Tourist Trap (1979)

tourist trap poster 1979 movie
5.0 Overall Score
Story: 4/10
Acting: 5/10
Visuals: 7/10

Weird movie

A hodgepodge of story elements that don't all work together, no real character to rally behind

Movie Info

Movie Name: Tourist Trap

Studio: Charles Band Productions

Genre(s): Horror

Release Date(s):  January 1979 (Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival)/March 16, 1979 (US)

MPAA Rating: PG

tourist trap dummy chuck connors

Smile for the camera!

A group of kids find their car broken down near a closed and isolated former museum of oddities run a lonely farmer named Mr. Slausen (Chuck Connors).  When the friends begin to disappear and Mr. Slausen begins to act stranger and stranger, the kids begin to suspect that all is not right with Mr. Slausen.  Arriving at Slausen’s little museum seemed like a lucky break, but getting out of the deadly tourist trap could be an impossible feat.

Directed by David Schmoeller (who also co-wrote the script with J. Larry Carroll), Tourist Trap is a killer slasher film.  The movie was originally planned for John Carpenter but the plans fell through and the script went through with heavy revisions before filming.  The movie received mixed to negative reviews but gained a cult following over the years.

The poster for Tourist Trap was memorable, but I never saw the movie.  Seeking out the film was harder than expected and until streaming, the releases were often kind of difficult to find or highly edited.  While I like the oddity of Tourist Trap, the movie gets dull quickly.

tourist trap die of fright

All I said was that Ripley’s Museum was more fun…

The story is all over the place which is both jarring and part of the reason the movie is fun.  The movie originally called for a killer in an abandoned roadside museum essentially, but the telekinesis like Carrie was randomly added in to the plot.  It feels unnecessary and a weak way to explain all the impossible puppeteering.  Largely, the characters say “I’m going to go out and look for _____.  You wait here”, and then they die.  I do kind of like the ending with Molly character (played by Jocelyn Jones) driven to complete insanity.

The cast does hinder the movie.  All of the teen (or really twenty-somethings?) are nondescript.  There isn’t a Jamie Lee Curtis or Heather Langenkamp to really cheer for as a final girl (and the guys are even worse).  Chuck Connors was an odd guy in general in a lot of stuff and he was a good match for the movie in that he hams it up.  The movie seems to go for the pity villain near the end of the film, but it needed that type of push earlier on to really feel sorry for his psychotic killing spree.

tourist trap chuck connors

I love Muppets

Visually the movie feels rather cheap.  It is dark and atmospheric, but that seems more like a means to just hide the so-so special effects.  What does succeed is the creepy humanoid dolls of the movie and the fact that they move on their own (as a means to incorporate the telekinesis).  I liked their use and wish that somehow they were put to even better use in the film.

Tourist Trap is really just a weird movie with an even weirder concept.  It just feels like a bunch of horror elements were collected, mixed up, and spat out to make the movie.  The fact that it is original does help elevate it over “bad”, but it still feels worlds behind something like Halloween.  I don’t know that a series of Tourist Trap movies would have worked (you could argue that something like Saw is a series of Tourist Trap films), but it might have been interesting.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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