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John’s Horror Corner: Tourist Trap (1979), where Psycho meets The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

September 9, 2016

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SPOILERS

MY CALL:  If Norman Bates and Leatherface had a telekinetic lovechild with a fondness for mannequins, this lunacy is what you’d have.  It’s not scary or gory, but it trumps the deck in the weird and creepy department.  MORE MOVIES LIKE Tourist Trap:  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986), Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933), House of Wax (2005) and Psycho (1960, 1998).

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Also released as Horror Puppet, this cult classic leaps right into the deep end of its own lunacy.  We’ve barely met our group of victims when one of them, approaching a sleepy and perhaps abandoned gas station (a la The Hills Have Eyes and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), wanders into a sort of elaborately rigged funhouse loaded with evil mannequins.  The scares are cheap and numerous, but they should crack a grin.

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I have no idea why this poster depicts a naked women (there is no nudity) or why her nipples emit beams of light (that obviously doesn’t happen).
This is a terribly misleading poster.
And while we’re at it, what is with this raunchy poster pose?
It’s oddly similar to Evils of the Night (1985)

The humor may not be entirely deliberate, but I finda sort of sick slapstick nature to it as the mannequins cackle and random objects jettison through the air at our victim.

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This may make some horror lightweights a bit uncomfortable.  Writer/director David Schmoeller’s (Puppet Master, Netherworld) first feature length undertaking sets the stage much like its successors The Evil Dead (1981) and The Funhouse (1981).

Now one short, four twenty-somethings remain including Jerry (Jon Van Ness; X-Ray, The Hitcher), the anxious Molly (Jocelyn Jones; The Enforcer), the bold Eileen (Robin Sherwood; Death Wish II, The Love Butcher), and the foxy Becky (Tanya Roberts; The Beastmaster, Sheena).

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The classic tropes are on display, that’s for sure.  When our four victims go looking for their missing friend, they go down a road passing a sign with a vulture perched upon it that reads “closed to the public.”  Maybe read between the lines, folks.

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This won’t end well.

The friendly backwoods landowner Slausen (Chuck Connors; Soylent Green, Summer Camp Nightmare) catches the girls in his swimming hole and kindly introduces himself, explains the regional history and warns that they leave before dark.  He ran the now out-of-business “local museum” and offers them a ride to pick up some tools to fix their broken down car.

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Things get really troped up and really suspicious really fast…and the short shorts get really short.  The phones don’t work, he warns them not to wander around, he gives cryptic answers to simple questions like “who lives in that house” and Slausen wastes no time separating the group.

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Random objects break, shatter or shutter about adding little of substance to the haunted house atmosphere.  It feels cheap and desperate.  What does work are the creepy mannequins’ shifting eyes, moving on their own, and blatant nods to a slack-jawed, eerily masked Leatherface-like villain with some Norman Bates issues.

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The death scenes are pretty hokey. Scarf strangling by ghost (or telekinesis or something), a projectile pipe stabbing, asphyxiation by plaster…they sadly do not comprise the highlights of this flick.  But it’s charm is instead found in the antagonist’s mania as our murdered victims are added to a creepy mannequin menagerie.

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This split-personalitied maniac and his romantic proclivities clearly inspired Motel Hell’s (1980) sympathetic Farmer Vincent character, who also echoed Leatherface and other aspects of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974).

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For whatever reason or coincidence, this outfit makes out villain look like Tony Clifton!

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Tony Clifton is for real gonna’ murder this chick!

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I’d recommend this to seasoned horror fans—who have already seen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and Psycho (1960)—who like digging deep to observe the roots of subsequent horror themes.

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Before.

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After.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. September 9, 2016 11:06 am

    I love this movie. It really scared me the first time I saw it – the mannequins!!! I’m a big Charles Band fan (I know a lot of people have a lot of stuff to say about him, but he is responsible for some awesome stuff), and the director (David Schmoeller) also gave us “Crawlspace” and “Puppet Master.” There’s a great vinyl soundtrack available now too.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      September 9, 2016 11:25 am

      I LOVE PuppetMaster so much! Also a general fan of earlier Full Moon works. A lot of people complain about the cut I saw (on AmazonPrime) and how it’s missing 5 min. But this is rated PG. I wonder if the uncut version is R…otherwise, what would all the fuss be about?

      • September 9, 2016 4:31 pm

        I don’t know of an unrated cut, the director actually talks about how shocked he was by the rating at the time. Have you seen Netherworld? He directed that too, and it is awesomely bad.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      September 9, 2016 6:28 pm

      Yup. I reviewed Netherworld as well. Perhaps the most serious attempt Full Moon ever made in horror.

      • September 9, 2016 6:38 pm

        Pit and the Pendulum was serious.

      • September 9, 2016 6:44 pm

        That’s a good review of Netherworld, by the way. As an aside, my husband and I watched and ranked every Full Moon movie during my maternity leave with my second kid. I really wish I would have blogged that experience.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      September 9, 2016 8:29 pm

      EVERY Full Moon movie? Every single one (that was out at the time)??? That could be its own website!

      • September 9, 2016 10:50 pm

        We watched one almost every night for 12 weeks. It was fun. Just the Full Moon titles, though, not Empire and Wizard stuff. I also love Meridian, that weird romantic fantasy. Haha!

    • John Leavengood permalink
      September 9, 2016 11:00 pm

      Yes. Me, too. Quirky little thing.

Trackbacks

  1. John’s Horror Corner INDEX: a list of all my horror reviews by movie release date | Movies, Films & Flix

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