Tourist Trap is one of those movies that should probably get more recognition than it deserves. It definitely skipped me by and ended up on my must watch list for decades, but somehow kept evading me.
Buried among the late 70s, early 80s slasher films that surrounded its release, this eerie supernatural slasher film is often overlooked for its likeness to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and has been labelled as a cliche-ridden failure, and yet I was still intrigued by this concoction of these group of friends who are on a road trip and find themselves holed up at a curious museum filled with mannequins.
So I was pleasantly surprised to see Tourist Trap listed on Tubi and felt compelled to finally check it out and I found that I was more than willing to be taken on this ride and immerse myself in the narrative despite the afore-mentioned warnings.
I felt encouraged further still when I posted on social that I was sitting down to watch the film and received some positive responses.
Immediately I found David Schmoeller’s direction interesting as he was able to set up an atmosphere that was deliberately offsetting and clearly pulled some learners from this movie that he would lay down for his cult classic, Puppet Master in 1989.
The scene is set and we’re introduced to our would-be victims travelling across an undisclosed American terrain, when one of the group, Woody goes ahead in search of a gas station, when he finds one that appears to be deserted, but when venturing out back comes face to face with menacing mannequins and flying debris that appears set out to attack him as if controlled by some unseen force, when finally he’s impaled by a metal pipe and quickly dispatched.
The rest of the film followers the rest of the teen pack made up from token male Jerry, his girlfriend Tina, the hard-headed Eileen, and the meek mannered Molly. They turn up at the gas station trying to find Woody, only for their jeep to strangely break down (nothing that a quick skinny dip can’t fix in order to keep their peace of mind). Here they encounter the overly friendly and slightly off-kilter museum owner, Mr. Slausen, who offers to help them out.
Before long the group of friends find that they are being stalked by someone who may or may not be Mr. Slausen’s brother.
The rest of the movie does play out with some typical horror tropes, but there are enough triggers and quirks along the way to keep the viewer engaged.
Chuck Conners is delightful as the deranged museum owner, Mr. Slause, who you can never quite tell is all there. Connors hams it up to the right side of plausibility.
I also enjoyed the whole supernatural telekinesis component to the movie as it gave a nice spin on the usual slasher fare.
This combined with the direction and music supplied by Pino Donaggio gave enough atmosphere and edge to the piece that it was unsettling and engaging, particularly Tina’s harrowing death scene.
Definitely worth the watch and I’m glad that I finally got around to doing so.
- Saul Muerte