June 12, 2013

Tourist Trap (1979)
Starring Chuck Connors and Tanya Roberts

Comments:   I am a big fan of low budget horror movies from the 70's.  There is just something about most of them that is so earnest, that is so authentic, that is so unpolished, that in a lot of cases when you watch them they really don't even feel like they are "movies."  A lot of times it feels like the director just randomly stumbled onto a snuff film and he decided to film it.  

Um, can I borrow a cup of death?

Well, Tourist Trap is a PERFECT example of that description.  Because this one doesn't feel like a movie.  This one feels like the director just was driving down the road with a bunch of his friends one day, and they ran across a haunted house.  And they decided to go inside and film what happened.  It is so unpolished, and so unglossy, and the actors are so obviously amateurs, that it just jumps out at me as the type of atmospheric little 70's creepfest that I absolutely love.  

Unfortunately, it is also a movie that most people have never heard of before.

Hi.  Enjoy your nightmares.

Tourist Trap is the story of five young people who are out driving through the countryside one fine summer day, and they run into some car problems.  Their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere.  So they have to walk down the road to the nearest town to get some help.

Naturally, the first place they run into is an attraction located in the middle of nowhere called "Slausen's Lost Oasis."

Run by this man, Mr. Slausen (Chuck Connors)

Now, Slausen's Lost Oasis is a quirky little place.  Because on one hand, it is an inn.  This is someplace the kids can spend the night if they can't get assistance with their car.  This is someplace they can hang out, they can get a bite to eat, they can go swimming down in the pond.  For all intents and purposes, this is the perfect little place if you need to crash somewhere in an emergency and spend the night.

But on the other hand, it is also a museum.  

A very... quirky... museum.

You see, Mr. Slausen has created thousands of mannequins.  And they are located everywhere.

If you can guess where the movie is going from here, well you got it.  The kids are about to be trapped in a house of horrors.  Where they are stalked all night by creepy people in masks and hundreds of living mannequins. Who want nothing more than to make sure they stay here and join them as mannequins forever.

You see, if you use Slausen's special technique, you can become a mannequin too!

See, right off the bat, I can tell you that this movie will be too creepy for most of the people who are reading this review.  Because that's what it is.  It is just plain fucking creepy.  It will get under your skin.  Because I can think of few things that are more unnerving in life than the image of mannequins whose eyes move and whose jaws will gape open and groan at you.

Don't believe me?  Well take a look at this little montage of nightmare fuel.  Just imagine the following pictures a hundred different times jumping out at you randomly during a horror movie:

Now, Tourist Trap is not a flawless movie.  I don't want to sit here and rave that it is the single scariest movie of all time, because it isn't.  In fact, truth be told, it really isn't even all that good.  I remember the first time I saw it, I was a little disappointed because it didn't come anywhere near the hype that you will hear if you read about it on other horror review sites.  The big problem with the movie is that it falls into the standard horror movie trap of "one person goes into a place he shouldn't, and bad things happen.  And then five minutes later we just repeat it with a different character."  As the movie goes along it gets kind of tedious because the pacing is all off.

However, after you watch the movie once, you will turn off the DVD player, and you will think about it.  And that is the thing.  Most horror movies don't have that.  But Tourist Trap does.  It has a way of worming its way under your skin and burrowing into your memory.

And then the next time you are driving down a country road, and you see an old abandoned building on your right, you will think about it.  And you will be creeped out.  

And you will remember the mannequins.

Join us!

That is the ultimate compliment I can give to a horror movie.  You will remember it later.  And that is exactly why I recommend Tourist Trap.  You might not think it is all that amazing at the time.  You might think it is kind of weird and slow and goofy when you are watching it.  But you will most certainly remember it.

Oh, you will most certainly remember it.

Hi, wanna play?

By the way, three quick pieces of trivia about Tourist Trap before I sign off.  

First off, it stars one of the hottest actresses of the 70's and 80's, Tanya Roberts.  Yes, before she was one of Charlie's Angels, before she was in Beastmaster, before she was a Bond Girl in A View To A Kill, she played "the hot girl" in Tourist Trap.  And of course there could not be a more appropriate costume for "a girl in a 1979 horror movie" than cutoffs and a halter top.

No Mr. Bond, I expect you to wank

Okay, second bit of trivia.  And this is a fun one.  This is apparently Stephen King's all time favorite horror movie.

Don't believe me?  Well go read his book "Danse Macabre", and look for the part where he talks about the movies that scared him the most growing up.  And then watch him practically orgasm when he gets to write about Tourist Trap.  Suffice it to say, he LOVES this movie.  In fact it wouldn't be a stretch to say that the only reason you are reading a review of Tourist Trap in the year 2013 is because Stephen King kept the memory of it alive for 25 years after it was released.  Had Stephen King not single-handedly hyped this movie and inspired millions of people to seek it out and watch it for themselves, it would have been lost to history like so many other obscure little horror movies that came out in the 70's and 80's and were quickly forgotten.

Also, be sure to drink Dr. Pepper

Okay and now we come to my favorite bit of trivia about Tourist Trap.  And this one is going to blow your mind.

You know how I said this movie is creepy as hell and it will get under your skin?  You know how I insinuated that it involves murder and death and people being torn apart by mannequins and perhaps being suffocated by being turned into plastic? You know how it sounds like a horrible atmospheric torture fest that you would never show to your grandma or your kids?

Well get this.  This movie isn't graphic or bloody at all.

It is actually rated PG.

That's right.  It is possible to be creepy and not even get an R rating.

And so there you go.  Tourist Trap.  One of the more obscure entries on my "200 Movies That Deserve More Love" countdown, and one that I hope everyone gets to experience at least once in their lifetime.  It's not the greatest movie in the world.   It isn't even the scariest movie in the world.  But it sure is a creepy one.  And come on, it's a PG rated horror movie!   How many of those have you seen in your life?   You have Tanya Roberts walking around the entire movie in a tiny little halter top, and it never comes off.   It doesn't even come close!   If nothing else you have to appreciate the restraint that went into directing a movie like that.

Tanya Roberts and Nellie Oleson wonder if Pa is back from the market yet.

P.S.  Oh and I can't finish my writeup without including this paragraph from a different review of Tourist Trap.  This one nails the magic of this movie in four sentences.  Enjoy.

The mechanism of the dolls and dummies is what really gets under my skin in "Tourist Trap".  They're built so that their mouths do this hideous thing where they drop open obscenely and either scream or sigh.  Sometimes they're clearly actors underneath costumes, and other times they're distinctly inhuman.  I'm not sure which ones bother me more. 

Every Year Young People Disappear.

* My favorite IMDB user reviews about Tourist Trap:

Where have YOU been, little movie!? - 3 February 2012
It's funny.....you get to middle-age....you have amassed a huge DVD collection, heavy on horror, particularly the 50's through the 80's, and you think you have seen all the "A-list" stuff. All you're trying to do now is round out the collection with obscure "B" and "C" list films....maybe some TV movies. Then, you see "Tourist Trap", and you think 'how did I miss this film?', which could easily be discussed in the same breath with Halloween, Nightmare on Elm St. and Creepshow.

This is a great, fun, scary movie. It helps that mannequins are naturally a bit creepy, being so life-like. I recall that excellent Twilight Zone episode with Anne Francis, with the mannequins moving in the department store. Tourist Trap has a big scare scene very early on, which could have been too much, too soon, but it really worked, and set the unnerving tone that the rest of the film continues. It made me realize how long it's been since I 'jumped' because of an unexpected scene in a scary movie.

Tanya Roberts was very good in this -- much better than she was as "Sheena" a few years later. The gore is not excessive for the sake of titillation, and the tension is unrelenting. The ghastly images of the mannequin mouths dropping so far open, and the screams coming out, will stay burned in my mind for a long time to come.

One Creepy Obscure Attraction that deserves more Attention - 9 January 2010
Perhaps one of the first slasher film that came out after Halloween (Although made from Irwin Yabalans from Halloween), I must say I honestly found "Tourist Trap" to be scarier and funner. "Tourist Trap" is one of those remarkable treats you find every now and then, and are left with the most enjoyable feeling of surprise. It was destiny I tell you, but one night I was at my local Blockbuster (One or Two months before it went out of business), and had nothing to get. Then I stumble upon this movie, I think huh seems like a laughable B-Movie, I rent it and took it home, boy was I in for a good scare. "Tourist Trap" comes off as a bad movie, it definitely has it's cheesy moments,but in the end you're having to much fun with it to really care.

The things that impressed me the absolute most, and the things that made this movie one of the scariest ones I've seen, is number one the setting. A horror movie without a good setting isn't very fun, not here. I just love love love the location, it feels like we can relate to it, it almost feels like we've been there before. Which makes it creepier. Next is the characters, non of them are really stereotypical, and they all have a real personality. For example they're not stoners, alcoholics, or even Sex obsessed people, they feel like normal young adults. Plus they look realistic enough, and then their is Chuck Connors. Who gives a great performance as Mr. Slausen who we all take an instant liking too because again he's so real, he feels like that nice guy grandfatherly figure we adore. The last, and probably most important thing that makes this movie scary is how they make us (the audience) jump half way out of our seats, and turn on the rights, for the right reasons. For example most of the time in horror films we mainly just jump because of a sudden change in the music pitch, but in "Tourist Trap" prepare yourself, that's not the case. With it's perfect use of lighting, mannequins, and weirdness you feel utterly creeped out. Plus I love because although they may go a bit over-the-top with some things you still feel like this could happen. Which is exactly what a horror movie who takes such a ridicules premise should do, and that is make us (the audience) feel unsafe and terrified.

Overall as far as any major problems go, I have none, only that it's weirdness may get a little too weird at times. However in the end "Tourist Trap" holds a place near and dear to my heart, for being one of the few horror films to make me turn on the lights and feel unsafe about traveling.

An All-Time Fave... - 16 April 2006
This is one of my favorite horror films of all time and I used to think it never really got its due. That is until I read the glowing reviews here. It seems many feel the same as I did when I first saw it.

It's a damn creepy film, and I've spent most of my life watching creepy films. I've always found dolls, mannequins and such damn creepy! Check out the dolls in "Beyond the Door" and of course the great "Trilogy of Terror". And what about the magnificent Twilight Zone episode "Living Doll". Hell, dolls are creepy! And Tourist Trap has some moments that will make your hair stand on the back of your neck. All aided by an excellent soundtrack that just makes Connors' performance even more heart-pounding.

I remember seeing the trailer to this film on late night TV and thing, "Wow, I gotta see that!" It was memorable. And it's one of the only trailers I remember seeing as a kid that creeped me out. Took me years to see it, but it was a treat.

Stephen King also mentions this film in his "Danse Macabre" book, and gives it a glowing recommendation. Pretty good company.

This film will always be high on my list of must-sees. It's a real solid addition to the genre of the time and deserves place alongside the best of the 70s schlockers.

A sleeper that has withstood the test of time, fun to watch. - 20 July 2000
Some films just fade away, but Tourist Trap has withstood the test of time and has justifiably become a cult favorite. Though not completely original--it owes much to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it holds its own with a sense of humor, genuine creepy moments, a brilliant score by Pino Donaggio, and the fun performances by Chuck Connors and the cast. Don't let the PG rating keep you away, this film proves that gratuitous gore and nudity are not needed in every horror film to make it entertaining. Those elements are usually used to cover the lack of thrills in a film. Here, the scares are merited and effective. Plus, only Chuck Connors could carry a scene in which he has to share soup with a mannequin! A classic scene indeed. Now more accessible on DVD in widescreen, this film is a must for fans of '70s horror fare.

Almost a classic - 28 May 2006
Tourist Trap turned out to be a much better film that I was expecting, containing enough great material to make it a classic alongside the likes of Halloween. However I think the reason it isn't a classic is because it tries to throw a bit too much into the mix and by the end the film seems overcrowded. There are plenty of suspenseful and creepy moments, perhaps the best being one that wouldn't have been out of place in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The scene in the basement is incredibly creepy, as the killer (wearing a mask that looks like Leatherface) pours plaster over the girls face until she can no longer breathe. It doesn't take her long to die, as the viewer is treated to the sound of a pounding heartbeat.

I don't want to give too much away because you really have to see it for yourself, but I will say that there are several key scenes which are scattered throughout the film. They are evenly paced so don't worry about having to suffer long stretches of boredom as with some horror films. The only aspect that spoils Tourist Trap for me are the scenes towards the end. Because Tourist Trap has a surreal and almost dream-like quality, it's hard to make sense of what is happening at times. The ending is a typical example of this, although I'm not complaining because it is deliciously twisted.

Tourist Trap is a must see horror film, no doubt about it. If you're sick of watching low budget trash-fests, watch this low budget cult classic instead.

"These tourist traps are all alike." - 7 April 2003
Well, not this one. From the scary as hell opening sequence, I was thinking this might not be the usual slasher fare. In one way Tourist Trap is the usual stuff. A lonely man, seemingly quite nice, lives alone and his business is dwindling due to a new highway that was built. His business involves a mannequin museum and he has a large mansion looming behind it. Hum...sound familiar? But it does present a good twist on the Psycho formula: he's telepathic and he's Chuck Connors. Mr. Connors delivers a wild performance simply because he's Chuck Connors. To see the Rifleman wearing a wig and playing with dolls is something I won't soon be forgetting. I thought he was great and he saved the movie when it started to lose me. Thankfully, it never did. And as creepy as the movie is, it's rated PG. That really shocked and impressed me. David Schmoeller has had some hits (Puppet Master) and some misses (Netherworld) as a director. I would call Tourist Trap a definite hit. Tourist Trap is one of the slicker films you will see with Charles Band's producing credit on it. Long live Chuck Connors.  

Tourist Trap at the IMDB

Tourist Trap at Wikipedia

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