Tourist Trap (1979)

Having really enjoyed grabbing two 70’s flicks that I knew virtually nothing about, and ‘double billing’ them last weekend (‘The Sentinel’ vs ‘Long Weekend’) for an ‘Examination’, I intended to do the same thing last night, while my partner-in-crime girlfriend was out of town. However, the fatigue of a long-ass work week (and probably the 5 beer) caught up with me and forced me to shut things down early, right at the midway point of Flick #2 (which I fully intend to finish soon and also write up), so this review is now just a ‘single’. Which is just fine…considering how fucked up this movie turned out to be!
As I mentioned, this was a movie that I knew nothing about, yet had heard some positive mention of it’s existence somewhere, sometime in the last year. Therefore it ended up in my Film Queue, where it waited for a night like last night. So once I’d feasted upon a heaping plate of Mediterranean grub and cracked the cap on an icy End-of-the-Week beer, I hit PLAY…not knowing what was heading my way.
‘Tourist Trap’ opens in a typical 1970’s genre manner, with a group of attractive (by the time’s standards) college-age ‘kids’ as they make their way from somewhere to…somewhere else. Along the way, a tire goes dead on one of their cars and, of course, one of the two manly men opts to roll the defunct car part to the nearest example of civilization for a repair (he hopes), while the others wait behind. Instead of finding a garage or gas station, he instead stumbles across a dilapidated resort, nestled in the trees away from the road. Searching for someone on the premises, he only finds a slew of eerie mannequins scattered throughout the dusty rooms. The thing is, these mannequins are not as benign as one would assume and, in short order, Victim #1 is set upon by a malicious force. Time goes by and Victim #1’s companions (3 sexy chicks and Meat-head Manly Man #2) decide to follow his path and hopefully meet up. This is obviously not Meant To Be, as the strange European-looking jeep they’re ripping around in decides to mechanically (and mysteriously) shit the bed. Luckily though, it chose to do so right next to “Paradise!”, as one of the girls perkily proclaims, on discovering it. ‘Paradise’ is a muddy and not-too-inviting watering hole, being fed by a small, algae-coated waterfall (I’m guessing Budget Limitations, cuz…c’mon!). But the three chicks decide ‘we don’t need to keep searching for our missing companion’ and strip down for a mid-day swim. As they frolic in the murky, un-Paradise-like water, a tall, ‘good ole boy’, brandishing a double barrel shotgun, emerges from the brush and introduces himself as ‘Slausen’ (Chuck Conners). He seems odd, but mostly kind and eager to help them out of their predicament. ‘Slausen’ then takes the group back to his home, which happens to be the same rundown resort that Victim #1 fell…er…victim to. The girls are warned to stay inside, while ‘Slausen’ and Manly Man #2 head back to the jeep. Of course, they don’t listen and one of them heads down to a large, darkened mansion sited elsewhere on the property. From this point on, shit goes from bad to much, MUCH worse and the night degenerates into a terrifying fight for survival, in the face of some genuinely unsettling material.
I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again. Going into flicks like this ‘blind’ is a great way to get the FULL movie experience…as I’m not going in with a preconceived notion of ‘what’s coming’. I just have to let the story unfold in the manner that the filmmakers originally intended.Ordinarily I like to choose, based on advance info on a flick, whether or not I want to dedicate / waste any of my precious time to / on it. That being said, even if the movie is shit…the experience of watching it turn to shit can still be entertaining and noteworthy. Such is the case here. I was ready to write this one off just based on the weird, almost circus-like music that ran under the typically long old-school Opening Credit sequence (Dull Credits on Black). Then I saw the name Charles Band in the Executive Producer field, a name that I always associate with fun but cheap sci-fi and horror fare like ‘Trancers’ (1984) and ‘Dollman vs Demonic Toys’ (1993)…so I thought I knew what I was in for. Not quite. The kooky music did warn me…I have to say in retrospect.
There’s a lot of ‘cheese’ in this flick. Despite coming in at the far tail-end of the 70’s, it feels VERY 70’s. Having put THAT out there, I have to say that when the horror elements start to show themselves…there’s some genuinely unsettling shit going on here! The Main Antagonist ‘Plaster Face’ / ‘Davey’ is a genuinely creepy and monstrous psycho. EVERYTHING about him is nasty, from the bizarre Leatherface-style mask he lives behind or the weird and not-cool manner of speech. OR his tendency to explain everything that goes into the process of killing you a certain way and how it’ll work…as he’s killing you in THAT way! THAT scene was brutal. As were many others. Just the idea of this evil force expressing it’s malicious intent, through the suspiciously life-like mannequins that dotted the property, is chilling…but many of the visuals and sound design elements really came together to give me actual goosebumps. This movie has ‘teeth’ when it wants to!
The acting was about what you’d expect from THIS type of horror flick. Nothing really special, just there to ‘dialogue’ from one creepy scene to another. That being said, My Inner Pervert noticed that the camera sure did seem to love actress Tanya Roberts (‘A View to a Kill’). Many a shot seemed to linger or focus on her…or specific womanly parts. It could’ve been the fact that the brilliantly blue-eyed beauties legs are long and majestic, like those of a horse, the way they protrude enticingly from the tight cut-offs, her toned mid-riff sexily showing itself from…wait a sec! The damn flick is making me sexually objectify her now too! Damn you, ‘Tourist Trap’! That being said…she was hot, and the camera knew it. I’ll also say that her fate was unexpected…and well-done. The real stand-out in the cast was definitely ‘Chuck Conners’. He looked familiar, with his thick square jaw and ‘tall man’ mannerisms…but I couldn’t place him. He definitely brought some range and some ‘creep’ to the “Slausen’ character. What transpires with him will come as no real shock these days, but I thought that it was handled really damn well (this was where the ‘acting range’ came in).
Back in the day, ‘Tourist Trap’ originally received a ‘PG’ rating…in those days when there was nothing standing between ‘PG’ and ‘Restricted’ (till 1984, when ‘PG-13’ got Spielberg’d into existence). Even if ‘PG-13’ HAD existed when this was released, this flick should’ve just bunny-hopped that rating and moved straight on to ‘Restricted’. While not overly gory, ‘Tourist Trap’ has some scary moments; a good number of seriously unsettling scenes. I was reminded of the Original 1974 ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’, in how there was an undeniable undercurrent of nasty, brutal and inhuman energy in the movie’s tone…only this one wasn’t AS unpleasant as the tales of ‘Leatherface’ and ‘The Sawyer Family’ (SAW-yer, get it?!). But it was still enough to make me literally squirm a couple times.
All THAT being said, if you’re a fan of the Horror Genre and haven’t stumbled across this one in your cinematic travels…search it out. Especially with Halloween on Fast Approach. This would be a GREAT horror movie for All Hallow’s Eve! It’s got that ‘raw’ 70’s flavor to it…but there’s some scary shit going on too! You don’t come to this for the Oscar-calibre acting, or the score that bounds back and forth between bizarre circus-sounding tunes and off-the-shelf porno music. You come to it to get freaked out! Despite the ‘cheese’, this movie ‘got’ me. I was honestly creep’d out at times and, at least twice, shocked by something that happened onscreen.
‘Tourist Trap’ is what it is…and it’s pretty good at it. Not perfect…but certainly effective.

“We’re going to have a party!”
-‘Davey’

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