Tourist Trap (1979)

According to It Came from the 80s!: Interviews with 124 Cult FilmmakersTourist Trap was originally going to be directed by John Carpenter. However, co-writer J. Larry Carroll was unhappy with how much he wanted, so he nominated his writing partner David Schmoeller (Puppetmaster and the movie that led to Please Kill Mr. KinskiCrawlspace) to direct. Along the way, they brought in Charles Band to produce and he demanded that there be telekinesis in the movie. Why? Who knows!

Eileen (Robin Sherwood, Death Wish II), Woody, Becky (Tanya Roberts, The Beastmaster), Jerry and Molly are traveling crosscountry when Woody’s car breaks down. He enters a deserted gas station but is soon killed by a metal pipe thrown by a mannequin that comes to life. This scene is frightening in its shuddery intensity and it’s not the half of the wildness that this film is ready to attack you with.

As the rest of the gang arrive, they decide to go skinny dipping — as you do. That’s when they meet Mr. Salusen (Chuck Connors, TV’s The Rifleman and one of only 12 athletes in the history of American professional sports to have played both Major League Baseball and in the National Basketball Association), who matter of factly chats them up while they’re all nude.

Soon, the tourist trap lives up to its name, with mannequins coming to life, a man with a mask chasing everyone and someone yelling, “We’re having a party! Your world is dark.” Yes, Tourist Trap is a veritably insane film, one that departs nearly instantly from anything approaching reality. There’s talk of twin brothers, the modern world destroying old fashioned businesses and oh yeah — people being turned into wax figures.

The strangest part is that Slausen is able to make the dead alive and the alive dead, sometimes within the same scene. And somehow, this film was given a PG rating. Seriously — this is one of the darkest, most depraved PG films I’ve seen since, well, The Baby. There’s never been a movie like this one, before or since, and that’s a shame. But it’s also a big reason for you to watch this.

You can catch this on Shudder with and without Joe Bob Briggs commentary.

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