Tourist Trap (1979)
Every year young people disappear.
Year of Release: 1979
Running Time: 90 minutes (1:30)
Director: David Schmoeller
Chuck Connors ... Mr. Slausen
Jocelyn Jones ... Molly
Jon Van Ness ... Jerry
Robin Sherwood ... Eileen
Tanya Roberts ... Becky
Keith McDermott ... Woody
Dawn Jeffory ... Tina
Shailar Coby ... Davey
Albert Band ... Waxwork Grandfather (uncredited)
Linnea Quigley ... Mannequin (uncredited)
While traveling through the desert, Woody and Eileen's car has a flat. In search of a solution, Woody is wooed by a woman's voice into an abandoned gas station. He discovers that the voice belongs to a mannequin. As he tries to leave, the door slams shut, furniture begins to move and objects come flying at him until he's finally pierced by a lead pipe and impaled on the door. Through the final plot, incredible psychic forces are unleashed as the entire collection of dolls are brought to life as a nightmarish death machine to kill the final victim in the "Tourist Trap."
Tourist Trap, remindin' us that our minimum wage, 40 hour a week jobs with no paid vacation are *for our own good*. Give a guy enough money to afford food AND shelter an the next thing you know he's off takin' vacation somewhere gettin' attacked by demon possessed plastic halter-top models. Mama Walmart an Papa John're really doin' their best to look out for us, but that damn Bernie Sanders character just refuses to quit stirrin' the pot.
An speakin' of culinary circulation, I was in Mack's Stacks of Manly Snacks the other mornin' grabbin' breakfast an somehow ended up leavin' a conservative folk hero. Someday I'ma learn how to keep my fool trap shut, or at least train it to speak softly enough that nobody can hear me. I admit it; I defended the Reality TV Star in Chief. I ain't proud of it, but sometimes you've gotta put personal grievances aside in the name of truth. All I wanted was to eat my gott-danged S.O.S. plate (that's "stuff on a shingle" for you people out there who've gone through life without ever steppin' in a cow patty) in peace before headin' over to the knife show at the armory with Cleave Furguson an Sadie Bonebreak, but nooo... that woulda been too simple. I knew we shouldn'ta gone into Mack's that early in the mornin', too. Normally you wanna wait a few hours til all the old codgers've had a few hours to get the politickin' outta their systems, but like I said - we had places to be, an Sadie had 'er eye on that new self-defense "Creepola Castrator" Limited Edition fillet knife with blood gulley an optional blow torch attachment for cauterization. Apparently it comes with a "lifetime of regrets" guarantee or somethin', I didn't really read the brochure that closely. Anyway, Richard Fawner was in there too, railin' against ole Cheeto Mussolini an how his administration ain't done diddly squat to help the "little guy." It's Richard, you understand, so nobody really takes 'im all that seriously, least not until he starts runnin' through the White House scandals of the week like Russia, the FBI Director gettin' sacked, an that little disclosure of classified info to a hostile nation thing, yadda yadda. Still, fact is, mosta these cowboys he was gripin' to ain't even got a TV, or if they do its been parked on Fox News so long that the word "Obamacare" has been permanently burned into their screens, so they either just ignore 'im or yell "fake news!" after everything he says. I didn't even say anything, just let the tiniest of snickers escape between belches, an somehow Richard zeroed in on it an squealed: "You think that's funny?! Go ahead, name ONE thing, chuckles!" Sadie made a move to stab my hand with 'er fork before I could say anything, but she was in the midst of depositin' a chucka meatloaf into 'er mouth, which cost 'er precious seconds an left a set of holes a quarter inch deep in Mack's table when she got there too late.
"Dickard," I said, "don't think that just cause you identify as female out at the truck stop that I won't come outta this booth an kick your candyass from here to Honolulu." That backed 'im up a coupla feet, but once he'd gotten a second table between us he kept pushin' an came back with "Well then, prove me wrong!", an by now he was whinin' like a little kid who'd just been slapped down with the ever-bulletproof "because I said so" response from his mother. "Lead shot," I replied, an went back to moppin' up the rest of my gravy. Richard just looked at me like a millennial tryin' to work a rotary phone, but the approval from the patrons was swift an resounding; "goddamn right!", "this guy gets it!", an "you tell that sissy-boy!" started croppin' up all over the diner, but it was obvious Richard still didn't have a clue what I was talkin' about, let alone why it was a victory to these people, so I elaborated: "The Secretary of the Interior repealed the ban on lead in ammunition." Nothin'. I might as well've been explainin' the concept of modesty to a topless dancer. "The man's made grouse great again, you simpleton!" Percodan Stare of Eternity, like a bad Family Guy sketch. "The lead *seasons* the meat dufus. That lead flavorin' is a pivotal spice in the preparation of any game animal, an when they outlawed it the meat turned into flavorless crapola. My POSSUM wouldn't eat it for cripes sake!" That's about the point where Richard threw up his hands an walked out, which wasn't ideal since he hadn't paid yet an B.J. Wilder hadda go chase 'im down an threaten to throw 'im in the rose bush if he didn't calm down an cough up the jack. So yeah, apparently givin' people *one* achievement to hang their hats on'll make 'em feel vindicated enough to dole out temporary folk hero status. I'll prolly make it a full three, maybe before days before I inevitably refer to the president as "King Oompa Loompa" an somebody hears me, but until then I fully expect everyone to give me the respect befittin' a Bill O'Reilly or a Glenn Beck.
I'll hafta tell you guys about the sword swallower who got lockjaw in the middle of his act at the knife show some other time, but that was kinda funny too. On to more pressin' business though, cause this week we got Tourist Trap; the first decent flick Charles Band ever made (if you wanna count Executive Producing as a contribution) not countin' fairy tale porno movies, an prolly the best movie in the history of the world where Tanya Roberts appeared but refused to get nekkid. Which is just as well, cause if she had gotten nekkid they'da lost their PG an all the guys who took their wives to see it at the drive-in woulda ended up couch surfin' for a coupla weeks after the fact. Seriously now, I want everybody to straighten up, stop lookin' at old topless Tanya stills from Beastmaster, an focus on what I'm about to pass on in the way of cinematic learnins, cause when a director's able to keep Charlie off the set you might be surprised at how enlightenin' a Band Production can be. First, anyone who tells ya vegetables "won't kill you" has obviously never had 'em pitched outta the cabinet at the speed of light in the direction of their heads. Second, the line "we don't need bathin' suits" has never once ended without humiliation. An third, a fishnet shawl, while stylish, is not an effective means of combating the cold.
But ya know, the thing that *really* surprised me about this flick is that nobody's ever watched Chuck Connors' malignant moppets an become acutely aware of society's need for a blow-up doll that's programmed to laugh an spit criticisms about its owner. Ya know, a specialty item for all those guys out there whose mothers caught 'em tryin' on their underwear one day an completely unloaded on 'em about how no son of theirs was gonna grow up to be a born-again sissy, an ever since the guy hadn't been able to function sexually without dressin' up like Everett McGill in The People Under the Stairs an bein' whipped with a ridin' crop by a bitch-faced woman named Enid. We could call 'em "All Too RealDolls," it'll be great. The laughin' on its own'd prolly be enough to get the job done, but you could add some suitably abusive one-liners to the programmin' too, like: "I've seen bigger ones than that crawlin' on the sidewalk after a rainstorm!", or "Would you hurry up already? G.I. Joe's comin' over later, and I don't want him to see you here and lose respect for me." These could be a huge seller in comic book stores an those Anime conventions where the girls dress up like Sailor Moon turned hooker an all the guys get cattle to lick their heads til they've got anti-gravity haircuts. So if anyone wants to get in on the ground floor just let me know, I can prolly get Bambi Pankins to record the audio real cheap, an if we can get up an runnin' in time to score a booth at Blizzcon we'll prolly all be millionaires by the time closin' ceremony rolls around.
The movie begins with a guy wearin' a Bob Denver hat (Woody) rollin' his Cooper down the road tryin' to find a service station to see if his 10,000 mile warranty covers acts of porcupines crossin' the highway, but the only place he can find is this gas station where he hears these noises like somebody's shootin' a Marilyn Chambers movie in the next room, an when he goes in there this mannequin sits up an starts laughin' at 'im like Pee Wee Herman bein' possessed by the devil. Next thing you know he's pinned down an takin' heavy Velveeta shellin' from a P.O.'d pantry fulla tin can artillery, an before he can radio back Van Camp for some air support he ends up gettin' speared through the kidneys with a piece of 12 gauge steel pipe. Meanwhile, his friends're drivin' down the road lookin' for 'im an notice his wheel layin' in the ditch an assume Jesus hadda take it after Woody got 'imself into trouble. So they pull off the main road an into this tourist trap where their rig is instantly disabled by some kinda supernatural capitalistic Laguna Triangle aura, an while Jerry tries figurin' out which piece is the engine the girls (Molly, Eileen, an Tanya Roberts) wander off to strip an dip in this implausibly scenic waterfall. But once they've waded in about nip deep, Chuck Connors shows up to gripe about how hard it is for a man's man to find work ever since the public lost interest in the Western, an complain about how the gummint just hadda go build that new highway an put 'im outta business, while everyone's nipples get hard from starin' at his profoundly masculine jawline. Then Chuck gives everyone a ride back to his Salvation Army equivalent of the Hollywood Wax Museum an leaves the girls inside with the animatronic cast of F Troop while he an Jerry go take a look at the rig. Chuck tells 'em it's gotten pretty dangerous outside ever since he hadda start buryin' land mines to keep the jerks from American Pickers outta his business dealins an that they'd do well to stay inside, but Eileen covers 'erself up with a hammock an heads over to the neighbor's house anyway. She can hear people talkin' from outside, but when she goes in the place is so lousy with mannequins she starts gettin' self conscious thinkin' she just walked in on Keanu Reeves an Kristen Stewart teachin' an actin' class, an when she skulks off to the bedroom an starts yankin' fashion accessories offa the class's plastic racks the sash test dummies get real P.O.'d, an next thing you know one of 'em walks in wearin' Woody's hat an force chokes 'er to death with 'er own scarf. Back at the museum, Molly an Tanya've noticed this one mannequin that's been framed inside an illuminated archway like it's posin' for some kinda Baptist tradin' card, but when Molly touches it she can't help but notice how lifelike it feels, an the two of 'em start peekin' outta the corners of their eyes an lookin' around to make sure they aren't about to get hung up on meat hooks.
Then Chuck comes back an tells 'em Jerry took his pickup into town to see about hirin' a Trucksorcist to come help drive the devil out of the kids' Jeep, an while they're waitin' Chuck tells 'em all about his wife an how they were gonna take on the world an turn the museum into a timeshare resort an pay down-on-their-luck actors to hock memberships on cable, cept before they could find the time she up an died on 'im an now he can barely dress 'imself without guidance from Sesame Street. Eventually he realizes Eileen's missin' an finds 'er all dolled up in the house across the way, but while he's out doin' that the girls find an old photo album an can't help but notice how much his dead wife looks like the bachelorette behind curtain #1, an when Chuck finally makes it back he just kinda shrugs an tells 'em it was the only logical choice bein's how that Resusci Annie tramp's had more sets of lips on 'er than Marlon Brando's pinky ring. Course, Chuck don't inform 'em about havin' found Eileen lookin' like she's been hidin' out underneath the opera practicin' the organ, an when he tells 'em he's goin' to keep lookin' for 'er they head over to the Barbie Dreamhouse to look for themselves an end up hearin' the voices of Barbie's eunuch man servants as they scurry about their butler duties. Molly ain't about to go in there an flees to the safety of Chuck's chin dimple, but Tanya heads inside an ends up gettin' dog piled on by a hoard of Sears Activewear zombies until this Leatherfaced Nathan Detroit character chains 'er up in the basement an explains that they're justa buncha crazy guys an dolls. Apparently, this guy is Chuck's younger brother Davy, an as a result of havin' come outta the shallow end of the gene pool, he lacks a chin capable of attractin' a mate an hasta hang out around the highway waitin' to sabotage burnt out movie starlets passin' through on their way to Vegas. So then Davy goes an puts on his Elvis wig an brings a bottle of booze down to the basement to share with Tanya, Jerry, an some gal he hitch-heisted off the freeway (Tina), only everybody seems to agree that the vintage was a lousy year an that gets Davy so hacked off that he decides to rub plaster of pasadena all over Tina's face like a common Bigfoot track an walk 'er through the suffocation process like some kinda ghoulish Jack Kevorkian audio book. Then Jerry gives up on tryin' to chew through his wrists an gnaws through his ropes instead an attacks Davy, only to be slung against the wall like a tampon in a 42nd Street bathroom an forced to listen to this big whiny speech about how Chuck makes Davy wear the masks cause he's so damned handsome that if he didn't he'd get trampled to death by the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders.
If Jerry wasn't afraid the guy might make Tanya eligible to join the cast of The After Hours he'd really give Davy a piece of his mind, but he manages to refrain from makin' any unflattering Andrew McCarthy comparisons until Davy gets bored of 'im an heads outside to throw the muppified head of Woody at Molly an make it scream like Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone. Fortunately Chuck shows up in his truck to save 'er, but when she starts talkin' about the man behind the mask like Alice Cooper, Chuck's reluctant to call the cops an get Davy sent away to The Big Doll House, so he decides to drive home an lure 'im in by blastin' Coast to Coast AM on the radio while Molly keeps an eye out with the scatter-gun. Sure enough, Davy can't resist the talk of aliens bodies bein' stored in the meat freezer of some guy's uncle's father's neighbor, an when he tries creepin' up on Molly she empties both barrels into the Dolly Lama's gut bucket. Only the guy just pops back up like a wangdoodle after a shot of Viagra an when he pulls his mask off like a Scooby-Doo villain it turns out that rascal Chuck's been behind the shenanigans all along, an he loaded 'er gun up with blanks just to mess with 'er. Needless to say, Chuck's pretty pleased with 'imself, so he dunks 'er in the creek like a six pack of Old Milwaukee an holds 'er under til she loses consciousness an eventually wakes up strapped to a bed like a male prisoner in an Amazonian P.O.W. camp. Meanwhile, Jerry an Tanya've filed their way through their restrainin' orders an gotten outta the basement, cept while they're tryin' to sneak outta Dollywood one of Chuck's wooden wardens' notices 'em outta the corner of his eye an they hafta hide with a buncha mannequins like E.T. in the closet scene. Don't work though, cause after awhile it catches sight of Jerry who then heroically jumps through the window like Marilyn Burns an ditches Tanya faster'n Tanya ditched 'er clothes for Hugh Heffner. Fortunately, Howdy Trudy is distracted by Jerry, allowin' Tanya to get out an take off in the opposite direction. Unfortunately, Tanya don't know about Chuck's multiple personality disorder an workaholic taxidermist syndrome, so when he comes to rescue 'er she just lets 'im carry 'er back to the museum where he puts on a telekinetic puppet show with his wax Indian War replicas an directs Chief Wild Eagle to fire a tomahawk missile through the back of 'er head. Too bad for Chuck though, cause when he returns to Molly's bedside she still can't seem to move Beyond the Valley of the Dolls an accept 'im for the artistic maniac he is, an it's right about here that we start seein' the cracks in Chuck's psyche open up as he grapples with the sting of rejection an his inability to find a bicycle helmet that he can fasten. Gonna cut it off here, but if you've never seen this one you'll prolly wanna find a copy so's you don't miss the big finale where Chuck starts unpackin' all his psychological baggage.
Alrighty, Tourist Trap, easily one of the best of Charles Band's pre-Empire era flicks, and one of his best in general... not that he personally deserves much of the credit with only an "Executive Producer" credit. Basically what we've got here is Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Carrie, House of Wax, and Psycho blended together, with a whole lot of directorial restraint. It's one of those movies where, when you realize it slipped by with a PG rating, you start to wonder how it could possibly have managed that, until you try to come up with reasons for why it shouldn't have. That's actually quite the compliment, because it makes clear that you *believe* you've seen a whole lot more than you actually have, which is also a component of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Still probably should have had a PG-13 just based upon the subject matter and the likelihood of permanent scarrage a flick about killer mannequins can inflict on somebody who's say, 8, but on paper there's really very little justification for it even if it was the right thing to do. This flick is all about atmosphere, and although there are a few scenes that border on disturbing, it's purely psychological, and the overall tone of the movie is one that stresses mood above gore or even violence. And despite being heavily subsidized conceptually by the aforementioned flicks, you've definitely got to give credit where it's due for the source material selection, and the successful blending of those four seemingly unrelated flicks. Psycho and Chainsaw both being based loosely upon Ed Gein aside. It was clearly influenced most by Chainsaw, which was a flick Charles Band would later release on VHS under his Wizard Video label, and you can see that influence in at least a dozen scenes, but I've got a pretty high tolerance for plagiarism if it ultimately leads to a satisfying result. It's definitely a little hard to follow, and even after a coupla exposition scenes I'm still not entirely sure I understand every bit of it, but it's one of those movies where it doesn't have to make complete sense to fully enjoy it. That aspect is also helpful in preventing it from being picked apart by critics, because when something isn't set in stone and you start assuming things, it's easy to end up looking like a jackass. It's also the kinda flick where I'm never really sure if a review format such as mine helps people decide whether to watch it or not, because a play-by-play of the events really doesn't do it justice, and for many people, this level of spoilage could well ruin it for them. I've purposely omitted every bit of detail I could get away with for this reason, because it really is pretty good in terms of all the twists and turns the plot takes, and while my entire purpose in writing these is to inform the reader about its goings-on, sometimes there's a fine line between encouraging people to watch, and ensuring they won't. So hopefully that second thing didn't happen, cause you'd really be missing out if you were to pass on this title.
Alrighty, let's peel back the layers of plaster and find out if there's something special lurking below the surface, or whether it's all just phony bologna window dressin' like a pair of surgically altered hooters at a strip club. The plot, while derivative of the previously mentioned flicks, comes together pretty well. I believe it was Band who initially requested the telekinesis angle be added (to cash in on the success of Carrie no doubt), and to be perfectly honest, I find it unnecessary to the point that it complicates things. The story is creepy enough without throwing in arbitrary supernatural powers, but with that said, it isn't a deal breaker. Never have been a fan of the "kitchen sink" approach, because for every element that works, you've usually got two that don't. The acting is nothing spellbinding, but still better than you'd expect for a film that probably didn't top a $150,000 budget. Chuck Connors evidently got involved with the intention of rebranding himself as a "Boris Karloff" style horror villain after spending much of his earlier years acting in Westerns like The Rifleman, and he's actually pretty good as the seemingly kind, but ultimately insane, Mr. Slausen. Additionally, Jocelyn Jones demonstrates proficient acting ability in the role of the decidedly sheltered Molly, and manages to pull off the best performance in the flick aside from Connors. You've also got a pre-Charlie's Angels Tanya Roberts who's just fine until called upon to convey terror, and a host of adequate supporting players who never rise above decent, but also never sink below satisfactory.
Here's who matters and why (less Linnea Quigley whom any self-respecting horror fan should be intimately acquainted with): Chuck Connors (Soylent Green, High Desert Kill, Maniac Killer, Werewolf the series, The Horror at 37,000 Feet, Captain Nemo and the Underwater City), Jon Van Ness (The Hitcher, Alligator II, X-Ray, End of the World), Robin Sherwood (The Love Butcher), Tanya Roberts (The Beastmaster, Sheena), Albert Band (Head of the Family, Puppet Master III - V, Trancers II, From Beyond, Troll, End of the World), Dal McKennon The Birds, House of the Damned, Have Rocket Will Travel, The Tingler). We've also got some mainstream success seepin' in, so I'll go ahead and get through those credits as quickly as possible so we can get back to more important matters: Chuck Connors (The Sarge in Airplane II, Jason McCord on Branded, Lucas McCain on The Rifleman, and Burn Sanderson in Old Yeller), Tanya Roberts (Midge Pinciotti on That '70s Show, Julie Rogers on Charlie's Angels, and Stacey Sutton in the Bond flick A View to Kill), Dal McKennon (Cincinnatus on the TV series Daniel Boone, the voice of Max in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the voices of both Courageous Cat and Miracle Mouse on the TV show of the same name, and he also did the voice of Q.T. Hush on that series).
The "special effects" would best be described as puppeteering, and it's a little difficult to judge because it's hard to say just how serious the movie is taking itself. There is definitely a touch of black comedy afoot, and although it's generally rather subtle, there's no missing it at the conclusion. A critic's rating might well reflect how serious *they* took the movie as well, so, I guess from my perspective, I'd say the puppeteer work is fine. The masks covering the faces of the sentient mannequins are not particularly impressive, and the simulated plaster used in the suffocation murder of Tina was actually dough, and very much looks it. Beyond that, you've got the flying jar scene that was accomplished by attaching the cabinet to the ceiling and simply dropping the jars (which comes across pretty well), and just two little spots of blood, which are fair. Additionally, the makeup job they did on Albert Band and David Schmoeller's wife to turn them into mannequins was pretty good, and I also wanted to compliment that one iconic mask from the movie with the cheek wrinkles, because that thing's damn creepy. The shooting locations are pretty good, and consist primarily of interior shots of the "museum" and the home of the maniac. The museum is actually pretty decent, as far as being suitably filled with props that're applicable to the theme, and although the Davy house doesn't add all that much to the movie (save the basement, which encapsulates very well that "don't give a shit how it looks" atmosphere inherent in any honest to goodness basement), the exterior shots are well photographed by cinematographer Nicholas Josef von Sternberg. The soundtrack might well be the high point of the movie, because it's what really kicks the tension into high gear. Literally one sixth of the budget for the movie went to the great Italian composer Pino Donaggio (Carrie, Don't Look Now, Body Double, Dressed to Kill, Piranha, The Howling, Beyond the Door, Catacombs, etc) for his contribution, and what he came up with was worth every penny. I can't name a lot of movies from the '70s where the soundtrack holds up well 38 years after it was produced (and the ones I can name come from huge budget movies that are among the greatest ever made, like Close Encounters, Jaws, Star Wars, The Exorcist, and so on), but Donaggio's soundtrack is not only a huge contribution to the film's atmosphere, but it's also damn catchy, and lacks the cheesiness that's often inherent in compositions from the 1970s. Richard Band even ripped one track off almost verbatim and used it for the Puppet Master soundtrack, and Puppet Master, pound for pound has one of the best soundtracks in horror history, if that tells ya anything. Overall, Tourist Trap is a flick that nearly all horror fans are familiar with, but that I also feel is good enough to be shown to more receptive members of the mainstream movie going public, and for that reason I'd recommend it to anybody willing to read from a website with grey text standing out against a black background. Definitely check it out.