Tourist Trap (David Schmoeller, 1979)

posted in: Duane, Jocelyn, Joint Review, Review | 0
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A group of friends set out on a summer vacation and find themselves held captive in a roadside museum. Soon they’re stalked by the deranged brother of the owner (or is he?) – who seems to have telekinetic powers that apply almost exclusively to mannequins.

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Jocelyn: My slightly sarcastic synopsis aside, this little flick was filled with surprises.  Trust me, the second I saw that Charles Band produced this I was inclined to shut it off right then and there but I decided to give it a chance and I’m glad that I did.  I have what can only be described as an unholy hatred for Band and it seeps into anything that his name is attached to, whether it is truly deserving of my wrath or not.

Tourist-Trap-25284-2529Duane: To be fair, this is still pre- Full Moon Band when he was  capable of making films that didn’t involve killer bongs or fucking dolls. His puppet fetish is alive and well here though with all the mannequins and talking animatronic heads (sorry, telekinetically powered talking heads). Muppet sex notwithstanding, I’ve heard a lot of people run at the mouth about how amazing Tourist Trap is over the years and the first time I viddied it I was terribly disappointed. This being my second visit, I did appreciate it slightly more but I remain nonplussed. It does have its moments, and is kind of unique. The telekinesis thing is just weird.
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J:  Well, Band had no creative input here, this movie is actually based on Schmoeller’s student film short about a man who falls in love with a mannequin and descends into madness. Piece of shit that Band is, he basically made an entire career off the ideas of someone else. ANYWAY! (I want to kill him, really, I hate him SO MUCH!) I went into this totally blind and even though it’s terribly predictable and follows the same, tired formula of kids trapped in peril getting plucked off one-by-one; it’s definitely unique enough to warrant a viddy, although I wouldn’t say it’s “great.”

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The atmosphere is ample thanks to art direction by Robert A. Burns (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Confessions of a Serial Killer) a score by Pino Donaggio (Carrie, The Howling, Two Evil Eyes) and pretty decent direction from first timer Schmoeller. The unfortunate aspect is where the movie tries unsuccessfully to break from form and be something much deeper and darker. Between the stalking, the sometimes telekinesis, questions about who is really doing the hunting and why, you end up frustrated due to poor pacing and the director choosing to zig vs. zag. Not to mention a guy in a Bruce Campbell mask is more funny than sinister.

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D: It looked more like Wayne Newton to me. I’m sure Band was relaxing, jerking off with a puppet or something when he came across (ha!) the opportunity to bankroll something that would cater to his fetish for inanimate objects writhing inappropriately. Ok, so yeah this is formulaic and predictable and pretty much devoid of titties and gore (the two ladies in the skimpy tops come close, but I don’t really consider that delivering the goods). And what the fuck was up with that “dying of fright” scene? Give me a fucking break. In an attempt to flesh out what would otherwise be your (now) run-of-the-mill stalk and slash type of story, they felt the need to delve deep into the hardships that poor Mr. Slausen (played wonderfully over-the-top by Chuck Connors  (Soylent Green, Skinheads)) has endured to the point of painful melodrama on more than one occasion, which makes the film drag.

Some of the scenes are very well shot and the lush wooded setting is used to great effect. Those scenes with the girls running through the trees, being stalked and chased by that crazy motherfucker are downright beautiful. It’s a very well put together film – it looks great. I just wish there was more meat to it (by meat I mean gore/sleaze obviously). It’s a tad overrated in my opinion.
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Tourist-Trap-25288-2529J:  Agreed. The “dying of fright” scene would’ve been effective had they actually considered that plaster looks nothing like melt-y bread dough when you’re slathering it all over someone’s face. It was essentially a scene where Wayne Newton/Bruce Campbell/Elvis talks in a scary voice as he describes how you’ll be unable to breathe after he finishes glazing your face in marshmallow crème.  The movie certainly had potential and although I’m not one of those weirdos that find mannequins inherently creepy, they  added a nice bit of unease to an otherwise bland horror film. (again, bland in the sense that it’s not big on blood or sleaze, but I do give credit to the fractured psyche aspect) Chuck Connors does a great job; there’s something decidedly uncomfortable having grown up seeing him as the all-American Rifleman and then to watch him lumbering after girls in the moonlight in what appears to be a Margaret-Cho-as-a-blonde mask. Totally creepy. But, as previously stated, it loses something when you can’t decide if he’s supposed to be supernatural, have ookie mind powers or if he’s just plain crazy.  You can definitely see some Texas Chainsaw Massacre/House of Wax influence here but it unfortunately can’t hold a candle to either of them. For any Tanya Roberts fans out there she is looking her absolute best in this film!  Short shorts and a tube top? Barefoot? Yes, please!

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J/D: We definitely recommend this to seasoned horror fans who can appreciate its obvious roots and the quirkiness that it offers, newcomers to the genre could glean something from its total departure from normalcy and the atmosphere; although we suspect that they can’t get their heads out of Eli Roth’s shitpipe long enough to see past their filthy noses.

Official COSDS Nunspank Rating:

 

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Jocelyn lives on 35 acres of woodland in an undisclosed Appalachian location. When not boozing it up or fighting the power she's tending her organic garden or collecting punk/soundtrack albums. Her best friends walk on 4 legs. She does not own a cell phone.

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