Turistas falls into the same genre as Cabin Fever, Wolf Creek, and Wrong Turn that hardly adds much originality to a shop-worn recipe of attractive actors following a raw, grim path.
The targeted audience will recognize Josh Duhamel (TV's "Las Vegas", Win A Date with Tad Hamilton) who plays Alex. He's the protective brother of Bea (Olivia Wilde) whose best friend (Beau Garrett) accompanies them on a Brazilian vacation.
When a "lunatic" bus driver fails to navigate up a twisty, mountain road, they're left stranded along with some other "gringos", including lusting British guys (Max Brown, Desmond Askew), and the Australian named Pru (Melissa George). Pru is the only one among them who speaks the native Portuguese dialect.
Luckily, they happen to be near a cabana bar on an idyllic, tropical beach. With the appearance of one lightly bearded character, a night of partying will turn into something far worse as they wake up on the beach with a hangover that leaves them just with their clothes.
The formulaic screenplay by Michael Ross easily establishes the vulnerability of the travellers as their anger will turn to fear, finding fear in the verdant jungle and underground/underwater caves of the Brazilian mountains.
The mood of the early sections recall pictures like The Beach, especially with the lush staging on location of moments where the actors (especially the ladies) are photographed quite well, especially when in the water.
But, this look at stranded innocents drawn into a murderous secret doesn't say much for amicable, open cultures beyond the gorgeous women and pristine surroundings. Director John Stockwell, who made the most of surfing, bikinis and Kate Bosworth in Blue Crush, brings more of a terrifying, primal nature to it all, maybe something like a darker variation of TV's "Lost."
Turistas has a certain escalating tension in the last reel or so that keeps it all from being frighteningly dull; still the range from hedonism to suspense isn't condusive to viewer empathy when it comes to the overrall decision making of the characters and story. From a cleaver to a scapel to underwater caves one sees the familiarity to Hostel, The Descent, with a nod to Stockwell's picturesque, if shallow Into the Blue. There is a flair to make the urgency of getting air in a very claustrophobic environment rather unsettling.
Eventually, the nighttime heavy rain hampers how scary the grisly action could be (an opening glimpse of a rattled character lying down is later sadly dissected), but it can't cover up the unconvincing assault of jolts that hit you like a rock or staples on the head. Instead of a pointed look at the potential chilling side of being isolated abroad, the hunt and chase approach ends up feeling and looking like a human shiskabob.