Monday, 21 April 2014

Tourist Trap (1979) 88 Films Release

I wrote about what is to my mind director David Schmoeller's best film on here a couple of years ago. However, seeing as 88 Films is just about to release TOURIST TRAP on Blu-ray I thought it would be worth revisiting this cult gem and taking a look at what the new release has to offer.
Eileen and Woody are driving through the kind of deserted American countryside where it would probably be an awful idea to get a flat tyre, when naturally that’s what happens. Eileen waits with the car while their friends Becky, Jerry and Molly catch up in another vehicle. Woody goes in search of a gas station, only to find himself set upon by a roomful of mannequins that have come to life, as well as an assault of random flying objects, one of which eventually skewers him. The others find a tourist trap waxworks run by dungaree-wearing Mr Slausen (Chuck Connors). As the friends are bumped off by either a masked killer or more animatronic dummies it becomes obvious that far from being not all there, there may be more than one person living in Mr Slausen’s head.
TOURIST TRAP has few of the elements that would soon become de rigeur for a slasher picture. It does have a bunch of teenage victims and an older tormentor in the shape of crazy Chuck Connors and his collection of scary masks and animatronic mannequins. It’s never a good idea to trust a man who keeps the body of his dead wife upright in a glass case surrounded by flashing lights and a melancholy musical accompaniment, and in that much our teen heroes deserves their fate. 
But what exactly is their fate? The final scene makes little sense, with final girl Molly (Jocelyn Jones) driving down the highway, presumably having escaped, but in the company of mannikin versions of her friends. It’s strange little touches like this, as well as the whole opening murder of Woody, that makes TOURIST TRAP worth a look. Also of note is the music score by Pino Donaggio, who was kept very busy by low budget US filmmakers in this period. Apparently working on the score to Joe Dante’s PIRANHA at the time of TOURIST TRAP’S shooting, Donaggio was approached by Schmoeller who convinced him to provide a typically lush score with a somewhat peculiar clockwork-sounding main title theme that is evocative of the animatronic devices we are about to see. It’s an eccentric score for an eccentric film and while David Schmoeller worked in the horror genre several more times he never made anything quite as weird or special as this.
        88 Films' Blu-ray presentation has tidied up the image a lot compared to the previous Danish Region 2 release we also have here at the House of Mortal Cinema. Gone are all the white scratches and blemishes, while the grain in the image is retained. Extras include a commentary track by director Schmoeller, and a making of featurette that lasts for just over 20 minutes. Schmoeller is the only participant in this as well, and goes over much of the ground covered by the commentary, but it's still worth a watch. 
         TOURIST TRAP is a splendid little movie that deserves to be better known, and 88 Films' Blu-ray is the definitive version, so get it while you can.

88 Films are releasing David Schmoeller's TOURIST TRAP on Blu-ray on 21st April 2014. 

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