Entries Comments

Movie Review: Tourist Trap

Tourist Trap (Compass International Pictures, 1979)
Directed by David Schmoeller
Written by Schmoeller and J. Larry Carroll

I remember actually shelling out hard earned dollars back in 2005 to see that god awful remake of House of Wax. You know the one where Paris Hilton gets to kill two birds with one stone; she gets an abortion and an early ticket to her grave in one fell swoop. I remember thinking at the time not only is this a terrible movie, but it is absolutely nothing like the old version with Vincent Price creeping people out with his voice and hitting a ping pong ball toward the screen. The earlier version was done in 3-D.

After watching Tourist Trap, I realized I was right two years ago. I had in fact watched a remake of Tourist Trap. We get stranded youngsters in the middle of nowhere who think they’re getting some gentlemanly help from a redneck who seems to be the only person who actually lives out there. There’s wax, well plaster at least; there’s even a brother angle that is handled a lot better in this version. What House of Wax did not have was Chuck Connors and killer mannequins. What Tourist Trap did not have, thankfully, was Paris Hilton. So, we’re looking pretty good here.

Chuck Connors (Soylent Green) plays Mr. Clausen, the owner of the once booming tourist attraction, “Clausen’s Oasis.” But since business is no longer booming, every now and then stranded youngsters get to be killed by mannequins, or is it Clausen’s crazy brother controlling the mannequins? Or is it Clausen himself?

I recently read Stephen King’s early eighties non-fiction tome, Danse Macabre, where he cites Tourist Trap has being his favorite horror film. While I would not go that far, I will say that I am surprised this isn’t a horror film that gets brought up more often. There is a lot of good to be found here. It might be a little too weird for most people’s tastes, but if it works for you, it will work very well indeed.

The set-up is simple, and the kids are better written than they are in most films like this. You’ve got to wade through some silly dialogue in the beginning, but for the most part the acting is above average. Connors, on the other hand, is freaking hilarious and you can tell he’s having a lot of fun with the role.

And for the first time in I don’t know how long, a horror film actually had me on the edge of my seat in some scenes. Redneck horror is a genre that usually doesn’t work for me. And when it does, for whatever reason, it’s when the rednecks are also mutated (The Descent, The Hills Have Eyes, Wrong Turn). But here we have an honest to god human redneck with some serious coping issues and a tendency toward killing people that freaks me out and makes me curious as hell to see what he’s going to do next.

The opening kill is a stroke of genius and should be a lesson for any aspiring filmmaker in wanting to film low budget horrors. This film was not made for any money whatsoever, Charles Band is associated with it for Christ sakes, but David Schmoeller has always been one of my favorite low budget directors. It’s sad that he’s never come out of this predicament, but maybe he doesn’t want to.

If the opening sequence isn’t good enough for you then half an hour later you get one of the most surreal moments I’ve ever seen in a slasher film. Tanya Roberts, wearing a tube top as well as I’ve ever seen a woman wear one, is stuck in a room with a bunch of mannequins. They all start falling on top of her while belting out a goofy tune that goes something like “Ah, ah, ah!!!” Each note they belt out builds on top of the other one. In fact, I should point out that this has to be one of the most underappreciated scores for a film. It’s by Pino Donaggio who also did the great scores for The Howling and Blow Out on top of a couple hundred other films. Seriously, I don’t think I will ever be able to see a mannequin again without that tune being stuck in my head.

The ending is a stroke of genius as well and shows a true descent into madness that you have unlikely seen in very many films. The last image will be stuck in your head for days. I can’t recommend this enough for those of you looking for an obscure horror film to watch this Halloween or anytime of the year for that matter. Good stuff all the way around.


Sam Loomis


Comment from John B
Time: October 19, 2007, 9:11 pm

I quickly checked out this title after reading your review. I agree with you, but you forgot to mention one outstanding feature of the disc….The previews!!!

Yes, it features previews for Assault of the Killer Bimbos, Sorority Girls in the Slimeball Bowl-o-rama, Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity, Parasite (one of Demi Moore’s first films), The Bill Maher/Shannon Tweed/Adrienne Barbeau film Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle, and Petticoat Planet.

These all are fantastic and require viewing by a large group of guys with sick senses of humor and LOTS of alcohol!

Write a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.