31 Days of Horror – ‘Tourist Trap’ (1979)

Chuck Connors anchors sly '70s shocker where mannequins turn on humans

Horror movies, by and large, are much better today than in the past. At least on paper.

Better acting. Superior special effects. Vastly improved cinematography.

Hollywood takes the genre more seriously now, too. Plus, talented filmmakers like Jordan Peele, David Gordon Green and Ari Aster have no problem running wild in the genre.

There’s still something special about horror movies from the ’70s and ’80s. They have a grit, a sense of unease, that’s hard to replicate. 

Take “Tourist Trap,” for example.

The only member of the film’s young, attractive cast to have a notable career was Tanya Roberts, and she starred primarily in films showcasing her beauty (“Sheena,” “The Beastmaster”). Star Chuck Connors, whose career was ebbing at the time, anchored the movie as the proprietor of a kooky museum that gives the film its title.

Director David Schmoeller does the most with limited resources, turning wooden mannequins and a creepy soundtrack into a bona fide cult feature.

FAST FACT: Schmoeller’s thesis film at the University of Texas featured mannequins that came to life, a theme he revisited for his directorial debut, “Tourist Trap.”

The film didn’t make a serious dent at the U.S. box office, but over the years horror fans have gravitated to the film like many other ’70s entries.

Schmoeller suggests the era’s horror classics stem from a simple premise. Directors had more say, and sway, during that era and that yielded more intriguing visions like “The Exorcist” and, of course, “Tourist Trap.”

Horror maestro Stephen King sang its praises in his 1981 nonfiction tome “Danse Macabre,” saying it “wields an eerie, spooky power.”

31 Days of Horror:

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