they begin to suspect that the strange house in not a house at all but some sort of bizarre medical facility, replete with strange tools and various medical supplies.
Later that night they are awoken by the sound of a helicopter. Kiko, clearly understanding what’s going on, encourages the group to leave as fast as they can. Kiko’s words come too late, however, as the group suddenly find themselves up against armed guards and a scary-looking surgeon. We quickly learn that Kiko is part of an underground organ harvesting operation and his role is to bring “gringos” to this secret facility. Although Kiko has a change of heart and wishes to help his new friends escape, he is not entirely successful and we see first-hand what this facility is all about. At the same time, the ones that manage to escape must deal with other issues.
Riding the recent popular wave of torture-porn/evil tourism movies (e.g., SAW, Wolf Creek, Hostel, etc) Turistas again reminds us that the rest of the world hates Americans. This message is crowbared in late in the film when, while harvesting the organs of a large breasted woman and apparently justifying his behavior, the scruff surgeon notes with disdain that “rich Americans” come to Brazil for easy sex and booze and it’s time for them to give back. It would be easy to summarily dismiss Turistas as more of the same/been there, done that, but a funny thing happened as the film unfolded, I began enjoying the hell out of it. For the most part the characters are likable and you’ll find yourself rooting for them. For those increasingly unsettled by torture-porn movies, don’t worry, aside from one plot-necessary surgery scene, the gruesomeness is kept to a minimum. Instead Turistas becomes a chase through the jungles of Brazil as the Americans flee the ghastly operation they’ve stumbled upon. Worth noting is the lengthy climax, which is a nail-biting extended chase through a series of underwater caves. You’ll find yourself holding your breath along with the characters as they desperately search for tiny pockets of air while evading their captors. These scenes are reminiscent of The Descent as characters navigate through clausterphobic spaces.
Assuming that Turistas was going to be a SAW rip-off, I put off watching it throughout the month. I was generally surprised by how much I enjoyed this film and recommend it to all for fun, edge-of-your-seat escapism.