Start with a trip; it could be for work, play, study or research. Add a traveler, maybe a couple or a group of friends, or for extra trope points a group of friends who are couples.
They're traveling far from home to someplace remote and rural, a foreign country, or both
for quadruple trope points. So now they're someplace new and exiting and different... where they will be off guard; no one knows them or will notice if they disappear; they have trouble communicating with the locals or there are
no locals with whom to invoke Safety In Muggles
; and there will be no help from home if they get stranded, robbed, kidnapped or killed. And so they are.
Cue the Closed Circle
trapping them and keeping help away, once the trap is sprung any of a hundred Dramatic
developments can pounce on these unwary tourists. Maybe that nice stranger is actually part of a terrorist group and implicates the tourists
. Or they're marked as easy targets for exploitation and have their stuff stolen, get kidnapped, or sold into slavery. Maybe there's a monster in the cave they're exploring that starts to pick them off one at a time
, or there's cannibal hillbilly zombies in the foothills waiting to eat them. Point is, they're a long way from home and because they don't know the area or aren't as cautious as they should be it leads to some horrible things happening.
The use of this trope in horror and drama is particularly scary because it's Truth in Television
(well, minus the mutant zombie hillbilly cannibals. We hope
). Criminals in other countries look for tourists in particular as they tend to have a lot of spending money, poor language skills, and no local ties who may get worried if they go missing.
This sort of thing can happen on a Vacation Episode
and in Don't Go in the Woods
, and when a space ship answers a Distress Call
or people simply take a Wrong Turn at Albuquerque
. This is one of the reasons why Short Cuts Make Long Delays
. Also comparable with Hell Hotel
As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.
Anime & Manga
- Bondage Queen Kate features an inter-planetary crime syndicate that kidnaps female tourists who travel to the desert planet Dune, to force them into sexual slavery.
- According to Dave Barry, using turn signals in Miami amounts to informing Miami drivers that you are a tourist, and that they may therefore help themselves to your cash, electronics, and medically valuable organs. Similarly, he recounts three German tourists in the New York subway system who politely asked to get off, he believes they probably got let out in the Bronx where they were sold for parts.
- In his one-man live show as James Thurber, William Windom had a bit where he read the English phrases helpfully translated for the tourist in Europe. These include phrases like "Help", "I need a doctor/hospital.", "I have been robbed of my luggage/wallet/camera.", and the like.
- American Express had a series of ad campaigns in the 70s and 80s for American Express Traveler's Checks: "Never leave home without them" — and every commercial was about somebody getting robbed while on vacation somewhere.
- This is pretty much the premise of the French movie Banzai with Coluche. The protagonist is an employee at an insurance company specialized in bringing back tourists encountering a mishap or medical emergency. The most outstanding example is certainly when a friend of the protagonist is seized by a triad in Hong Kong and repeatedly thrown from about one-story high into hard stone (if you wonder, this is Played for Laughs). The mobsters don't want to kill him, but to take advantage of the urgent repatriation to smuggle some drugs.
- The Joss Whedon movie The Cabin in the Woods deconstructs the horror aspects of this trope, noting that it is necessary to put the vacationers in an isolated place to get them to do wildly incautious things. And then monsters attack.
- Hostel: A very, very gory version.
- Guys and Dolls (1955). In the opening sequence, a man in a tourist group is pick-pocketed by a local while he's distracted. Watch it here.
- In Bruges is an inversion. Two hit-men are sent to relax in Bruges by their boss who wants the younger hitman to have a nice holiday before whacking him for accidentally killing a child during a hit. Since the older hit-man refuses to kill the younger one]] the danger follows them to Bruges.
- The Lost World: Jurassic Park: The first victims shown in the movie are tourists lounging on the beach of a dinosaur-filled island.
- Monsters (2010) has a journalist tasked with bringing back his employer's daughter from Mexico. After it has been overrun by monsters.
- Played straight and then subverted in A Perfect Getaway, where a honeymooning couple tries to enjoy their vacation amidst troubling tales of serial murder. Paranoia and self-preservation run high, and anyone could be waiting to slit their throat while they sleep. Except the main characters were the serial killers from the start.
- Taken: Poor Kimmy, being kidnapped and almost forced into prostitution, all within hours of her arriving in France.
- Invoked, albeit in a foreign language, in the title of Turistas.
- Unknown (2011): Another Liam Nelson, this time pretty much losing everything in his life on a trip to Berlin.
- The Grindhouse film Death Proof. A couple girls go joyriding when a killer with an old muscle car decides to hunt them down for kicks. Played straight in the first half, but subverted in the second.
- The Ruins (The Film of the Book of the same name). Two American couples on vacation in Mexico discover a pyramid infested with deadly parasitic vines.
- In Transsiberian the protagonists are going through Siberia on a train which itself is a Closed Circle, but above that they frequently make stops in locations that are also Closed Circles. All of which frames the lies and smuggling and corrupt (?) police who are growing more and more suspicious of the innocent (?) protagonists.
- Altitude is the airborne equivalent. A group of friends are attacked by an Eldritch Abomination while taking trip in one of their parent's planes.
- Most Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies start with a group of friends who happen to be driving through the area where Leatherface lives for some reason or another.
- Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil plays this trope straight... from the perspective of the hillbillies. A group of teens and a pair of hillbillies go camping in the same general area and the former confuses the latter for Serial Killers, inverting the usual set up for the trope.
- Evidence revolves around a group of people on a bus to Las Vegas that crashes in the desert, leaving them stranded and ready to be picked off by the masked killer.
- Sightseers inverts this, with the main characters going on a caravan holiday together and using it to murder a string of strangers.
Live Action TV
- Happens in the Michael Palmer novel The Fifth Vial, which is about an illegal organ harvesting program in Brazil.
- Discworld: What hasn't happened to Twoflower and Rincewind?
- Inverted in Witches Abroad, as the vampire who tries to apply this trope to the witches winds up smacked in the face by window shutters and a garlic sausage, then eaten by Greebo. The witches' vacation is not disrupted in the slightest; as they never noticed it was there.
- Fathom has a rare undersea version, where three friends scuba diving off the coast of Bermuda run afoul of a school of deadly sea nymphs.
- The Davis family from Modern Warfare 3. They're on vacation in London. You take control of Mr. Davis about thirty seconds before he, his wife, and his daughter all die in a terrorist attack.
- Not quite tourists, but the principle is the same: a small town in The Order of the Stick gets wind that an adventuring party is approaching, and immediately springs into a frenzy, increasing prices tenfold and putting price tags on everything. (An old guy on a porch holds a sign reading "Cryptic ramblings from an old man".)
Real Life Examples
- In The Simpsons, the first time Homer visits New York his wallet is stolen. He goes to complain to a cop, who steals his suitcase.
- In another Simpsons when they went to Brazil Homer ignored the warnings, got into a gypsy cab, and was kidnapped & held for ransom.
- Apart from tourists being possible victims of crime, in Real Life they have also been the targets of politically motivated terrorism, as when Islamic extremists murdered a number of visitors to Luxor in Egypt a few years ago.
- The Bali Bombings - Terrorists bombed areas where Western tourists (mostly Australians) frequented.
- Drug dealers trying to sell to tourists in a country that takes a harsh stance on it, like Indonesia. (This has formed a familiar story, both in the news and fiction, of Western tourists on holiday somewhere in South-East Asia who accidentally or deliberately become involved in drug smuggling, leading to imprisonment in a hellish jail and/or capital punishment.)
- Florida has very relaxed gun laws that make most crime a risk to the criminal. To get around this, Miami has become infamous for criminals targeting people going out of the airport, as they won't be armed.
- Popular urban legend: Couple goes to a foreign country on vacation; while they're out having dinner, their room is robbed, the burglars only leaving two things: their cameras, and their toothbrushes. They use up the rest of the roll of film and continue using the toothbrushes, until finally they get their pictures back, and discover a bunch of them are of the burglar with their toothbrushes up his ass.
- Proving this trope to be Older Than Feudalism, there are travel books dating back to the Roman Empire warning about your likelihood of being robbed and murdered while traveling, with plenty of horror stories to scare you into listening.
- Another popular urban legend is that gangs on the west coast of the US, particularly Los Angeles, will drive at night without their headlights on. If any one blinks theirs to tell them their lights are off, they have to kill them as part of an initiation. The myth so prevalent that California's Highway Patrol had to make an official statement about it.