I decided to watch all these travel-based “torture porn” movies in hopes of writing an essay on what’s going on in the minds of Americans as they watch people like themselves get tortured for being, well, like themselves. I had hopes that this one, widely considered to be a Hostel rip-off, would be an even more concentrated example of this phenomenon—as rip-offs often are, but this doesn’t make the tourists’ ignorance out to be the real cause of their problems, and in fact emerges as quite on their side when the thing comes to an end.
We open with a little operating-room horror in order to goose things up from the start—since it’s going to be a while before we get to our horror—then through a quite nice-looking credits sequence. During this time we discover that this movie will feature Melissa “I-can’t-close-my-mouth” George, well known to us from 30 Days of Night. Our protagonists are on a bus speeding through the backwoods of Brazil. They include Alex, handsome American take-charge dude, and his little sister, Bea. We soon find out that Alex is present to chaperone his sister, which he is doing by pretending to be her boyfriend. MMM-hmm. They have a friend Amy, and soon meet Pru, an Australian played by the toothsome Ms. George, and two loud Brits, Liam and Finn. The bus is speeding along this coastal road, causing Alex to shout, in English, “Hey, will you please slow the fuck down?!” to which Bea chides him to “Calm down, you sound like such a tourist.” I love this whole fantasy tourists have, that if they just play it cool and don’t say too much, all of the natives will assume that they’re some sort of experienced world traveler or expatriate. Amy and Bea see a piece of graffiti in front of them, a stick figure man with a huge Johnson. Next it is written “Welcome to Brazil, Now bend over.”
The bus takes a turn too fast and gets stuck on a cliff. Everyone climbs out, and just as the last person is off, the bus rolls down the hill and is destroyed. It’s too bad, because they have a nice distant shot which shows the bus rolling away and is effectively scary, but they cut away to the typical “show the calamity from 75 angles” technique, and dissipate its power. They all get their stuff out, and that’s when they make the acquaintance of the other travelers.
The Brits thought they were headed north, but upon finding they’re headed to this place Belem, ask “I don’t suppose Belem is famous for having like a ten-to-one ratio of women to men, where the ugly ones look like Gisele?” and his friend adds “And they’re all smart, fun alcoholic nymphomaniacs with a soft spot for charming, if slightly grubby, tourists?” First of all, no one but YOU said you were charming. Second, if you want them to be alcoholic nymphomaniacs, why do you care if they’re smart? In fact, if they were really smart, why would they be alcoholic nymphomaniacs? But I’m nit-picking.
Bea does the thing all ignorant tourists do, which is take faux-anthropological pictures of native children. This is what got the characters in The Ruins in so much trouble. The kids’ father gets furious, and someone tells Bea that she’s supposed to ask permission before taking pictures. She responds “Well, how was I supposed to know that?” Um, because you might have read a book once? Or even an article? But this is all part of the movie setting our characters up as ignorant tourists. Then, just like in Hostel, two hot babes with coconut drinks walk by, and say they got them at this sweet beach resort down by the water. The group decide to go down there while they wait for the bus.
After hiking to the bottom, they discover this awesome beach with a little snack hut, and are all like “Woo! Yeah!” They all go swimming—there is a discussion of whether Bea should go topless, which the Brits want to see, and Pru does a little strip-tease without showing anything. After their swim, they go for drinks, where they meet these two Swedes who greet them with “You think you’ve found the perfect place, and before you know it, it’s overrun with backpacking tourists.” After their drinks, the bartender calls this guy and tells him that “eight gringos arrived.”
That night there is a big dance, and they’re all drinking, and a joint is being passed around, as they all decide to “Fuck the bus,” and stay overnight. Hot Brazilians inexplicably come on to the pasty Brits, one taking him back to her room, where they go at it. Afterward she grabs his wallet and takes money out. He, surprised to find out what just happened, says “Wait! You like me, no?” and she replies: “No.”
SPOILERS > > >
So they’re all dirty dancing, when they start to feel drugged—the movie goes into this kind of cool kaleidoscopic effect. They wake the next morning on the beach, having been robbed. “Everything’s gone,” Alex says. “What do you mean?” Bea asks. “Clothes, phones, money, passports—everything,” Alex responds, to which Bea responds with my favorite line: “We’ll be fine.” Sure, no money, no way to communicate with anyone who might send you money, and no way to leave the country—I don’t see what the problem is. More drinks?
So earlier we seen some guy come in and tell this huge native guy and woman, both of them appearing to be quite strung out, that it's time to go for another job. They say "I don't want to do this!" but are soon pressed. Now we find that the Swedes have been kidnapped, and are being carried as prisoners hanging from poles. They escape, but the guy get hacked with a machete, and the woman falls off a cliff and bashes her head really badly. It swift and brutal, and for a second I was like: "Wait a minute, is this movie actually going to be pretty good and have some style?" Back to our protagonists, they are wandering the streets in their bathing suits and flip-flops, looking for the police. They're going to report the robbery and get some JUSTICE! They see a kid wearing Alex's hat, and run after him. He throws a rock at them, and they throw a rock at him—and hit him in the head! He falls down and wails, and soon an angry mob is around them! Then Kiko, this friendly Brazilian they met the night before [whose English improved markedly overnight], says there is no police in the area, and offers to take them to the house of his uncle where they can chill for a while. While they take off hiking through the jungle [in their flip-flops!] we cut back to our villain, named Zamora. He is discussing the fresh meat with his band of criminals, and catches one of them looking at the pics on the tourist's cell phone. This pisses him off, so he jabs a stick into the guys eye! Then slowly rams it into his brain! This is basically here, like the earlier scene, to set up that the natives are not all into this guy and don't want to go along with his nefarious plans.
So our tourists have been hiking for TEN HOURS through the rainforest [they say, but I think they exaggerate], and the Brits are mouthing off in a way they think is "charming." They see vultures circling above. They then come to this beautiful waterfall and clearing, apparently 10 minutes from the house, and, once more, are READY TO PARTY! It's such an "amazing place" they want to know, "Can we swim?" Personally, when I am in a strange country and have no money or passport, and have just hiked ten hours through dense rainforest in flip-flops, I'm probably just going to want to lie down. But that's why I'm "no fun." So they dive in an swim, and Kiko shows them these underwater caves, the last one, wayyyy deep in, emerges in this gorgeous sunlit grotto. It's kind of a strange detour to suddenly have all these extensive underwater shots, but there ya go. They say "The water's so beautiful!" and forget all their cares and enjoy a little idyll. I was thinking, you know how in fairy tales or something like The Tempest, when the characters are wandering for hours, then come upon an elaborate banquet laid out in the middle of a desert isle, and just go at it without a thought, and you're like "Uh… would this happen?" Well, this is exactly like that. At this point Kiko is sort of starting to like them, and says maybe it's better if they DON'T go to the house. But they've just hiked ten hours, and are not to be dissuaded.
So Kiko dives in and gets a bad cut in his head—looking back, it's really hard to see why this happens or what function it serves in the story—but they repair to the creepy house, where they soon STAPLE GUN his wound closed. They look around the house, with Alex, our hero, finding a Swiss Army knife in a drawer and STEALING it. They also just start raiding the cupboards, appropriating the food for themselves, putting on the clothes, taking showers. They make a huge meal for themselves and sit around drinking. NOTHING is going to stop these crazy kids from partying, huh? I was kind of floored that someone on IMDb described these characters as "likeable." Anyway, so they all fall asleep, and wake in the middle of the night to the sound of the dogs [in pens outside] barking. Then they hear a helicopter and it lands right outside.
In comes Zamora and a bunch of other people. The woman tells Alex and his sister to run, but they're not fast enough. Alex—the big asshole—screams at Kiko, as he's leaving, about getting him into this mess. Well, he did try to warn them. Then it looks like Alex gets macheted, which was about time, but we soon find that he's fine. OH, and you will recall that Kiko has a huge gash in his skull and possible concussion—yeah, but now he's fine. No big.
So now Amy wakes up on the operating table, with one of the Brits off to the side. Zamora is standing over her, and while he cuts her open and removes organs [like watching a surgery], he says that "rich gringos" come to Brazil and take the land, use their bodies for sex, and then even started taking their insides for organs. But he's had enough! So he takes organs from the rich gringos and drops them off at this Brazilian children's hospitals—what, they just find a bucket of organs on the front porch and start slipping them into kids? Whatever, the point is that he's the Robin Hood of Brazilian organ transplants. This whole sequence is basically all there is to the horror/torture/gore part, however.
So you'll remember that Alex has the knife that he stole. Soon he and Bea are escaping, and what do you know, Kiko shows up again, just in time to save them. They gather some of the others and make it back to the underwater caves, where there is a long chase, shootout, and eventually they're safe.
Then the little epilogue. They come back into town, and the people from before, the ones who all knew about the robbery and apparently distributed the booty amongst themselves, and were furious that these people has hit a kid with a rock, now bring them food, and apparently the good people of this impoverished town PAY THEIR AIRFARE HOME! Next thing we see, our trio are boarding an airplane. It's just amazing how generous those natives can be to help Americans in need!
< < < SPOILERS END
*Sigh.* Well, what to say about this? First and foremost, I was quite surprised to find that I pretty much thoroughly enjoyed it, except for the surgery scene, which I didn't watch [in part because I was eating ice cream at the time]. But the bus crash was kind of cool, our characters were just ignorant assholes enough for me to enjoy their stupidity and vicariously get off on all the bad things happening to them, and the movie does a good job of finding amusing stuff for them to do [the whole underwater cave thing was out of left field] and trouble for them to get into. Maybe it's just because they're big, moronic clods [only Pru is barely likeable], and we know something terrible is going to happen to them, so…
But for as ignorant and self-centered as the movie makes them out to be, the point of view of the movie never really holds this against them. In Hostel and The Ruins, there was a much stronger sense that the bad things were happening to them BECAUSE of what assholes they were, and that to a point—a point pretty far along—they deserved it. Here, somehow not really. I guess this comes through in the ways that various of the Brazilians want to help them and think it's just terrible what happening, and one of them even is prepared to give up his life for them. Alex is REWARDED for stealing something that is clearly not his property. Furthermore, none of them seem to have even the most fleeting, momentary sense of reflection that perhaps they may be in some way responsible for the situation they're in. Of course, they don't seem to be capable of any sort of reflection—although they never fail to blame someone else for their problems. Plus, having one person behind the plot to get them, and the fact that this person is made out to be a wild loony psycho, also takes the blame off our characters and makes it more victims of a crime than anything. So it's quite odd—the characters are definitely made out to be ignorant, hatefully superficial morons, and yet the movie doesn't hold that against them.
So yeah, not really all that bad. And it's got enough stuff going on [unlike 30 Days of Night] that you don't start focusing on how Melissa George is unable to close her mouth. Ever.
If you've already seen Hostel, and it sounds interesting to you, or you just hate ignorant tourists and want to see bad things happen to them.