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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.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

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Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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