Tourist Trap doesn’t waste any time getting to the good stuff. The film opens with a young man being abruptly killed by mannequins. At this point it is unclear how these mannequins do what they do, but it seems like someone is behind this bizarre accident. Are they alive? Possessed? We are then introduced to a group of good-looking friends stranded on the side of the road. They fall into a ‘tourist trap’ – Slausen’s Lost Oasis, an old roadside museum that has gone out of business. Mr. Slausen shows the group of friends around his place, full of antiques, trinkets, and knickknacks. He must be a lonely man living by himself amongst a swarm of life-like mannequins. As the audience, we know there is more than meets the eye with the looming and ever-present sense of danger.
I never saw this film as a child but it immediately brought me back to that time (even though this came out before I was born… 1985, if you must know). I had a million collectible dolls in my room growing up. Many of them were not meant for play so they remained untouched, lined across a shelf near the celling. I grew up with them surrounding me so they didn’t bother me, but I would have friends who would come over and be terrified to sleep in my room. That’s how it feels watching this movie- like you are being watched, eyes staring at you from every corner, letting your imagination run wild.
The plot is far-fetched but it is built upon an interesting and atmospheric foundation. The mannequins and sound effects are especially chilling as if these forms are breathing and coming to life. If you are looking for gore though, this is not your film. The acting, though unremarkable, is forgivable with the attractive cast. That smothering sense of being ‘buried alive’ is a prevalent feeling during one of the most crucial scene of the film, one in which I won’t give away but I can say it is very similar to House of Wax. For another creepy and atmospheric film, try watching Crawlspace (1986), a film that absolutely terrified me as a child and still gives me goose bumps as an adult. It is by the same director, David Schmoeller. Crawlspace still remains one of my favorite thrillers from my childhood. Tourist Trap would have certainly been on this list as well if I had seen it.
Even though this film has its flaws, it is far from being a waste of time. Full of creepy masks, fear, and desperation, this film delivers bombshells around every corner. I was pleasantly surprised by the ever-evolving plot. There is a nice little twist as to who the ‘crazy’ person is in the film. I assumed it would follow every other horror road trip movie pattern, but it remained fresh and stimulating, even over 30 years after its initial release. I certainly recommend this fun film for any old-school horror lovers.
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