When a group of friends experience a breakdown alongside the road, they wind up at a tourist attraction called Slausen’s Lost Oasis, which is also home to a sinister Wax Museum. The oasis used to be part of a thriving roadside attraction but when The Interstate went in, it rerouted potential customers right past the roadside attraction. Mr. Slausen (Chuck Connors), the proprietor of Slausen’s Lost Oasis, soon surfaces and offers to assist the marooned travelers. His willingness to help seems like a fine idea at first, but the friends soon learn that Mr. Slausen has an unusual set of proclivities that include wearing masks, cross dressing, talking in creepy voices, laughing inappropriately, telekinesis, and killing.
Tourist Trap is a lost classic of 1970s horror cinema. It came out close enough to Halloween that it ended up being overshadowed by more prominent titles. That is in no way meant to suggest that it isn’t a classic in its own right. It is a creepy and truly bizarre good time that I revisit often.
David Schmoeller (PuppetMaster) co-wrote and directed Tourist Trap. It marks his feature film directorial debut and is based on his award winning short film The Spider Will Kill You. Schmoeller really proves his mastery of atmosphere in Tourist Trap. It is one of the most unsettling, intense, and surreal films of its kind. Of course, some of the credit for that goes to the famed Pino Donaggio, who scored the picture.
Pino Donaggio (who is also responsible for composing the score to Carrie) did a fantastic job of putting together the score for Tourist Trap. The cacophony that is the film’s soundtrack serves to rattle the viewer and immediately intensify what’s happening onscreen. The musical cues are perfectly placed. They are representative of some of Donaggio’s best work. It’s always surprising to me that this film’s score doesn’t get more recognition for its brilliance.
The acting is the film’s primary weak point. The performances are a bit cheesy but that’s half the fun (for me, at least). Chuck Connors, who was a very experienced television actor prior to starring in Tourist Trap, gives one of the better performances in the film, but even still, he does his fair share of scenery chewing.
Tourist Trap features a surprising lack of blood and is also void of nudity. The deaths aren’t necessarily toned down, they just don’t happen to be excessively violent or ripe with stage blood. Schmoeller chose to focus on atmosphere over bloodshed and in doing so, has actually made the film more terrifying.
The lack of nudity, while surprising for a slasher-esque film, does no disservice to the plot. It’s rumored that the script called for nudity but when it came time to shoot the nude scenes, the actresses expressed a level of discomfort with getting undressed for the camera. Schmoeller was surprised to learn that the MPAA let the film pass with a PG-rating. He was expecting it to get slapped with an R classification. He has since said that he thinks the PG label may have been part of the reason that the film didn’t really find its audience when it was in theaters.
Tourist Trap received a Blu-ray release from Full Moon a while back. It isn’t as loaded with features as I would have liked for it to be. But it’s still nice to see the flick getting a rerelease on a high definition platform. If you haven’t seen Tourist Trap, it is a must see title for horror fans. It is a suspenseful, surreal, and a terrifying good time.
Director(s): David Schmoeller
Writer(s): David Schmoeller, J. Larry Carroll
Stars: Tanya Roberts, Chuck Connors, Jocelyn Jones
Studio/ Production Co: Compas International Pictures
Length: 90 Minutes