Director – David Schmoeller
Cast – Chuck Connors, Jocelyn Jones, Jon Van Ness,
Robin Sherwood, Tanya Roberts, Dawn Jeffory, Keith McDermott, Shailar Coby
Release Year – 1979
Reviewed by John of the Dead
In 1979 writer/director David Schmoeller and co-writer J. Larry Carroll perfectly blended two of the creepiest horror sub-genres together for a truly freaky film, titled Tourist Trap. The always creepy usage of a tourist spot in the middle of nowhere run by a sadistic owner was blended with one sub-genre I WISH we had more of…killer mannequins. Complimented with an awesome element of telekinesis and a Texas Chainsaw Massacre influence, this proves to be on of horror’s most original, and freaky films to date.
In this film a group of friends on a road trip suffer engine problems and arrive at what seems to be the perfect tourist getaway, Slausen’s Lost Oasis, which comes accompanied with a mannequin museum reminiscent of a wax museum. The generous Mr. Slausen has obliged to help them get on their way again as soon as possible, but things turn awry when night falls. As the curious patrons begin to snoop around Slausen’s museum they come across a horror they never saw coming. The mannequins have come to life, and one by one they turn the group of friends into mannequins themselves…in gruesome fashion.
It really is a shame that it took me this long to view this flick. I had always heard about it, but never gave it much attention due to the other countless films in my horror queue, but one glance at this film’s plot and I made Tourist Trap my highest priority. I have always thought that mannequins were some of the creepiest looking things on Earth, and I was very happy to see them used in the fashion they were used in this film. Director David Schmoeller did a fantastic job using them to full advantage with their creepy looks and mannerisms, and threw in some very sweet and chilling kill scenes at the hands of these plastic drones. We also get a fun and quirky musical score that I really did not expect, but in the end I believe it worked for the film and did not detriment whatsoever.
Story-wise we really get something worthwhile with Tourist Trap. The usage of both sub-genres I mentioned earlier was great, but what really made this sweet to watch was the usage of Slausen’s telekinetic powers. I won’t give too much away because it really plays a shocking and surprising purpose in the film, and makes this a flick you must begin to really pay attention to when the second half kicks in, and for a cheezy late 70s horror film I respect that entirely. From the looks of the plot you would figure this would be one of those “turn your brain off” horror films, and while that is the case for the first half the second half leaves you with a memorable impression of what a cool storyline can do for a horror film with little to no budget, but lots of ingenuity.
Overall, this is an awesome and very creepy horror film that blends two seldom used horror sub-genres to perfection and leaves the viewer in bewilderment over the events that took place. Give this late 70s gem a watch.