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Turistas: Unrated Edition

The formula is pretty tight: Get a bunch of young TV stars to make a horror film during their summer hiatus, make it cheap, play for a couple of weeks during an off-season release date, and then make the bulk of your money on the unrated DVD. In Turistas, the leads are Josh Duhamel ("Las Vegas") Melissa George ("Alias") and Olivia Wilde (best known for making out with Mischa Barton on "The O.C."). They, along with a number of other expendable actors, play a group of tourists who go to Brazil in search of the ultimate backpacking (and possibly sexy-time) adventure. When their bus crashes, they end up at a beachside resort fit for partying, until they get drugged and robbed by the locals. They are then led to remote location by a likable local, and it's only there that the greater plan is revealed — these tourists are meant to be unintentional organ donors. Horror films tend to exist within their times more distinctly than any other genre, and as such, Turistas (2006) reflects horror's current obsession with "torture porn." Indeed, here the main set-piece is a character having organs removed whilst still breathing. And like Hostel (of which this is a decided knock-off), it deals with how Americans are viewed outside of their safe zones, which is with a hostility and contempt that some would call not entirely undeserved. It's not even that hard to trace this fascination with torture to Abu Ghraib, and the anti-American hostility to both the Iraq war and George W. Bush's "axis of evil" ideology. This opens an interesting dialogue about the role of art and the mirror it holds up to society… or would, if this movie was anything more than just an excuse to kill off some horny teenagers. As such, the lack of an excess of gratuitous nudity is a disappointment, while no one in the cast distinguishes themselves enough to be particularly sympathetic (the actors are likable, but nothing in script treats them as more than bait), and director John Stockwell doesn't take as much pleasure from wringing out tension as Eli Roth did in Hostel. Such means the film isn't as squirm-inducing, but it also means it's not as good at twisting tension out of torture — which is kind of the point of these exercises. Stockwell began his directorial career showing that he had a solid touch with actors (not surprising for a former actor best known for his appearance in Christine), and he was very comfortable with beach settings, but he's shown nothing but diminishing returns since the promise of Crazy/Beautiful in 2001. Fox presents Turistas in an Unrated Edition with a good anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras include the featurette "The Bloody Truth: The Special Make-up Effects of Turistas" (10 min.) and a bonus trailer. Keep-case.

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