Reviewed by JONATHAN LEWIS:         

TOURIST TRAP. Compass International Pictures, 1979. Chuck Connors, Jocelyn Jones, Jon Van Ness, Robin Sherwood, Tanya Roberts, Dawn Jeffory, Keith McDermott. Director: David Schmoeller.

   There are slasher films and there are supernatural horror movies. And there are those films that are a bit of both subgenres, movies in which the deranged maniac killer has borderline supernatural abilities. Think John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978), in which Michael Myers is both figuratively and literally the Boogeyman.

   Then there’s Tourist Trap, a creepily quixotic slasher film with supernatural elements that are so very over the top as to preclude the movie from making a whole lot of narrative sense. Add in in a beautifully weird main theme by Italian composer Pino Donaggio (heard above) and a crazed leading man performance by Chuck Connors – the Rifleman himself – and you’ve got yourself one totally off kilter, but inescapably fun late seventies horror film.

   Tourist Trap begins as so many other low-budget horror films do; namely, with a group of young attractive girls and a couple of their male friends stranded in the middle of nowhere with car trouble. Then, wouldn’t you know it? A Good Samaritan (Connors) comes along and offers to help the kids with their troubles. The guy’s a little weird and lives alone in a house filled with stuff that belongs in a circus tent, but hey, there’s no one else around, so why not accept the old geezer’s offer.

   So from what I’ve told you, you probably have a fairly soon sense of where the movie is going from here?

   Thing is: you’d be wrong. All because I didn’t mention the mannequins that come to life and kill one of the youngsters during the first five minutes of the film. You see, one of the two guys in our coterie of stranded travelers makes the initial foray into a house up the road while seeking help. Within minutes, mannequins – the type you’d see in a store – come to life and murder him. It’s from then on that you know you’re not watching just another slasher film.

   But still, it’s difficult, without spoilers, to tell you how very weird the movie is going to get. Borrowing elements from Gothic horror, the best atmospheric Hammer films, all American road trip films, and mad scientist films, Tourist Trap ends up being a wild nonsensical ride that is simultaneously darkly comical and genuinely horrifying. The closest horror movie I could use as a point of comparison is The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), which I reviewed here, which is similarly not easy to describe, but hard to forget.