Paradise Lost (Turistas)

Director    John Stockwell
Starring    Josh Duhamel, Olivia Wilde, Melissa George, Beau Garrett, Desmond Askew
Release    December 1st 2006 (US) June 1st (UK)    Certificate 18
2 stars


26th June 2007

From the cinematic visionary who brought you Kate Bosworth soaking up the surf in Blue Crush and Jessica Alba getting wet in Into The Blue comes another tale of bikini-wearing teens getting hot and bothered overseas. Released a year ago in the States under the name Turistas, Paradise Lost arrives a little too late to hop on the torture porn bandwagon (it'll certainly start rolling again when Hostel II releases next month) but nonetheless offers scantily-clad teens in mild peril, with gratuitous gore and the odd flash of T&A.

We meet our protagonists on a speeding bus, swerving perilously round a Brazilian back road; onboard are bickering American siblings Alex (Duhamel) and Bea (Wilde) plus her bratty best friend Amy (Beau Garrett); madferrit Brit tourists Finn (Desmond Askew) and Max (Liam Kuller) and solo backpacker Pru (George). When the driver takes one corner a little too sharply, the bus teeters over a cliff, giving everyone just enough time to jump out before it spins down the mountain in a mildly expensive looking stunt (the movie's best line follows: "Hey driver! You suck at driving buses!"). Rather than wait 10 hours for the next bus (that's nothing, try living in Britain) the crew decide to hit a nearby beach bar and wake up after a night of hedonism to find they've been robbed blind. Friendly local Kiko (Agles Steib) offers to guide them to his uncle's house, where they can find a way back to civilisation. OR SO THEY THINK! Ahem, quite.

Paradise Lost starts off promising enough; the hot girls waste no time in stripping down to bikinis (The line "Do you mind if I go topless?" comes just a few minutes in) and the lush setting of Brazil certainly provides a colourful backdrop, although let's face it, it would take a real hack to make it look bad. The beach bar is populated with a nice smattering of senoritas and does indeed look like a cracking way to spend an evening (kudos also to whoever created the 'drugged' effect - the closest FX I've yet seen to recreating beer goggles).

Sadly, our terrorised tourists are a little two-dimensional to make for an interesting set-up; a collection of also-rans from soaps such as Hollyoaks, Grange Hill, Home & Away and The OC, there's a real lack of substantial talent here. Where Hostel intentionally made its torture victims dislikeable from the outset, the meatbags of Paradise Lost are too bland to muster up any audience reaction whatsoever. You'll be aching for some blood and guts but it just doesn't come quick enough.

Once the cast have finally been led like lambs to the slaughter - courtesy of a suitably swarthy looking villain - things really start going downhill. The torture scenes, consisting of some amateur home surgery, are certainly wince-inducing, but director Stockwell obviously lacks the twisted imagination of an Eli Roth or a Rob Zombie. What's more, when our backpackers make a break for it, the subsequent escape is so badly lit and choppily edited, it's damn near impossible to make out what's what. (Note to director: if you're going to shoot in pitch black darkness and pouring rain, give us more than half a second per shot to adjust our eyes, for Christ's sake). Director Stockwell even insists on adding entirely unnecessary underwater scenes, which are presumably meant to be exciting and perhaps would be, if you could make out who was chasing whom. Can Stockwell not stay out of the goddamn water? Underwater photography is difficult, we get it - stop showing off. Honestly, the guy must have gills.

Paradise Lost is an undemanding thriller with little in the way of invention and not much going on other than some impressive scenery and a few sweet racks. Love it or loathe it (and I'm sorry to mention it again) but if you're into your gore and care not for piffling matters like characterisation or plot, then you might as well wait for the Hostel sequel - at least that's a guaranteed gorefest, where as Paradise Lost is pretty toothless where it counts.

More:  Horror  Slasher  Violence
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