TOURIST TRAP (1979)

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Tourist Trap

TOURIST TRAP (1979)
Directed by David Schmoeller
Available on ARROW

When their car breaks down near a roadside attraction, four friends are invited to stay at a roadside museum by the owner whilst he helps the only male member of the group, Jerry, to fix the motor. Listless, one of the women decides to explore around the grounds of the museum and approaches a house nearby where she makes a ghastly discovery. Will her friends discover the truth before it’s too late?

If you’ve watched any sort of horror movie, then you’ll know that breaking down on the road and receiving help from a stranger isn’t going to end well. In David Schmoeller’s TOURIST TRAP, neither is stopping at a tourist trap/roadside attraction, especially one that’s off the beaten track. Despite knowing how ropey these roadside attractions can be, the film’s characters are at the mercy of strangers as they find themselves stuck in the middle of nowhere, and their desperation to continue their road trip means they’re not able to turn down help when it’s offered to them.

Late 70’s horror TOURIST TRAP is one of those films that wastes no time when it comes to offing its protagonists. In the opening minutes, we see a young man named Woody (Keith McDermott) meet his maker at an abandoned gas station but rather than human interference, his fate is seemingly at the hands of witchcraft aided by some creepy mannequins! So when we see his friends, mainly consisting of a group of young women, arrive at the roadside museum Slausen’s Lost Oasis which is filled with similar mannequins, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that it’s somehow tied to the haunted gas station from the film’s opener. But who is responsible? Is it museum owner Mr Slausen or his artist brother, the mastermind behind the mannequins? Or, is it someone else entirely?

TOURIST TRAP has that country bumpkin earthiness to it, with no real hint of maliciousness, which is able to put the viewer at ease somewhat as we get to know museum owner and widower, Mr Slausen. His tales of how the highway being built drove custom away from his business, forcing it to close, is a sad one but when you see what his museum contains it’s hardly surprising anyone would want to visit. With the tourist trap filled with static and animatronic mannequins, many of whom are modelled after soldiers, historical figures and the like, it’s hardly a draw. Despite this, the artistry of the creations captures attention, with Mr Slausen’s guests commenting on the life-like accuracy of the work. From herein, it’s a countdown to how events will unfold, as it’s only a matter of time before they suffer the same fate as Woody!

There’s a lot of enjoyment to be had with this roadside horror and it’s made all the freakier with the inclusion of those dreaded waxwork mannequins. With their stillness and lifelike stares, it’s almost like they’re watching the protagonists wherever they go and you never know if they’ll come alive at any moment to attack the characters.

The tension mounts wonderfully throughout the movie as the group begins to dwindle in size as the characters become restless and wish to explore for help rather than be a sitting duck. With the women isolated in a strange place, it makes the perfect situation for a game of cat and mouse. What will become of the friends and will they escape the roadside attraction with their lives?

A classic, gritty example of an indie slasher, TOURIST TRAP has the charm to win over audiences, especially thanks to the committed performances from Chuck Connors as Mr Slausen and Jocelyn Jones, Robin Sherwood, Tanya Roberts, and Jon Van Ness as the four friends. The supernatural element, combined with the creepy menace of the waxworks, adds a special flavour to the movie, transforming it into a fun-fuelled terror filled with frights!

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

 

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About Bat 4442 Articles
I love practical effects, stop-motion animation and gore, but most of all I love a good story! I adore B-movies and exploitation films in many of their guises and also have a soft spot for creature features. I review a wide range of media including movies, TV series, books and videogames. I'm a massive fan of author Hunter S. Thompson and I enjoy various genre of videogames with Kingdom Hearts and Harvest Moon two of my all time favs. Currently playing: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Yakuza Zero and Mafia III.

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