Well hello there, all you ghosts and gabaghouls. It appears we’ve almost reached the conclusion of this year’s Shocktober, and this will in fact be the final slice of ’70s horror that I personally will be talking about. However, I kind of wish I’d planned to go out on something at least a little more interesting, because 1979’s Tourist Trap might be the most ordinary horror movie I’ve ever seen. Which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad, it’s just that apart from it’s relatively unique premise (a guy kills people with his personal museum of mannequins), this is basically the movie you’d conjure up if someone told you to think of the most stereotypical teen slasher flick you could imagine. Granted, this movie did come out before a lot of subsequent movies about teens getting attacked at cabins in the woods surfaced (including Cabin In The Woods), but I’m not sure any of those movies were influenced by this film, and thus makes Tourist Trap feel even staler than it probably deserves.
Tourist Trap starts out with a bunch of teens traveling cross-country in their jeep, while one of their friends who’s traveling in another vehicle is trapped at an abandoned gas station, and is killed by a bunch of laughing mannequins in a sequence that I can’t tell whether it’s purposely trying to be funny or not. Anyways, the teens’ car breaks down by a nearby waterfall, and the girls decide to swim naked in it in a scene that is surprisingly nip-free. They then encounter a seemingly friendly backwoods-type named Slausen (Chuck Connors) who offers to let them stay at his cabin, which leads to the teenagers being tied up and attacked with mannequins by a mysterious masked mannequin fetishist, who lo and behold, turns out to be Slausen. Now, you could technically say that this is a spoiler since the movie treats it like a shocking twist, but I think you would literally have to not understand how movies work in order to not see this coming from three miles away.
If there’s one thing I do like about Tourist Trap, it’s the game-for-anything performance from veteran TV actor Chuck Connors. Really, the only prior experience I have of his work is catching the remarkably no-nonsense opening to The Rifleman after watching random Cheers or Mary Tyler Moore reruns on MeTV. But his performance as Slausen never has that late career depravity that often happens when older actors decide to do a horror movie when their careers have hit the skids. Instead, Connors seems totally committed to this loopy hybrid of Leatherface and Norman Bates, even if the teenage characters seem significantly less charismatic than most of the mannequins that are on display.
But really, at the end of the day, I have a hard time faulting this movie for anything in particular. It basically accomplishes everything it’s trying to do, which is to be nothing more than a reasonably entertaining B-movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously. And perhaps that’s what makes this a fitting Shocktober movie for me to go out on — because it is the definition of mildly pleasing. Anyways, it’s been fun (if a little stressful) helping John out with Shocktober this year after watching him miraculously marathon through it each year alone. But I will hand the reigns over to him as we cross over in to All Hallow’s Eve, and I will say… good night.