Review: Tourist Trap (1979)

Tourist Trap (1979)

Review by Rebecca Kolodziej

Mannequins are bloody terrifying. whether they look vaguely human or unsettlingly real, they always occupy an uncomfortable space in the uncanny valley. Whenever I pass them in a shop window I can always feel the heavy weight of their smooth faces burning a hole in the back of my head. At the very least they are unnerving and at worst they are the stuff nightmares are made of. They also happen to be one of my biggest fears. So imagine my horror when the time came for me to sit down to watch this hidden gem from the 70’s.

Yep. It was going to be about Mannequins.

Greatly under appreciated for its contribution to the horror genre, Tourist Trap in my opinion is a worthy entry and gets less credit than it deserves.

Things kick off to an unfortunate start as Eileen (Robin Sherwood) and her boyfriend Woody (Keith Mcdermott) are travelling through a lonely stretch of desert when suddenly their car suffers a flat tyre, causing the couple’s car to chug to a halt.This being a horror film, Woody leaves to find a gas station leaving Eileen alone at the car awaiting his return.

Not long after the second car comes to the rescue, Jerry (Jon Van Ness) and his girlfriend Molly (Jocelyn Jones) see their friend stranded by the incapacitated vehicle, pick her up and drive off to find the gas station to where Woody was headed, unaware that their friend, to his dismay had stumbled upon something more than he had bargained for.

And now cue the creepy.

Woody, (Mcdermott) has found a gas station only to find it deserted. However, there is one particular room at the back of the station that peaks his attention and course being a twenty something man in the 70’s decides to explore a room full of creepy, mostly dressed mannequins.This as you know, could never end badly and I am just as surprised as you (not really), when as he enters the door behind snaps shut and Woody becomes trapped.

Freaky girlish laughter can be heard echoing around the room. The camera pans to each mannequins face, some with jaws flapping like hellish ventriloquists dummies, the laughter continuing before finally a tsunami of objects get hurled at him by unseen hands before a metal pipe impales Woody killing him.

Faced with the first death of the film I am hooked.

We are then taken back to the other friends who have stumbled upon a tourist trap only to find their car suffering the same fate as the previous couples vehicle. Jerry takes a look at his car whilst the girls go skinny dipping in a nearby oasis, because this is the seventies and women have no place touching a manly car engine. This is where we meet Slauson (Chuck Connors) who catches them swimming. He confronts them while holding a shotgun although seeming polite there is also a great bitterness to his nature.

As the film progresses we are introduced more the character of Slauson and soon learn that the Tourist Trap was once a waxwork and animatronic attraction.

Mr Slauson offers to help Jerry fix his jeep while the girls are set to wait at the Museum. As Mr Slauson and Jerry go to leave one of the girls notices a house in the distance and turns to ask Slauson who lives there. The man instantly becomes tense and encourages the girls that ‘they should remain in the house.’ but of course it wouldn’t be a horror film without a rebellious character.

The group of friends slowly diminish throughout the film and soon we see what happens to the friends after they have been faced with Mannequins. I’m not going to give it away, if you want to know then you need to watch it!

Although not visually stunning, Tourist Trap entraps the watcher with genuine psychological horror. For a film a year shy of being forty years old Tourist Trap stands up well against many horror classics in regards to atmosphere and pure unsettling ambience. It baffles me how it has not found its way into classic horror ‘must sees.’

For any horror lover this is definitely a gem that you would definitely want to check out. Decent performances delivered by the actors involved warm my horror loving heart as it is so rare to come by a low budget movie that is both believable and entertaining. Tourist Trap really did surprise me and I am so happy to add it to my collection.

Not only is the tension gripping from the start but the effects for a 70’s flick is bloody well awesome! Somehow David Shmoeller (director) managed to create a film that packs a punch and delivers the scares without it being too cheesy and cringy. (although there is nothing wrong with a bit of cheese and cringe right?)

So, in conclusion Tourist Trap doesn’t have the grand production values and it’s not a Roth-esque gore fest, but it definitely works as horror fodder. The plot is bearable, the acting good and the cast seems to work well together. A good combination to make a great film. There is only one question that I will ask you all.

Will you visit your nearest Tourist Trap after watching this?

Check out Rebecca’s website for more horror writing

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