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TURISTAS (2006)

Directed by John Stockwell

Starring Josh Duhamel and Melissa George

Filmed at around the same time as "Hostel," "Turistas" is a watered-down version of that movie, only swapping the old urban legend of tourists being gutted for their internal organs for the Agu Ghairab-like slaughterhouse of Eli Roth's now-classic movie.

A group of young backpackers on vacation in Brazil have their travel plans upturned when a bus crashes. Early on, the film delivers on stereotypes that Latin America is an unsafe, backwards area: The bus driver is a neanderthal, prostitutes are everywhere and every Brazilian character seems to see every American -- or British -- tourist as little more than a walking wallet.

After the crash, the tourists find a bar on the beach, where they get party, only to wake up after being drugged to find all their belongings are gone. We saw the exact same thing in "Hostel," which was being filmed at the same time but beat this one to cinemas.

Now penniless, they befriend a Brazilian with bad English who leads them deep into to a "safe house," which, it turns out, is a place where an evil doctor is running a successful organ donor business -- where the donors are all unwilling.

"If it makes you feel any better, just know that I am doing this for a good cuase," he tells his "patient" during an overlong operation-table lecture.

"Turistas" is an interesting movie, given the hatred much of the world has for the "ugly American," particularly after the long reign of George W. Bush. There's also something a little terrifying about the thought of being trapped by yourself in a foreign country, every possession stolen, completely at the mercy of a place you're not a part of. "Hostel" of course played that one up nicely. Then, the fear of poor people.

But the big appeal of "Hostel" was playing up the "Pinocchio" mythos -- a place too good to be true, had to be evil. In "Hostel," like "Pinocchio," kids are corrupted then exploited. That doesn't really happen in "Turistas" -- these "kids" are certainly adults and their corruption doesn't add up to much more than drinking too much.

"Turistas" also drags for much of its running time and doesn't have the sense of fun that made "Hostel" such a hit. "Hostel" had punch. That movie terrified while also nudging the audience with its self awareness that the concept and conceit of the movie were a joke.

"Turistas" takes itself too seriously, something no horror movie should do. Not too suprirsing it died at the box office.

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