TOURIST TRAP (1979)
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1979 horror finds five friends, Molly (Jocelyn Jones), Becky (Tanya Roberts), Woody (Keith McDermott), Eileen (Robin Sherwood) and Jerry (Jon Van Ness) breaking down in the middle of nowhere and making their way to a strange off-road museum. The now closed attraction is run by kindly Mr. Slausen (Chuck Connors) a widower who lives there with his brother Davey. What he fails to mention is that Davey is a doll-face mask wearing psycho who has telekinetic abilities and likes to turn people into mannequins. A minor detail, of course.
Charles Band production is directed by David Schmoeller from his script with J. Larry Carroll. It’s actually a creepy and disturbing little movie, despite the silly story. The scenes of telekinesis are handled about as well as could be and are effective as the already creepy mannequins seem to come to life. It’s no secret as to who “Davey” really is, the voice gives it away, but we go along with it anyway. Once we get the reveal it makes one wonder how he got around so much, but the goings on are creepy enough to entertain regardless. The film is PG, so there isn’t a lot of bloodletting, but it is violent and the death scenes have impact and it is yet another example of how much PG flicks got away with in the 70s. The minimal locations are effective, with the rooms filled with spooky dolls and mannequins, giving the film a lot of atmosphere, especially as captured by Nicholas von Sternberg’s lens. The film has a spooky score by the legendary Pino Donaggio, moves along well at just under 90 minutes and there are some nicely uncomfortable moments to chill us.
The cast of young attractive faces, including a pre-Charlie’s Angels Tanya Roberts, are fine in their roles as killer fodder. Jocelyn Jones makes a sweet girl-next-door, final girl as Molly and veteran actor Chuck Connors making for a disturbing psycho…which is no spoiler as we know from moment one, there really isn’t a “Davey.” A very unusual role for this veteran actor, but he totally goes for it and succeeds in creeping us out!
In conclusion, this is a very 70s, yet still very effective horror. Despite some silly story elements, such as the powers of telekinesis, the film is creepy, disturbing and atmospheric. It has a veteran actor giving us the willies in a very uncharacteristic role and a likable enough group of young characters/actors as his prey. It has some unsettling imagery and some effective deaths and is certainly worthy of it’s cult classic status.
Rated 3 (out of 4) mannequin heads.