If you love horror classics that strike a balance between familiar formulas and fresh scares, then “Tourist Trap” deserves a spot on your must-see list.
Originally released in 1979, there’s a lot to love if ’70s slasher flicks are your jam. “Tourist Trap” is directed by David Schmoeller (“Puppet Master,” “Crawlspace”) and stars Chuck Connors (“Maniac Killer,” “The Horror at 37,000 Feet”), Robin Sherwood (“The Love Butcher”) and Jocelyn Jones.
One glance at the synopsis is guaranteed to give you déjà vu. The film makes good use of plot staples any horror fan recognizes. An unwitting group of young people stuck in the middle of nowhere? Check.
Creepy mannequins, the sight of which are haunting on their own? Of course.
A little telekinesis thrown in for good measure? Yes, it’s got that, too. Don’t worry, though. You only think you know what to expect from this wild ride given the details.
“Tourist Trap” is about a nefarious establishment and a group of friends who find themselves stuck there after their car breaks down. Slausen’s Lost Oasis is filled with mannequins and puppet-like figures that are nothing if not creepy and the owner — Mr. Slausen himself — is just as off-putting.
FAST FACT: Director David Schoeller says he drew inspiration for the film from both Tobe Hooper’s shock success from directing “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” to a “Twilight Zone” episode featuring mannequins.
Eventually, it becomes clear that not only is Connors’ Slausen a serial slasher, but he is able to control inanimate objects with his mind. Will our unfortunate group of travelers survive his house of horrors?
“Tourist Trap” borrows from other movies of the era and became an influence on many films to come.
For instance, the unnerving plastic mask Slausen wears will definitely remind you of Michael Myers from “Halloween,” released the year prior. The telekinesis connects to “Carrie” and similar films that came out around the same time. Slausen’s beautiful, but menacing home will bring “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” to mind as well.
“Tourist Trap” is delightfully bizarre, if a little fragmented, helping it stand apart from the pack despite those similarities. For instance, if you’re the sort that’s freaked out by dolls, mannequins or puppets, you’ll definitely appreciate the way the mannequins are handled here.
At times, there’s nothing amiss with them at all, but at others, they exhibit distorted voices and creepy movements that are disturbingly unnatural (even for mannequins). They’re thoughtfully used in such a way that they lend freshness to the way the plot plays out.
To be fair, “Tourist Trap” is hardly flawless.
For starters, it boasts its share of silliness. It also suffers from a few logic problems and plot holes. However, you also get the feeling the team behind this film is fully aware of this, so any loopholes come far from ruining the film.
The majority of the actors and performances aren’t terribly memorable, either (aside from Connors who really carries the film) – a fault that’s ultimately forgivable in light of “Tourist Trap’s” merits.
Overall, “Tourist Trap” is an absolute gem that you really owe it to yourself to track down if you’ve never seen it. It will feel familiar to you in many ways. However, we can also honestly say we’ve never seen another film quite like it. It’s certainly aged well and, perhaps, become even better and easier to appreciate with time.