HCF may be one of the newest voices on the web for all things Horror and Cult, and while our aim is to bring you our best opinion of all the new and strange that hits the market, we still cannot forget about our old loves, the films that made us want to create the website to spread the word. So, now and again our official critics at the HCF headquarters have an urge to throw aside their new required copies of the week and dust down their old collection and bring them to the fore…. our aim, to make sure that you may have not missed the films that should be stood proud in your collection. This week we present a thriller which was misleadingly advertised as a ‘torture porn’ movie, and which is certainly not great, but maybe better than the dreadful reception it received.
HCF REWIND NO.46 PARADISE LOST AKA TURISTAS 
AVAILABLE ON DVD
DIRECTED BY: John Stockwell
WRITTEN BY: Michael Ross
STARRING: Josh Duhamel, Melissa George, Olivia Wilde, Desmond Askew
RUNNING TIME: 92 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Three Americans; Alex Trubituan, his sister Bea Tribituan and their friend Amy Harrington, are travelling through Brazil by bus. When the driver crashes the bus, the occupants are stranded. The Americans, together with two Brits,Finn Davies and Liam Kuller, and one Australian, Pru Stagler, follow a track through the woods and find a hidden paradisiacal beach where everyone seemingly just parties. After much drinking and dancing, they are drugged and awake to find all their possessions stolen. They embark on a trek to the nearest village, but get a hostile reception from the locals with the exception of a local boy called Kiko. He offers to take them to a cabin in the woods, but is rendered unconscious by a missed dive………..
I remember distinctly when Paradise Lost hit UK cinemas. It had failed at the US box office under its original title Touristas and didn’t do much better in the UK either, where it got generally awful reviews. Now, as I’m the kind of critic who almost prides himself on being different to the norm in his opinions, if a film is badly received I still often go to see it and more often than not don’t find it so bad. Paradise Lost though I never bothered with and only caught up with recently. I’m certainly not going to say that it’s a neglected masterpiece, in fact it’s a pretty mediocre affair, but it’s certainly not dreadful. If you watch it expecting to see a ‘torture porn’ movie, which is what its advertising gave the impression of, or indeed a horror film, you will probably be disappointed. If though, you are just looking for a reasonable thriller to keep you occupied for an hour and a half, you might find Paradise Lost at least passable.
Originally intended to be set and indeed filmed in Guatemala until location problems prompted a switch to Brazil, Paradise Lost was slightly cut for its theatrical release and restored on DVD, though the cuts only amount to a few seconds and mostly centre on one operation sequence. More on that lovely scene later! Now the film caused some controversy in Brazil, because of the supposed unrealistic and biased image of the country. Star Josh Duhamel actually apologised to the Brazilian government and even to all of Brazil on US TV. I tend to find this kind of thing is over the top. Paradise Lost derives much mileage from the cliché of strangers in a strange land which is forbidding and maybe hostile, and to me could have almost been set anywhere. I will also say that I have read that there is a ring of truth, or at least plausibility, to the movie – I have no doubt that some areas of Brazil probably are like the area depicted in the film. I will also admit that there are areas of Britain that are probably just as dangerous, so I don’t at all intend any racism by saying this!
Anyway, on to the film, and it begins rather disturbingly with lots of close up shots of a woman’s face, her eyes, needles and medical tools as we hear her voice; “I’m so sorry….I wanna go home”!. Obviously she is strapped down and about to be operated on, but good as it is, the scene certainly does hint that this movie is going to be of a distinctly Hostel nature. Then we meet our protagonists, and though some are very unimaginatively characterised, such as the guy who is overly protective of his younger sister and the sex-mad bore [though here he’s English!], they come across as being fairly plausible. The idiot driver crashes the bus, which tumbles down a cliff seconds after everyone has jumped to safety. Vultures circle in the sky, a simple but effective device to create an ominous feeling, and everyone arrives at this gorgeous beach where you can drink and dance to your heart’s content. I was reminded somewhat of The Beach, and we all know that it all went wrong there. We see a sinister phone call to somebody and nasty looking people, who have a drugged girl, preparing to carry some mission out, though I could have done without these scenes because it would have kept the surprise of what happens later on a bit more.
So everyone is drugged and only a few wake up where they slept, with everything stolen. I have actually had nights, or rather mornings, rather like this, but will say no more about that! Anyway, it’s a great and scary premise, but sadly for the next third, barring an encounter with stone throwing locals, what tension is created diminishes with too much dull wondering around. There is a gorgeously photographed scene where they swim in a lovely hidden grotto, a nice respite from the menace, and perhaps not surprising as director John Stockwell [Into The Blue, the soon-to-be-released Dark Tide] loves his underwater stuff, but it feels wrong when the film should be building up the sense of menace more and more. The final third of the movie, where we find out exactly what is going on, gives us a very strong scene of horror which almost reaches new heights of unpleasantness where a woman has her kidneys and heart removed while is still alive and a man on the table next to her watches. Other than that though, it’s mostly just lots of average chasing and killing, climaxing in some underwater action which may have been quite thrilling if we could see what was going on properly. It may be realistic for everything to be shrouded in darkness but sometimes a bit of dramatic license is a good thing!
So what you really have here, despite all the gory shots of pointed objects going into people including a cracking eye stabbing Lucio Fulci would have been proud of, and what seem to me to be borrowings from Zombie Holocaust [if you’ve seen that once-Video Nasty, you will realise what I mean] is a thriller with some horror elements rather than a full-blown horror film. The basic idea, when we realise what it is, is quite terrifying but not enough is done with it. The film needed to perhaps spend more time in the villain’s lair to give us more of a sense of the horror, and shoud have maybe told us more, rather than all this chasing around through trees and water. The cast all do a reasonable job and the brief effects at least look convincing. You might find Paradise Lost [which, as you will have gathered, has nothing to do with Milton] okay. You might even quite like it. You will also probably have forgotten it the next day.