Synopsis: A group of young friends stranded at a secluded roadside museum are stalked by the owner of the place who has the power to control his collection of mannequins.
Whenever an actor is given the opportunity to step out of his comfort zone and give a performance that is more than a little left of center it draws eyes from all directions. In the case of Chuck Connors he is best remembered as the clean cut law abiding rancher Lucas McCain on the hit western TV series The Rifleman. This would be my first introduction to Connors despite Rifleman’s initial run ending some 20 years before I came into the world I have AMC and a early morning work schedule to thank for getting me hooked on the show. The natural charisma Connors embraced came from a distinctive style of acting solely attained from Hollywood’s golden age. While The Rifleman launched the former professional baseball and basketball player to unimaginable heights like all talented actors known for a particular role he began to get typecast. 1979 was a year where the film industry began transitioning the horror genre into a blockbuster producing juggernaut. Long gone were the days of classic movie monsters the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolfman. B-Movie creature features about giant beasts awoken by the atomic bomb had become laughably dated. By the time the late 60s and mid 70s hit people were now scared of the real life horrors that the Manson family and Zodiac Killer inflicted upon society. John Carpenter’s Halloween released the year prior tapped into that primal fear opening a new floodgate. It was thanks to that film’s growing success that the revered Donald Pleasence overcame a career slump. Like Pleasence Chuck Connors’ star had faded a younger generation didn’t even know who he was so when he got the call to be apart of a horror movie did he contemplate turning his back on his older fan base? Or did he make the decision to prove that even a goody-goody like Lucas McCain could have a dark side?
Upon my first viewing of Tourist Trap last night it would be easy to accuse the film makers of ripping off numerous plot elements from Psycho, Carrie, and House of Wax but in reality I think incorporating a variety of those ideas rather than making a cheap carbon copy of a singular masterpiece is what makes Tourist Trap a unique little horror/thriller in its own right. Besides what’s the one thing any writer, producer, or director can do to make sure viewers get a proper freak out? Something that hasn’t been done before and in the case of Tourist Trap its incorporating hundreds of lifeless looking mannequins. For most out there mannequins are about as scary as circus clowns which means that its one of those acquired fears however I’ve always been of the belief that anything can be scary if you sit and think about it. Mannequins are no different whenever a person walks into a department store they are used as aids in the display of clothing but no matter how long you go about looking at clothes or other merchandise once you glance over at them they’re always going to be staring blankly back at you. Chuck Connors is simply excellent in this as he delivers a performance that not many others could with his full range of emotions and precarious behavior carrying the whole movie. All in all Tourist Trap is far from being called a mixed bag and isn’t for those with an acquired taste either. It’s something that was stuck in between a movement that would push the slasher genre into the stratosphere but didn’t adhere to any of the guidelines designed once 1980 arrived apart from having a group of young people stranded somewhere they shouldn’t be. Believe me when I say at this particular point in horror history there’s nothing wrong with being one of a kind.
Final Grade: A