31 Days of Horror(1)

I have no idea what this movie is in the Full Moon section on Full Moon Streaming’s website but I like David Schmoeller and I wanted an excuse to watch this. This movie predates Full Moon by over a decade, but Charles Band apparently owns its soul.


Tourist Trap is terrifying. Terr-if-fying! I had heard stories that this movie gets scary early and often and that is not an exaggeration. The first kill is the best first kill since The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it’s disturbing and remains so for several minutes. The movie uses a lot of mannequins, all with lower jaws that unhinge like a ventriloquist dummy and they’re all controlled by some seemingly supernatural power. It’s reminiscent of the scenes where the evil in the woods messes with Ash in the Evil Dead films.  The uncanny valley is well at work in this movie and it’s extremely effective.

The set-up is pretty stock.  A bunch of twenty-somethings break down and go to a nearby roadside attraction to get help, there they encounter a man who runs a wax figure museum full of mechanical dummies.  His brother, a mechanical wizard and master of making wax dummies, has been kidnapping people off the highway and killing them.  He wears masks molded from the faces of his victims and has telekinetic powers.

It is a testament to Tourist Trap’s ability that once we see the killer for an extended period of time, and hear him talk, that he doesn’t lose any of his creepiness.  The same goes with the dummies, it doesn’t matter how many times mannequins unhinge their jaws and sing harmoniously or laugh manically, it is always scary.

This all builds up to a climax that is one of the great slasher movie stingers of all time, followed by one of the best unhinged final frames ever.  It is a genuine crime that the world is busying itself talking about Freddy and Jason when something this original, weird, and horrifying is laying undisturbed on a video store shelf.  This is David Schmoeller’s masterpiece, see it now!

Watch, Toss, Or Buy? BUY! (Though I’m told that the Full Moon blu-ray cuts 5 minutes out of the film and is apparently a terrible transfer.  So buy it in your hearts, I guess.)

If You Liked This, Watch: Motel Hell (1980), Evil Dead 2 (1987), Dead & Buried (1981), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Psycho (1960), House of Wax (2005)