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“Turistas” and Fox Atomic

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By Michelle Orange

IFC News

[Photo: “Turistas,” Fox Atomic, 2006]

In a recent piece about the “torture porn” trend in horror films, New York magazine critic David Edelstein had a great line about the ever-escalating attempts to shock an audience, writing that “in the quest to have a visceral impact, actual viscera are the final frontier.” One would hope, one would hope; but now that “Shortbus” has worked explicit sex into a pseudo-romantic comedy, the third installment of the “Saw” franchise ($350 million and counting) has been banned to minors in France, of all places, for its beyond-the-pale depictions of torture and dismemberment, “Hostel 2” is on the way, and “Jackass Number 2” has done its business, could the mainstreaming of snuff films be next? After all, if the actual viscera actually belongs to a chicken or a mountain goat, isn’t there still one frontier to go?

Let’s postpone that gruesome question for a moment and consider the endeavor of “Fox Atomic,” 20th Century Fox’s new teen-oriented film studio. Lionsgate’s marketing chief Tim Palen has been quoted as calling the current torture genre craze “a gold mine” and Fox Atomic was created with the expressed intention of cashing in; their first release, “Turistas,” opens this week, their second release, the Wes Craven-penned “The Hills Have Eyes 2” in March and “28 Days Later” sequel “28 Weeks Later” in May. Peter Rice, the head of the division, has made his mandate clear: low-budget teen comedies and torture flicks that rely almost exclusively on online and “viral” marketing to create a brand around not just the films but the studio itself. You know a trend has reached saturation point when a whole studio is devised in its service.

“Turistas,” a fairly standard teen slasher flick that splices in (forgive me) the now de rigeur scenes of slow and steady unanesthetized surgery, also caters to the new xenophobia (with “Hostel” as its advent and apotheosis) wherein the risks of travel include not just losing your luggage but one or two of your major organs. “Go Home” is the tag line on “Turistas”‘s movie poster, and it works as either an ominous threat from Ugly American-loathing foreigners or a word of advice from Americans — i.e. the filmmakers — who know better. The “hero unveils a drawer full of passports” scene is a loaded and usually chilling trope in any number of genres — the spy movie, sci-fi thriller, historical drama, um, “Fletch” — and when it makes an appearance in “Turistas,” the effect is familiar but offers a new and naive twist of dread: if only they’d just stayed put.

When three young and underclothed Americans (Josh Duhamel, Olivia Wilde, playing brother and sister, and Beau Garrett) are stranded after a bus accident in rural Brazil, they make a series of bad, lemming-like decisions that ultimately lead them into the home of a very angry Brazilian surgeon who deals in human organs on the black market. One of the first bad decisions is made by Garrett, when she blithely unharnesses her bodacious ta-ta’s on a public beach and inevitably marks herself, in the fine teen slasher, sex-equals-death tradition, as the first one to die. The Americans pick up a couple of Brits and an Australian from the bus and decide to stay on a secluded beach for the night, but they are drugged and robbed by what seems like an entire village of crafty Brazilians — even the little children — in preparation for their delivery to the doctor.

The two Brits — ogle-eyed and dopey, hoping to engage in a little harmless sex tourism — chose Brazil because it has the highest per capita ratio of Sports Illustrated swimsuit models, and all of the clichés are in place (Spanish, Portuguese, whatever), as the bumbling gringos make cutesy faces over air kissing and offend the locals by taking snaps of their kids. Relatively harmless offenses, but when two lily-white turistas are carted through the jungle, strung up on stakes like pigs, the image panders to an American’s worst fears not only about what foreigners think of them, but what they would do, given a clean shot and a couple of roofies.

Those fears are of course made explicit by the doctor, as he is gutting the breast-barer and waxing acidic on his calling to punish Americans for their greed, their temerity in coming to his country to dance and drink and have sex. Though he relishes the idea of “the heart of an arrogant, gringo tourist” beating in a Brazilian, the ticker doesn’t travel so well, so he has to stick mainly with the liver and kidneys. Don’t ever tell your mom the plot of this movie.

Of course all of the messages are mixed and muddled and crude; Brazil’s ministry of tourism won’t be toasting any caipirinhas over the film, though there is a brief shot of some nice Brazilians pretty much as the credits roll. While cleaving to both the key elements of teen horror and the genre’s new fascination with torture, “Turistas” is a relatively tame entry on the gag-scale — it certainly doesn’t bring us any closer to the snuff frontier than its predecessors — and is more explicit in its depiction of Americans floundering outside of their comfort zone, almost completely hapless at the mercy of foreigners who hate them by default. Lest this be a dishearteningly heady assessment to the torture porn-mongers at Fox Atomic, let me also say that “Turistas” has finally won an endorsement from, and believe it or not, that’s a good thing.


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.