Review

Review

Turistas (2006)

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Genre sub-label Fox Atomic?s debut title, and a particularly well-scrubbed entry in the seemingly never-ending parade of major studio survival horror productions, Turistas came to theaters last December with a threatening and heavily-saturated advertising campaign, yet failed to generate much box office or very many positive reviews. In truth, the movie wasn?t half bad. Or rather, it was half bad, but it was also half good; our original review found some worthwhile moments in it, despite its over-familiar storyline, and I?d personally add that the climactic underwater chase sequence earns substantial points for originality and uniqueness, not to mention applause for what must have been an extremely difficult sequence of scenes to shoot. So we?ve got a flawed, but respectable film with a heavy dose of gore and scantily-clad actresses, and that certainly makes for an undemanding evening of entertainment, especially now that the movie is on DVD and available in an unrated edition that stirs a few NC-17 level moments of violence and nudity back into the mix (the surgery scene goes on for a little while longer, for instance, and there?s a bit more nudity, though none of it from any of the main characters).

The dual-sided DVD presents the 93-minute, R-rated theatrical cut on one side and the 96-minute unrated version on the other. Both look acceptable and have robust Dolby Digital 5.1 audio tracks, though the film transfers lack the crispness one associates with recent studio productions, for some reason. In the disc?s biggest extra feature, actor-turned-director John Stockwell is joined by co-executive producer Kent Kubena for a commentary track accompanying the theatrical version of the movie. The pair talk extensively about the actual mechanics of shooting the film entirely on location in Brazil, and how it was, at times, a very difficult shoot, totally free of the sort of creature comforts Hollywood-type productions are used to receiving. Nevertheless, both men offer high praise for the local crew, who comprised nearly all of the production staff and cast, outside of the main group of tourist characters and 5-10 supervisory crew members. They also nearly fall over themselves to apologize about the negative impression the movie seems to give about Brazil in general, an issue that came up in the press during the film?s theatrical run and continues to follow it to this day. (A Brazilian TV host and blogger even made it his mission to debunk the xenophobic myths the plot of the film perpetuates about ?third world? countries.) But despite some of the darker and more difficult issues surrounding the production, everyone seems to have had a terrific time while making it ? just look at all the sun, sand and skin on display in the movie for evidence. And apparently not only was real beer and Brazilian cachaça liquor used during the early party sequences, but also real marijuana ? try getting away with that on a film production in the U.S. or Canada.

Stockwell and Kubena also reveal some elements of the original screenplay by editor-turned-screenwriter Michael Ross that were changed or dropped during production. For instance, the film was initially set in Guatemala, a far more difficult location for an American film production to work in, and thus wound up being changed to Brazil. So it turns out that many of the negative local aspects of the plot seem to be holdovers from that original treatment, such as main villain Zamora?s mid-film speech about cultural imperialism and how ?el norte? has historically tried to dominate and exploit his country ? much more appropriate for a former banana republic like Guatemala than South American powerhouse Brazil. The pair also reveal that several sequences were subject to reshoots or additions, and these seem to have dumbed down the storyline a bit, revealing much earlier on than was originally planned what was actually happening to the foreigners who disappeared. In many ways, these additions work at cross-purposes to the rest of the film, such as the extended build-up that culminates in the long, suspenseful exploration of the house in the woods. If the audience already knows what?s in store for the group, why bother with such suspense? Happily, though, the two also acknowledge in the commentary that ?turistas? is also another word for traveler?s diarrhea, a fact seemingly lost on most critics during the original theatrical run (imagine the pun possibilities).

The other major extra on the disc, besides a ten-minute featurette about the film?s bloody makeup effects which allows some of the prosthetics to be seen in better lighting than what?s featured in the film, is over 21 minutes of deleted scenes, primarily featuring extended sequences or sub-plots that were dropped for pacing reasons. Most notable is an alternate ending that concludes the same way as the one used in the finished film, but takes a more silly path to that end. Interestingly, though, the initial scene on the waterfall ? where the characters get to swim with their Brazilian guide Kiko before he takes them to the house of death ? included a shot of two of the characters taking Ecstasy, an act that the MPAA apparently felt couldn?t be included in even an R-rated film, a depressing development in these increasingly censorious times.

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