I have a thing about mannequins. To put it bluntly, I don’t like them, they creep me out. They’re on my short list of dislikes, along with dolls and clowns. I thought that Tourist Trap would probably haunt my nightmares, but in the end it was more frustrating than anything else. Chuck Connors stars as Mr. Slausen, the curator of a roadside souvenir shop that hasn’t gotten much business since they put the highway in. Well, it must be his lucky day because a group of “teenagers” have some car trouble and they just happen to break down right outside his property.
Mr. Slausen, being the kindly older gentleman that he is, tells the 3 girls that they can stay in his museum while he takes the guy up to see if they can get his car started. Once he leaves, one of the girls can’t listen to him and decides to go snooping around in his house out back. While she’s out there, the other two girls discover that Mr. Slausen has a mannequin that strangely resembles his wife. The girl that goes into the house finds that this house is full of creepy mannequins that seem a little too real. Soon, the girl in the house is confronted by a killer wearing a crazy looking mask and with the power of telekinesis, which lets him move things with the power of his mind alone. Needless to say it’s not looking too good for her. Who’s this killer, and why do so many of these mannequins looks like people from Mr. Slausen’s old photo albums?
There was a lot of potential in this movie. First, a creepy old spot off the beaten path that doesn’t get a lot of visitors is a great way to set up some good scares and chase scenes, and there aren’t a lot of those. Secondly, you have the mannequins, which are pretty creepy in their own right. Watching their eyes follow the characters through the house, and all the different angles they were filmed at do a good job at setting up the scares, but something is missing.
The killer and the masks just come across as some homeless man’s Leatherface. Actually, Tourist Trap and Texas Chainsaw Massacre share quite a few themes, like the killer wearing a mask (Leatherface wears skin, Tourist Trap’s wears a mannequin face), and the chases through some kind of brush or forest from the killer’s house. I think the main ingredient that Tourist Trap is missing is the brutality, but that’s to be expected with the film’s original PG rating. I think this thing would be really tame by today’s standards. I found myself frustrated with how tame it was, and the movie drug on and on because they seemingly kept running around the same square mile trying to escape, and being captured and being brought back to the house. They also only showcase the killer’s telekinesis powers sparingly. I would have liked to see that element explored a little more in depth, but besides the major opening sequence, it’s used as little more than a parlor trick. You also don’t really get any idea of how the people are turned into mannequins except for one brief sequence that doesn’t explain anything. It’s a b-movie, it’s not supposed to make sense, but maybe showing more of the process would have helped build up some intrigue.
Tourist Trap had a lot of potential to be a great horror/slasher film, but unfortunately because it kept a PG rating it comes across as hokey. When you get to the surprise twist, it’s anticlimactic because you can see it coming a mile away. It’s almost as if this was a thrown away script for a Scooby Doo episode, except the gang don’t have much of a happy ending. By the time the final scene comes, you get the feeling it should have come about 30 minutes earlier.
This movie ended up just frustrating me. From the stupid voice the killer uses to the clueless girls who have no idea what’s going on and get picked off one by one. It’ll definitely remind you that if you go snooping around at some creepy old “Mystery Spot” in the backwoods, you should always use the buddy system. And if some old guy invites you to his house, you’re better off testing your luck hitchhiking and getting killed the old fashioned way – pure random acts of violence towards drifters. One saving grace is that Tanya Roberts looks insanely hot with dark hair, but it’s too bad this one was PG rated… Tourist Trap pulls too many punches including the scares and for that reason it gets 2 dummies out of 5.