Dir: John Stockwell. US. 2006. 89mins.

Set in a remote Brazilian beach town and effectivelyplaying to a traveler's worst nightmares, Turistas details the grittymisfortunes that befall a marooned group of young adventurers. A tangledcombination of thriller elements, travelogue and streamlined bits of gruesomeimperilment, it successfully wrings some novel tension from its exoticbesiegement before eventually unraveling in its final third.

The debut release from FoxAtomic, 20th Century Fox's new teen-centric genre arm, it should see businessfrom crowds who enjoyed the likes of TheHills Have Eyes (2006) remake and Hostel(2006), possibly taking around $40m-50m in the US (where it opens on Dec 1) and$70-80m worldwide. That said, it lacks the full-throttledepravity of those aforementioned movies.

International numbers may besuppressed by the genre-mandated lack of star power, as well as the healthydegree to which the film plays upon Western anxieties about cultural collisionswith the developing world, although certain cast (egAustralian Melissa George) could play well locally.

Young Americans Alex (Josh Duhamel), his sister Bea (Olivia Wilde) and her best friendAmy (Beau Garrett) have traveled to Brazil for fun and adventure. A buscrash on a twisting mountain road leaves them uninjured but stranded, and herethey befriend fellow international passengers Finn (Desmond Askew), Liam (MaxBrown) and Pru (Melissa George), the latter of whomspeaks the native Portuguese.

They decide to salvage theirday rather than waste eight hours waiting for a replacement bus and trek to anearby bar and party late into the night. Next morning each awakes to find thatthey have been drugged and that all of their possessions have gone.

Wandering into a nearbytown, they reacquaint themselves with Kiko (Agles Steib), a friendly youngvillager who was among the last people they saw the night before. After anincident with the townsfolk, the group follows Kikointo the jungle ' but is it to safety or into even further and worse danger'

With Blue Crush and Into the Blue,director John Stockwell demonstrated that he was adeptat both showcasing toned actors and actresses in skimpy attire and capablycapturing action in and around water. Here, abetted by cinematographer Enrique Chediak's highly saturated, rich chromatouch, he renders Tursitas'locale in vivid strokes. He also gets an admirable amount of grounding detailright, such as the group's delicate barefoot negotiation of a rocky streetafter they've been stripped of their passports and extra clothes.

Where Turistas really comes off therail, though, is in its murky final third. As it moves to more explicitlydefine its threat, so the movie takes on a de-saturated, bleach-bypass look,which might be fine were it not mixed with a nightfallof harsh, cross-cutting shadows.

Jittery or willfully darkcamerawork can sometimes effectively feed a film's tension or claustrophobia,as with The Blair Witch Project (1999)or The Descent (2005). The third actof Turistas,on the other hand, just feels like a dark and stressed-out mess. The movie isadditionally hamstrung ' mortally wounded, really ' by a lack of spatialclarity.

While Turistas is not as strictlyinterested in brutality as some of its genre brethren, it does evidence a heartyacknowledgement of recent commercial trends. Debut screenwriter Michael ArlenRoss seeds his generally restrained narrative with a few innovative moments ofshock violence and gore. Early on these give the narrative a careening sense ofpossibility; one is involved in the story because it seems un-tethered toconvention.

But the envelope iseventually pushed off the table, with one graphic scene in particular seemingto exist for no other reason than to guarantee word-of-mouth.

Similarly, by recalling elementsof David Marconi's The Harvest (1993),the movie also overplays its hand in the particulars of its third act torment.When the antagonist reveals his intentions, it culminates in someunintentionally amusing, politically indignant, speechifying.

Of the performances, DesmondAskew brings some enjoyable moments of levity to the story. But it's Melissa Georgewho makes the lasting impression, vividly capturing bohemian Pru's joie de vivre and, eventually, cathartic self-defence.

Production companies/backers
Fox Atomic
2929 Productions
Stone Village
BoZ Productions

International sales
2929 Productions

US distribution
Fox Atomic

Executive producers
Todd Wagner
Mark Cuban
Elaine Dysinger

Scott Steindorff
Bo Zenga
Marc Butan
John Stockwell

Michael Arlen Ross

Enrique Chediak

Production design
Marlise Storchi

Jeff McEvoy

Paul Haslinger

Main cast
Josh Duhamel
Melissa George
Olivia Wilde
Desmond Askew
Beau Garrett
Max Brown
Agles Steib
Miguel Lunardi