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Turistas (November 28/06)

Turistas, the inaugural title from Fox's new genre label Fox Atomic, is just about as awful and inept a film as one could possibly imagine, and there's little doubt that even the most hardcore horror buff will be left shaking their head at how relentlessly incompetent the whole thing is. Directed with nary a modicum of style by John Stockwell, Turistas proceeds at a glacial pace and sports a third act that's all but incomprehensible - with the end result a piece of work that's flat-out interminable for almost the entirety of its running time (there is a nifty sequence in which a bus rolls down a cliff at the outset, but that's the beginning and end of the film's positive attributes).

Screenwriter Michael Ross offers up a woefully conventional storyline that seems to have been cobbled together from other, better horror flicks, leaving the relatively adept cast left with exceedingly little to work with. As one might have surmised from the film's promotional materials, Turistas revolves around the chaos that ensues after a group of fun-loving tourists (including Josh Duhamel's Alex, Olivia Wilde's Bea, and Melissa George's Pru) encounter a shady local with less-than-hospitable intentions.

It's the sort of well-worn premise that certainly could've been fashioned into a cliched yet entertaining genre effort, much along the lines of Eli Roth's comparatively masterful Hostel. But Stockwell's inability to infuse Turistas with even a hint of dread lends the proceedings a distinctly stale vibe, something that's reflected in the cookie-cutter characters and unconscionably bland villain (there's a lot of build-up regarding the latter's motives, which turn out to be laughably underwhelming).

Stockwell's misguided directorial choices are never as apparent as in the film's final half hour, which consists almost entirely of inscrutable sequences revolving around the survivors' efforts to make their way to freedom. But given that such moments primarily occur in the dark (or, worse yet, underwater in the dark), there's little in the way of suspense or terror during this portion of the film; the viewer is instead forced to squint really hard in an effort to discern just what's happening on screen, a fruitless endeavor that results only in unadulterated frustration.

Turistas is easily one of the most unwatchable horror films to come down the pike in a good long while, and - although the film may have fared better in the hands of a more visually-adept director - one can't help but marvel at the decision to release this turd theatrically.

no stars out of

© David Nusair