Tourist Trap is a 1979 American paranormal horror film directed by David Schmoeller (Netherworld; Puppetmaster; Catacombs; Crawlspace; The Seduction), revolving around a group of friends who wind up stranded at Mr Slausen’s “museum,” where the mannequins are very lifelike.
His first professional feature, Schmoeller co-wrote the script – an extension of his film school project The Spider Will Kill You – with producer J. Larry Carroll.
Irwin Yablans (Halloween) released the film via his Compass International company. In the UK, it was released as Nightmare of Terror.
Robert A. Burns, who had worked on Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, handled the art direction – and the majority of the special effects – including the mannequins.
Italian composer Pino Donaggio (Dressed to Kill; The Howling; Carrie; et al) was working on Joe Dante’s Piranha (1978) at the time that David Schmoeller began filming Tourist Trap. Since Donaggio spoke Spanish – as did Schmoeller – the director was able to convince the composer to score the movie for a fee of $50,000 (a sixth of the entire budget). Co-producer Irwin Yablans apparently felt that Donaggio’s quirky score ruined the movie, although it has gained many fans over the years.
In July 2017, Waxwork Records reissued the soundtrack score on 180-gram blood red with black marble vinyl.
Eileen (Robin Sherwood) and her boyfriend Woody (Keith McDermott) are driving through the desert. When their car gets a flat Woody goes to find a gas station.
Their friends Becky (Tanya Roberts), Jerry (Jon Van Ness) and Molly (Jocelyn Jones) are travelling separately in a different vehicle. Meanwhile, Woody has found a gas station but it appears deserted. He enters the back room but becomes trapped. Various mannequins appear, and multiple objects fly at him until a metal pipe impales and kills him.
The others find, Slausen’s Lost Oasis, a tourist trap, and conclude Woody is there. As they drive in, their vehicle mysteriously breaks down. Jerry tries to fix his jeep and the girls go skinny dipping.
As they swim, Slausen (Chuck Connors) appears holding a shotgun. Though outwardly polite he also seems embittered. The nude girls feel awkward in the water. Slausen offers to help Jerry with the jeep but insists the group go to his house with him to get his tools. There, they see the tourist trap: animated waxwork-type figures…
All-Region Region Codes, HD Transfer in 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio, DTS-HD MA Remixed 5.1 Soundtrack, LPCM Stereo 2.0 Soundtrack
Audio Commentary by Director David Schmoeller
Interview with David Schmoeller
Reversible Sleeve incorporating original art
“Overall, the tone, look and feel is like Psycho meets The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, except for the weird, unexplained addition of a killer with telekinetic powers, which puts it into a category all alone – the supernatural-slasher. Imagine Leatherface if he had Carrie’s abilities. I must add that Pino Donaggio’s score for this film is sublime.” CHUD.com
“Although it was filmed and released amid the slasher craze after Halloween, Tourist Trap is something even rarer: a film that borrows from other movies, yet manages to seem unique and original on its own. But all gruesome murders aside, the dummy stuff is what will either sell or sink Tourist Trap for you. If you’re creeped out by them, then it’s possible that you may love this doomy little movie.” Groovy Doom
“88 Films Blu-ray release of Tourist Trap improves considerably on their already impressive DVD release from nearly a couple of years ago. This 1979 film looks great in 1080p anamorphic widescreen with, grain maintained, strong colours and black levels, which means that it’s a pleasure to behold. Pino Donaggio’s lush score is enhanced by the choice of DTS-HD 5.1 Surround Sound or LPCM Stereo audio, and the creepy background noises that make this film so effective are brought to the fore.
The ‘Making Of’ documentary Exit Through the Chop Shop is essentially an interview with modest engaging director David Schmoeller in which he recounts the genesis of the movie, first casting choices of Jack Palance and Gig Young before Chuck Connors accepted the role of Slausen.
Schmoeller admits he had nervous dealings with the young cast, praises the exceptional input of art director Robert A. Burns (who committed suicide in 2004), explains how easily and cheaply some of the special effects were achieved, and his woe at running out of funds during post-production. Although some of these anecdotes are repeated on his amiable audio commentary, overall the Making Of is an interesting and worthwhile reason enough alone to buy this Blu-ray if you are a fan of the film.
Adrian J Smith, MOVIES and MANIA
“The mannequins prove to be the most chilling feature, their blank expressions and unsettling laughter creating an eerie atmosphere … The one plot point that never quite works is the telekinesis, which takes away from the realistic elements of the story and instead lifts it into the supernatural, immediately diluting the constant sense of dread much of the film employs. Whilst the end result is somewhat disjointed, Tourist Trap is still an effective and unique horror…” Retro Slashers
Read about the making of Tourist Trap and an interview with David Schmoeller in: