Films/Theater Reviews — 17 September 2010
LocalBozo Film Vault of the Damned: Tourist Trap 1979

It must be said that to spoil the plot of a movie or long running TV show is a dick move.  The phrase, “Spoiler Alert”, has a very true meaning. If you have not seen the following film, and plan to see it at some point, do not read any further. Maybe you can check out some of our restaurant reviews, or maybe even view one of our Web Shots, as they are done quite well and take a long time to write, shoot and edit.  Those of you who don’t mind a spoiler, enjoy!

The late 1970′s and early 80′s brought us some of the most memorable pieces of modern horror cinema. In 1978, John Carpenter helped launch one of the most successful, sub-genres of horror, the slasher film with the classic, Halloween. But with the immense popularity of Halloween and other giants of the time like, Friday The 13th, there are other amazing works of horror that do not get enough credit.

In 1979 a rather creepy film was released. It tells the story of what may happen if you wander into one of those odd, roadside attractions. The film is titled, Tourist Trap.

The set up is typical, a group of attractive young woman are on the road and decide to take a break for some skinny dipping in the local creek.  Well, typical for a horror movie that is.  They are then greeted by a seemingly friendly old codger, Mr. Slausen, played by Chuck Connors. He is the owner of a Wax and/or Historical Mannequin Museum (who really knows or cares) that has hit hard times since a new highway has come in the area.

The setting for Tourist Trap is quite unsettling. First off, the frontier style museum with the extremely life like figures is enough to creep anyone out. But it doesn’t compare to the odd white house set back in the woods. This is the location where much of the horror in Tourist Trap takes place. Now if you’ve seen the film you know that the house does not look like a traditional “madman’s” house seen in other slasher flicks; this one looks all too normal which makes it that much more terrifying.

The killer is introduced in typical Slasher film fashion. One of the beautiful women wanders off to the creepy house and of course she stumbles upon the “weird room,” which is usually filled with the things that reveal why the killer is the killer.  Many people, even people who worked on the film have grown to call the killer, “Plaster Face.”

It’s funny because you know that you’re watching the scene when you’re about to see the killer for the first time, but this one still catches you by surprise. The creepiness of the mask he wears is enough to give any well worn horror fan the heebie jeebies; it is that menacing.

Many times in slasher movies, the killer comes off as cheesy and extremely predictable.  They chase the girl, she falls, and he kills her. We’ve seen it over and over.  This is not the case in Tourist Trap. A very well known scene has the girls pitted against the killer and one of these girls is not so lucky. In this scene we get what I call a “Slow burn” horror kill.  Plaster Face proceeds to suffocate this young debutante in an extremely slow manner by using materials for wax mask making. He can be seen repeating a mantra to her about how her air is going to run out soon. This is some really uncomfortable stuff.

The final reason Tourist Trap is an under appreciated masterpiece, is its abrupt shift in genres.  For most of the movie we are treated with a solid slasher storyline, when out of nowhere we find out that Mr. Slausen, aka “Plaster Face”, has telekinetic powers.  This revelation produces one of the weirdest scenes ever committed to celluloid.  You almost forget everything that happened in the film up to this point because the scene is so jarring. The entire screen is literally filled with action- weird, messed up action.

Tourist Trap is one of those horror movies where once it ends you turn to your friend and say something like, “What the hell did we just watch?” And trust me, this is a good thing.  Horror like this has somewhat fallen by the wayside in recent years.  But with the power of video, we can relive all of this creepy, campy weirdness that made the late 70′s and the early 80′s one of the greatest time periods for the horror genre.

-  Alan Smithee

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