Tourist Trap!

Every year young people disappear…

TOURIST TRAP (1979)

A group of five young people go traveling through the desert when one of their vehicles get sidelined with a flat tire. One of the youngsters – Woody, takes the tire and goes looking for a gas station. He manages to find one, but it appears to be deserted. Woody wanders around looking for help and discovers a room full of bizarre looking mannequins, that laugh maniacally and begin leaping out at him. Then to his horror; the door locks itself, the windows close themselves, and random objects including bottles and knives begin flying at him. In a panic he manages to break a hole in the door, but someone or something on the other side grabs his arm and pins him against the door. Then a large metal pole flies across the room and violently impales him.

When Woody doesn’t return, the other kids eventually decide to go looking for him. As they drive further down the highway they see a sign for a tatty “tourist trap” called Slausen’s Lost Oasis. The gang thinks that it must be where Woody had went for help and decide to go check it out. Then their jeep suddenly stalls and the headlights break. The sole male of the group – Jerry, stays behind to try to fix the jeep while the three girls decide to do the smart thing –  go skinny dipping in a nearby lake. That’s when they meet Mr. Slausen (Chuck Conners), the rifle toting proprietor of Slausen’s Lost Oasis.

Mr. Slausen thoughtfully offers to help the gang fix their jeep, and gives them a ride back to his house so he can fetch his tools. His “house” is actually a large old museum filled with western memorabilia and realistic looking wax dummies. Mr. Slausen explains that his business was ruined thanks to the new highway system (shades of “Psycho”) and that his wife had died, leaving him all alone. Even his brilliant artist brother Davey eventually left the Lost Oasis to take a job at a big wax museum in the city. Most of the kids are creeped out by the place, but one of the girls named Molly seems oddly interested in the story and sympathetic towards Mr. Slausen.

Slausen and Jerry leave the girls in the museum and go off in the middle of the night to repair the jeep. The girls wander around the museum marveling at how realistic the mannequins look and feel. One of more adventurous girls decides to check out the large house next door the museum. She quickly regrets it when she meets a maniac in a hideous looking mask that uses deadly powers of telekinesis to strangle her! The masked madman eventually captures the rest of the kids and ties them up in the basement.

The kids are forced to watch the monster suffocate another young girl with a face full of plaster. (“So pretty!“) Molly manages to escape the museum and runs to Mr. Slausen for help. That’s when the murderous secrets of the Lost Oasis are finally revealed. Illusion and reality begin to blend together and Molly has to fight to stay alive and save her friends. But who will survive, and what will be left of their sanity?

Writer and director David Schmoeller’s TOURIST TRAP is a long time personal favorite of mine. It’s an unbelievably creepy combination of the supernatural and slasher sub-genres. It reminds me of a cracked out combination of “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” “House Of Wax,” and “Phantasm.” First time viewers will no doubt be caught off guard by the many sensational shocks along the way. I purposely left out a lot of the key moments in my review because I don’t want to spoil the fun for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. People with an abnormal fear of mannequins should avoid this flick like the plague. The maniacal mannequins in “Tourist Trap” dementedly laugh and scream at the terrified victims to be and quickly drive them (and the viewer) insane.

The late, great Chuck Connors is simply fantastic as Mr. Slausen. As to be expected, he commands the screen. This time chewing up the scenery as a horrific hybrid of Ed Gein, Norman Bates and Leatherface. The rest of the cast is also surprisingly very good. Jocelyn Jones in particular does a great job as the sympathetic lead who slowly loses her grip on reality. The one and only Tanya Roberts (“Purgatory,” “Charlie’s Angels”) co-stars and her two major talents can be seen defying gravity and boldly stretching the limits of  her tight blue tube top! Everything about this flick is superior, including the spooky score from Pino Donaggo. The body count is relatively low compared to the slashers that would follow in the next few years, but very few low budget horror flicks are as unnerving, or as original and intense as this.

The fine fiends at Koch/Full Moon Releasing were responsible for the 20th Anniversary Edition dvd release of TOURIST TRAP. The film is presented completely uncut and digitally remastered. There’s also a commentary track from director/co-writer David Schmoeller that dishes the dirt about the film’s low budget origins. Add to that the clas-sick original trailer and several trailers for other rad Full Moon releases and you’ve got an essential purchase. Fans of chilling and thrilling late 70′s horror should consider this one a must have. Buy or die! “We’re going to have a party!”

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

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