“Tourist Trap” (1979)
Studio: Compass International Pictures
Starring: Chuck Connors, Jocelyn Jones, Jon Van Ness, Tanya Roberts
Directed by: David Schmoeller
Running Time: 90 min.
Synopsis: A group of friends stumble across a wax museum and a killer who turns his victims into mannequins.
If you’re looking for a good creepy scary movie, go watch Tourist Trap. There’s plenty of scares that will make you jump and tons of creepy mannequins that come to life. Anything with puppets, mannequins, or creepy looking toys coming to life in a horror movie always freaks me out. This film was directed by David Schmoeller (Crawlspace, Puppet Master) and produced by Charles Band, who later on started Full Moon Pictures.
The movie starts off with a guy, Woody, rolling a tire to a gas station in the middle of nowhere to fill it up with air. He stumbles across a deserted station and tries to find someone who can help him. Instead of people he finds a room full of mannequins. Woody gets trapped in the room and finds himself almost in a funhouse type setting where the windows are closing by themselves, creepy dummies popping out of every door or window he tries for, and items in the room start to fly through the place. It’s a great opening scene that is filled with suspense. Eventually, Woody meets his demise when a steel pipe flies through the air and goes right into his back.
Meanwhile, Woody’s friends are driving down the road and they find his car along with his girlfriend, Eileen, who is waiting for his return. She hops onto their jeep and venture off down the road to see if they can find him. What they do find is a road leading to a spring. Suddenly their jeep stops working. The driver, Jerry, starts to work on it as Eileen and the other girls, Molly and Becky, (played by Tanya Roberts) go out to the spring and discover a small paradise in the middle of this wasteland. As they go skinny dipping, they discover they’re not alone when the owner of the land, Mr. Slausen (played by veteran actor Chuck Connors) comes over to introduce himself. He ends up offering to help them fix their jeep and drives them over to his house.
Mr. Slausen brings them to his old run down wax museum, which is filled with different wax dummies of historical figures. It kind of reminds me of the classic wax museums I use to visit when I was a kid. Some of the girls wonder about a house they see while looking out the window that’s down the hill, but Slausen tells them never mind about it and warns them not to go near there or outside while he tries to help Jerry fix their jeep. Once Slausen and Jerry leave, some of the girls are suspicious about the old man. Molly is the only one taken by his charm but others think he’s up to something. Eileen leaves the museum and checks out the house.
Once there, she finds a house full of mannequins. While looking around in one room a mirror is shattered to scare her. It made me jump when I was watching. She turns around and sees a tall man with a mask on that kind of resembles Woody. Eileen is then strangled by a scarf she has around her neck. The man has some kind of power and strangles her without even touching her. After that, one by one the group falls victims to the mysterious killer who turns out to be Slausen crazy brother, Davey who he keeps locked away in the house and is unaware of his murderous rampage.
Tourist Trap has a lot of good things going for it. Even though the twist in the end you can see a mile coming, it doesn’t matter, the film is scary as hell at times and creepy at others. Pretty much any scenes with the mannequins are scary. Whether they’re coming to life or just standing there looking eerie, there’s never a dull moment. The character of Davey is kind of a Leatherface rip-off in the way that he wears different masks that are the faces of the people he killed and he dresses up in different wigs and clothes, but Davey has a wisecracking personality and taunts his victims before he kills them.
In one scene where Davey is about to kill a young woman, he describes to her how she’s going to die. He applies plaster to her face and tells her, eventually it will start to heat up as it dries. As all the plaster is covering her face, Davey continues and tells her she’ll start to have trouble breathing. Then she’ll panic and her heart will stop, dying of fright. The scene is creepy as hell and one of the best scenes in the movie.
Another thrilling scene is when Jerry and Becky try to escape and while they’re walking through a hallway of mannequins, they spot Davey in a room playing with dolls. He hears something and goes out to the hall to investigate. The two try to blend in with the dummies. As Davey looks around and walks through the hallway, you’re waiting for him to reach out and grab one of them. Another Texas Chainsaw Massacre link is Robert Burns who was the Art Director on Chainsaw was the Production Designer on Tourist Trap. Lots of the film had this old dirty dusty look to it the way Chainsaw did.
Tourist Trap is a scary little tale that I never get tired of watching and it’s a classic horror film of its time. A film that is a must own in your horror DVD collection.