Travel advisory: if you ever find yourself walking aimlessly under the snake-dripping treetops of an uncharted Amazonian jungle with no food or water, and the only person who shows up to help you looks like the Brazilian Roy Scheider, fire your travel agent. Turistas, an expensive horror movie from the newly christened Fox Atomic logo, is notable for two things: some impressive natural scenery and for fetishizing something that is normally more of a given in the horror genre -- the white-woman-in-distress motif. The story concerns a ragtag group of 'gringos' -- the word is used about 100 times -- who stray off course during some South American holiday-making and end up in the clutches of a mad surgeon with a colonialism-chip on his shoulder. He intends to remove their vital organs and bundle them off to the black market. Once an unlucky gringo is strapped to the operating gurney, they are forced to simultaneously watch their own evisceration and listen to the doctor's quips, like: "I'd also take the skin from your lily-white ass, but it doesn't travel."
Needless to say, creepiness is the wavelength the film wants to travel on, as opposed to the usual buffet of boo-moments. Fair enough, but aside from those unfortunate transplant sessions, there are only a couple of moments that really deliver on that level. One occurs in the opening moments of the film, when the turistas, who clump together on foot after the tour bus they are all sharing crashes, encounter an unaccompanied Brazilian child in the street. A friendly attempt to snap a photo of the kid nearly sets off an international incident, with the angry parents rushing into the frame, spitting curses and threats in Portuguese. It's a good 'back away slowly' moment. A more serious culture clash comes when the group, led by an Australian beach bunny called Pru (Melissa George) and a sensitive jock called Alex (Josh Duhamel) unwittingly arrive at the jungle home of the evil surgeon. Because they don't speak the lingo, they stand idly by, checking their watches, as the doctor and his henchmen walk around them and between them like incurious sharks, all the while chatting in Portuguese about how they are going to slice and dice them.