Nov 3, 2009

Tourist Trap

Whenever kill doll/puppet classics begin their annual name-dropping by rabid horror fans, three always come to surface and I do mean always: Child's Play, Puppet Master, and Tourist Trap. The first of the two films have everything in common, an timely merchandising period and many successful sequels. The lone wolf Tourist Trap has none of these things so what exactly makes it appeal to the general fan of tiny and plastic terrors? I honestly couldn't tell you. After much delay and finally viewing Tourist Trap, I could say that I was briefly excited after watching the trailer. A friend who I've chatted with many a-times sort of introduced me to the wonders of Chuck Connors and I dare say he didn't disappoint me in his role. Tourist Trap as a film, however, did.

The trailer promised two things and it failed to deliver one and toyed around with the other; terror and killer marionettes. Saying that Tourist Trap was a horrifying experience at the age of 7 - 13 is like saying that sharks bite hard. There isn't a doubt in my mind that something with the subject matter of Tourist Trap could frighten and potentially warp the malleable minds of our youth but as a piece intended and judged by adults, Tourist Trap consists of could-be atmosphere and tension yet fails to cement any promise of both. In the beginning, one of the stranded gang wanders into a gas station and is promptly assaulted by a psychic malevolent force after being taunted by cackling half-completed mannequins. This is indeed a strong opening for a film whose reputation borders on "loved as a child!!1" to "so bad it's goodd."

Much of Tourist Trap's notoriety for cult fame has been linked to it being a descendant of the long-dead Full Moon Pictures - long dead meaning quality-wise. From producer Charles Band comes a film with nothing special just like most of his later works. Full Moon Pictures has become almost a laughing stock of "indie" filmmakers. Had any of the hope for the new Puppet Master film or Demonic Toys sequel vanished, so would most of the fan base that aren't derelict Troma worshipers. That, and the hilarity of the surprising effort Gingerdead Man 2: Passion of the Crust, save the reputation of Full Moon just enough for my faith to still lie within them to create SOMETHING amusing. Low budget horror bashing aside, Tourist Trap's only creepy aesthetic is the harmonizing female grunts and moans that escape from the past-tortured mannequins. Such a feminine ground and pounding could have been used to much more effect than in this amateur-hour straight-to-cable horror film with a reputation larger than the work put into the film's earnest keepings.

This late 70s smörgåsbord of terrible backwoods deliverance from evil film doesn't make the cut. However, Tourist Trap does highlight a killer within a mask that, had given the proper treatment, could have went on to be a legendary icon of horror. With that ghastly ventriloquist mask that was made out of what could only be human flesh, "Davey" was everything that I hated about dummies, mannequins, and anything of the like. If you are looking for something to blame, my bet would be on Goosebumps' staple series "Night of the Living Dummy." Slappy may not have ever harmed anyone but he never needed to. Simply smashing a guitar to cause blame was terrifying enough for me when I was a child. Tourist Trap simply cannot capture any solid form of matter to be considered a "good" horror film. It has the pieces, just none of them fit. It's best to consider this an incomplete portrait of decent to moderately acceptable footage with a brief hint of true terror. It's a shame that this never really took off after its exhilarating introduction. I don't know about you but with this film being as so-so as it shouldn't be, a remake only could go more places than the original.


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