I’m sure we all have films that we either saw, or perhaps didn’t see, as kids that have left some kind of lasting impression on us. I have A LOT of films that fall into these categories. “Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things” and “King Kong”  are two of the films I DID see at a way too young age, “It’s Alive!”  and “Cry Uncle!”  are two films I only saw bits of as a kid and have from time to time attempted to find them and finish them out (I have “found” both of them, with “It’s Alive!” being watchable only through the part I’d already seen, and “Cry Uncel!” not being one I’ve attempted to watch yet [the accidental necrophilia scene may have something to do with it…]). And then there are films I only heard about way back then but have stuck with me for some wierd reason. “Tourist Trap”  is one these, and tonight I finally watched it…
I remember seeing a commercial on good old WOFL Channel 35 in Orlando sometime in the early 80’s for this movie, which they would be showing “Later this afternoon”, to be followed by Alfred Hitchock’s “Family Plot”. Don’t ask me why I remember this, I just do. In any case I always assumed this one would be one of those very bad, poorly made, not worth my time 70’s slasher clones trying to make an easy buck out of Halloween’s and/or Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s coat-tails. And in a way it is (at least for TCSM, it even shares an artistic director!). But to say that really isn’t fair to TT at all. In fact, as one review I read today pointed out it was being made roughly at the same time as Halloween, so really no chance to copy, or even be influenced by it. If anything its more of a clone of Doctor Who’s “Spearhead from Space”  and “House of Wax” .
So is it a great horror film? Well, no. But its also not “one of those very bad, poorly made, not worth my time 70’s slasher clones…” you get the idea. The acting is mostly meh, although some of the players do put a bit extra in (and not in an over the top kind of way, well not mostly). Chuck Connors is, well, he’s just plain freaky to be honest. From the first scene he’s in you know he’s a bit off, and by the end, well, no spoilers. And if you have a fear of mannequins and/or masks, this is not the film for you (unless you really want to have nightmares). And something I will give this film: it never actually stoops to the level of cheap exploitation. There’s a scene near the beginning when you just know your about to get the obligatory T&A, and while the three ladies do go for a skinny dip you don’t get anything for your quarter. In fact the entire film was “tame” enough by 1979 standards to be given a PG rating. By today’s standards it could almost play on the Disney Channel (which probably says more about Disney’s declining standards than it does about the films lack of sex). And its is mostly low in the gore category as well. There is of course a decent bit of violence, but the real kick for the film is the sense of dread that starts with the off-kilter theme music and begins to grow right away when the first guy wonders into that back room…And it doesn’t hurt that the film actually has a lot of laughter in it; not in a wet your pants funny way, but in a “hey, everything’s OK. Nothing bad’s going to happen. OH MY GOD….” kind of way.
All in all, I’m glad I didn’t see this way back when (I have enough issues as it is now). But I’m also glad I’ve finally found and seen it. Is it a classic? No. But it is one I’d recommend, and also one I’ll probably see again.
***** Potential Spoiler Ahead *****
Oh, and that final freeze frame at the end IS a classic.