Tourist Trap

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Bibbidi-bobbidi-BOO! It’s another fucking horror movie recap and live review. Again, I’m going in blind, so buckle up, chuckle nuts: It’s 1979’s Tourist Trap.

Ancient Roman-sounding music begins the film, and it right to the goddamn point by rolling credits immediately. Maybe it thinks it’s a Woody Allen movie, because the credits are black and white typeface adorned by old music. But it’s like a Bernard Hermann score got hit in the head and then Hitchcock told him to write something both whimsical and scary, and this is the result.

So the film begins proper with some fucking beach bum rolling a tire down the road chewing bubblegum and sipping out of a canteen filled with 1970’s water, and he’s bogarting that for all it’s worth. Some lady sits under a sheet tied to a car and some sticks and listens to the radio. It looks like it’s taking place in Topenga Canyon. ESTABLISHING SHOTS!

Then some groovy froods pull up with some shit jeep and they all jabber about, I don’t know, Blue Oyster Cult. The chicks are in low tops and shorts and the guys are all dunderheads, so I’m thinking I can swoop in for some action but then realize this is a movie made nearly 40 years ago and it’s also a two-dimensional projection of light and sound, so I guess it’s another lonely night for me.

Skip Skipperson finally gets that fucking tire to where it’s going, which is an abandoned diner, I guess. He’s like if Shaggy from Scooby Doo actually existed, which was the fate of many-a doobied out losers in the 70’s.

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“Like, this tire needs a patch, Scoob. Zoinks!”

He checks out the desolate diner and hears a spooky moan answer him inside. This cheesecake is insistent on finding somebody in an obviously long-abandoned structure and a sign declares that 6-pack of beer costs $3.30 at this joint, so I would too at those prices.

Snooping where he’s not supposed to (Hey, guy? You’re in a horror movie), he finds Isabella Rosselini from Blue Velvet snoozing away in the back and dorkily asks her for some help. But it’s just a fucked-up puppet that laughs at his foolishness. A window closes and opens itself by as well, just to show what a chump this guy is. Then a puppet bursts through the window, and he opens another door to find a mannequin laughing endlessly at his pain. He picks up a pipe and tries to smash his way out, but his smashing skills suck. His arm gets stuck in the door(?) and the mannequin laughs and laughs and the closet laughs and laughs and he can’t break free and the chair jumps around and it’s all kinds of bonkers.

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“My name’s Bernice. Can I take your order, hon?”

He doesn’t like this one bit but can’t do shit about his goofy fate. The cabinet starts throwing bottles at his face and I’m just wondering if this is a documentary about my ex-wife. (Take that, person I married!) Then a pipe fucking rooks him in the liver and he silently emotes the pain. Take that, society! The blood drips out the pipe and a Tom Waits spoken word piece plays as the camera pans around the room.

And then, FUCK YOU WE’RE CUTTING TO ANOTHER STORY, and it’s a group of dorks looking for a shit time. They pull off to the eponymous Tourist Trap, and I recognize these people by the low tops! It’s his stupid friends from earlier, looking for Woody (*snickers*). Woody. So they have some shit jeep and he can’t start the engine no more. He being Slab Beefcake, the main dude I guess in this shit.

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“Now Veronica, I thought we discussed this, and you’re to die first! If I hear any more about this, I’m turning this jeep around and nobody’s getting murdered today.”

They get out and one chick just walks the fuck away because, I don’t know, she’s supposed to be the bitch of the group, and finds “paradise,” (her words), and they all run like lambs to the slaughter. Hey, isn’t Woody missing?

Anyway, Bitch is wearing heart-shaped sunglasses and she’s going swimming in a waterfall and gets naked for it while she suggests the other women also do the same, because horror movie. Slab still can’t get the jeep going, but the ladies are enjoying a nice naked dip in the water because women do what other women tell them to do. One of them (White Dress?) is approached by Country McGee, who holds a shotgun and wears a wide-brim hat (I guess he’s the killer? Let’s watch and find out.) who likes finding three young women swimming naked in the lake like some kind of crazy person.

So this creep jingle-jangles along about the government and some other shit and makes the gals uncomfortable, as backwater hicks tend to do. I think he’s looking for 75 cents for swimming rights and to talk about how much he hates the highway.

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Translation: Vote Trump/Pence 2016.

The gals want to get the fuck away and I’m pretty sure one of them is a young Donna’s mom from That 70’s Show. He warns them that they should leave before it gets dark. Then he cackles reassuringly and disappears. Apparently this laughter is contagious because they laugh and laugh back to the jeep and talk about the old creep they came across. Old? He was like, 43, tops, and looked like Robert Redford’s cousin. I guess young people just didn’t trust anyone over 30 back then. Anyway.

They get back to the jeep, and Shotgun is there, waiting for the kids. He zooms them back to Slausen’s Lost Gates, a fucked-up little tourist trap (get it?) where the demented puppets and crap were first found earlier. His (Shotgun’s) wife died and he shows them around his museum of death. But he gives them all Dr. Peppers, so he must be all right.

He gives his fucked-up back story and talks about how old he is (again: like, early 40’s, at most), and he mentions his fucked-up brother that makes these dummies so life-like. Then there’s some crazy bullshit with a dummy that fires a gun at people (that scares “Yankee tourists,” he says, because you know, The South in the 1970’s). Tube Top snoops and asks who lives in the creep house in the back and he swipes right on that question. Shotgun and Jerry (the guy that owns the jeep) go out together to fix it, and there’s no phone, so you know, terror. He warns not go outside at night again, but I guess that’s not going to work. Holy smokes, the girls in this movie certainly put the “bra-less” in bra-less.

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It’s a bit nipply in here. Nippy! I meant nippy.

They flap chaps about what’s going on, and Tube Top decides to snoop around in the dark so I guess she’ll be the first to die, after all. She meanders around in twilight. She just enters a house without any invitation and finds a bizarre old couple that are weirdo mannequins and thinks she hears Woody (*huh huh*) saying some creepy shit. She goes into a dummy-filled room and finds a psychotic monster wearing a dummy’s face instead, introduced by a totally-not ripoff sting from Bernard Herrmann’s Psycho score.

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“I’m the villain of this film! Hiya!”

This is freaky enough, but the window slams shut on its own, a chair slides over and knocks her to her feet, and she’s strangled slowly by an ascot she took off. Dummy Face-man seemingly controls everything with his mind, and we cut back to Bitch and White Dress, who don’t like each other (one’s a brunette and the other’s a blonde, so it’s understandable). They hear a music box and go up to a mannequin whose face feels like actual flesh. They get creeped out by this and hang by the Dr. Pepper machine for safety and comfort.

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Dr. Pepper gets his pick of the ladies.

Bitch tries to check out what’s up, but Shotgun comes up to get more delicious Dr. Pepper out of the machine and says Jerry went back to town to fix his truck and is certainly not dead. So this dude macks it a bit and talks about how much he loved his wife, who’s dead, and his high praise includes what a good worker and cook she was, because 1970’s. This shit goes on for a bit but I don’t fucking care because unless people are dying in front of me I cannot feel things anymore. In these movies, I mean. Not in real life. Amyl nitrates fix that for me there.

He’s wondering where Tube Top is, because his brother’s probably the psychotic manic that kills everyone he meets, and he worries that his brother doesn’t get enough rest between killings and goes to find her. Jalopeying down the path, Shotgun looks around for her, going into the back house and asking for Davey, who’s his psycho brother. He goes into a room and finds that Tube Top has been made into a flesh mannequin.

Meanwhile, the Not-Quite-Ready-To-Be-Dead-Yet Players snoop around in Shotgun’s photo album and realize Shotgun’s dead wife looks like the flesh-covered mannequin they found. Then Shotgun strolls into the room and says he just wanted to keep her memory alive, mistakenly calling this a wax museum instead of a nightmare factory. He says he didn’t find Tube Top, instead of the reality that she’s now a goddamn mannequin, and says he’s going out again to find her and not set up more murders. The chicks stay put because man business, but they say fuck that noise and Bitch decides to split to find Tube Top instead.

At this point, I realize that I’ve gotten a few characters mixed up (to be fair, two of the three girls are both wearing tube tops are kind of bitchy), but I’m just going to keep with the names as assigned to what they’ve been so far because who fucking cares, honestly? White Dress and Bitch Top go a-snoopin’ together.

They come across the crazy mannequin house, where Bitch Top thinks a ma-ma-ma-MAN is inside, and White Dress is like, let’s not go anywhere near this fucking place, but Bitch Top RUNS towards it, climbs a trellis, and slinks into a second floor window. I’m hoping this is going to turn into a heist flick at this point, but no dice: Bitch Top is just too dumb to live. There are goddamn mannequins all over the place inside, of course, and she’s calling out Tube Top/Bitch’s name (it’s Eileen), and oh no, Dummy Face is behind you! Quick, take off your bitch top!

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Subtitle translation: “Porcupine of my plastic.”

She hears a whisper of her name (I think it’s Vicky?) and goes into another room, where she’s lunged at by Dummy Face, who misses and kind of sits on the floor for a little bummed by the miss.

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Or maybe he just received a cease-and-desist intellectual property infringement order from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

 She gets locked in this room and the mannequins seemingly come alive. She’s crushed(?) by a pile of clothing dummies while Dummy Face gets a good manhandling in for funs. But she cracks him one in the head with a dummy’s arm, which knocks him out. This is a real low-energy malevolent force we’re dealing with. Anyway, the dummies start swaying autonomously and throw themselves on her (I don’t know), and she’s crushed yet again. They also do a little dance(?) in celebration over her body:

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This is the worst production of The Women I’ve ever seen.

Meanwhile, a long left-pan (just so you semiotically know that something wrong is happening), we come across a workshop out of department store hell, where Jerry’s bound to the staircase and a new girl that we haven’t seen before now is tied down to a table and Vicky (Tube Top) is now added to the menagerie. At this point, I feel like I’ve seen parts of this film before, and this is a real twisted little scene. Dummy Face tells the girl that we haven’t seen before that’s tied to the table that she’s pretty, and she tells him not to touch her, and he sadly asks why she doesn’t like him.

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Gee, I don’t know. Probably has to do with the kidnapping and imprisonment stuff that you’re into…

With everyone except White Dress now stuck in this basement/dungeon. Jerry says he’s figured out that it’s Shotgun’s crazy brother that’s extended this forced hospitality on them. Table Girl says she stopped here for gas a few weeks ago and lets them know he’s crazy (in case you couldn’t figure that out) and that they’re all going to die. Jerry tries to chew through the rope and elsewhere White Dress is just hanging out by the Dr. Pepper machine, maybe hoping to score another free soda. I just realized that I have seen this film before, as a Rifftrax feature, but didn’t remember that until just now. Oh, Rifftrax: is there anything you can’t do? Besides find mainstream success?

So Dummy Face gets dressed like he’s putting on The Ritz and goes down to let them know that they’re going to have a party. But he doesn’t make it sound like a fun party with Dr. Pepper and chips and music, but more of a torture-pain-death kind of party.

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If you’re blue and you don’t know where to go to/Why don’t you go where Harlem flits/
Puttin’ on the Ritz

Dummy Face tries to get Vicki to drink some awful concoction and Jerry growls for him to leave her alone, so Dummy Face throws the rest of the drink in his face. This is the weirdest re-telling of Casablanca I’ve ever seen. He then lets Table Girl know that it’s time to die. You know, I’m beginning to think this fellow has bad intentions in mind for these people.

So he wraps a belt around her head and nails it to the table (that’s a hell of a sentence) and starts slopping some plaster on her face. Meanwhile, Jerry makes headway in his rope-chewing class. So Table Girl is getting turned into a mannequin as Dummy Face suffocates her with the plaster and provides fucked-up narration of what’s happening to her as the plaster hardens. Her heart, like, explodes in her chest and she dead, yo. You know, I’m beginning to see what Table Girl meant by this guy being a little left-of-center.

Jerry gets free and leaps onto Dummy Face, but he gets tossed into a wall and then picked up by the throat and strangled. But enough of that: let’s see what White Dress is up to! The phone rings back at Dr. Pepper Headquarters and she answers it, but there’s nobody there. She checks out the line and sees that it’s been cut(?) so she picks up a flashlight to do that thing that’s so far sent everybody to their death and investigate the outside  in the dark.

Back in The Fun Zone, Dummy Face goes on about how much he hates his brother (I’m pretty sure it’s just Shotgun in that mask, though) and we get a real peek into this twisted freak’s activities that include abducting people from the nearby gas station. Remind me to stay the hell away from that gas station! Apparently Dummy Face also has telekinetic powers, so that’s something, as well. Guess that’s what was moving all those mannequins around earlier. But it’s not really my business to know; I’m just watching this movie. So White Dress goes out to see what she can see and comes across Dummy Face with his new friend, Skip Skipperson’s Head, which screams real loud because someone said the secret word of the day (“friend”).

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“Aaaahh! I never got that tire fixed!”

She runs through the woods while Dummy Face slowly stalks towards her, growling, “Little girl! See my face! Little girl!” like creeps all over the world do. I suspect the soundtrack is just lifted from old horror movies because it’s an actual orchestral score, which I’m pretty sure this movie couldn’t afford. So it may actually be Bernard Hermann’s music, which surprisingly ups the quality of this movie.

A truck pulls up to her and it’s Shotgun. He drives down the road with her, to safety I’m sure, and he asks what this dude looks like. When she says it’s some guy wearing a mask; he skids to a stop and says that it’s his brother. Shotgun says he’s trying to protect his brother, and while White Dress says they should go to the police, Shotgun’s like, nah, let’s just get him ourselves.

Shotgun says they’re going back to the house to turn on the radio, which will attract his brother(?), and then they’ll go to the ice cream parlor. They get back to “Mannequins, Mannequins, Mannequins” and he hands her the eponymous shotgun to blow away whoever comes by, then goes inside.

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Just another night in The South.

So she stands there with a gun and Shotgun himself is just in the house, presumably getting a Dr. Pepper. He turns the radio on and she asks him to please hurry the fuck up. Instead, Dummy Face moseys towards her and she shoots him in the fucking tum-tum. Then BLAMMO! again. But they were blanks and Dummy Face is thrilled by this. So she hits him in the fucking face with the butt of the gun. His mask comes off and, of course, it turns out to be Old Man Werther trying to scare investors off his haunted amusement park. No, wait, it’s Shotgun. She suns into the water and Shotugn’s there somehow already, and he grabs her head and drowns her. Back in the basement, Tube Top and Jerry are still completely fucked, tied up Saw-style, but Tubes finds a file and slides it Jerry’s way so he can free himself.

Shotgun sits down for a meal with one of his monstrosities that he’s moving with his mind, but its head pops off. From the soundtrack, I’m supposed to take this scene as goofy comedy, but it’s fucking incredibly disturbing instead. What? White Dress isn’t dead? Instead, she’s taking a nap in a bed. Sure, she’s tied to it, but hey a nap’s a nap. Shotgun comes in, wheeling his dinner partner and makes introductions. Shotgun starts getting handsy with his prisoner and she begs for him to let her go, but he’s like, yeah right.

The Basement Bunch is still working on getting the fuck outta there, with Jerry now free and him untying Tube Top. They climb out of the basement and go through the gauntlet of this mannequin house, and we’re treated to a glimpse into the home life of Shotgun.

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He’s the one in the wig playing with dolls. No judgments. Well, some.

They hide among the mannequins while Shotgun takes a gander at his hallway mannequin collection. You know, if you have a mannequin hallway collection, you should seek help. But I guess we’re waaaaaaaaay past that with this guy. He goes back to being a quietly demented freak hugging his dollies while The Basement Bunch look for a way out. But ruh-roh, Scoobs! There’s Shotgun Dummy Face standing in the doorway, trapping Jerry in a room. So he does what any sensible person would do jumps through a goddamn closed window.

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Might as well jump! (Jump!)

He flails away from the masked maniac into the woods (a move that has gone really, really well for everybody so far) and Tube Top also exits, running off in the opposite direction. But since her feet seem to be coated in oil, she slips and slides all over the place like Snidely Whiplash let loose in Wacky Races and her jean shorts keep getting tighter and tighter, as well. She just kind of gives up, but Shotgun without Dummy Face on finds her, picks her up, and gets her back into the house. She lies in bed, freaked out, and sees that she’s back in Mannequin Town. He leaves the room, the mannequins start coming to life, and Shotgun starts laughing because he’s a telekinetic freakjob. Now the mannequins start shooting at her with live ammo and it’s not looking good for her. Then she gets a knife to the back of her head that a mannequin Indian (sorry, Native American) throws, and that’s a wrap for Tube Top.

White Dress (‘member her?) is still alive, and a mannequin-person starts tending to her. Then Dummy Face Shotgun tells her that it’s time to get damn up now and carries her into a room, where he has set up a cozy little sleeping spot her for on the floor. Shotgun seemingly takes a snooze and White Dress slowly starts to crawl away from this madness. But nah, Shotgun’s still up, and he uses his telekinesis to start moving the mannequins around. Their eyes move and their mouths open to sing scary single notes at her. This freaks her bean and she curls up into a ball, presumably calling upon her as-yet-unmentioned hedgehog heritage. Shotgun says it’s time, drags her out of the room, and brings her to his brother’s room (who’s now dead, you see). She asks what this crazy fuck has in mind for her, and he says that he’s going to take care of her, just like a lot of kidnapping murderers say to their victims. Then he shows her a goddamn mask of his wife’s face that’s destined to be glued onto hers.

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Ultimately, the message of this movie seems to be: If a friend of yours goes missing, under no circumstances should you try to find them, or else horrible things will happen to you.

She’s not on board with this idea, but he starts making out with the mask while it’s on her and asks her to tell him that she loves him (fat chance). But she says it, because holy shit wouldn’t you, and he starts kissing her real face. But then Shotgun starts having a freakout episode and backs away from her. This is because, as he explains, he killed both his wife and brother. You know, those people that he said he loved. Turns out they were “whoring” behind his back in his own house. By his logic, they both had to die, even saying that it’s the law that if a man finds his wife cheating on him, he has a legal right to kill them both. Maybe in parts of The South this is true but it still doesn’t mean it’s right. Kind of like SLAVERY (*is carried away on the shoulders of cheering social justice warriors*). Anyway, he gets all regretful and blubbery here but fuck this guy because he’s a goddamn Creep 5000.

So he lets White Dress know that he can’t let her go and that she’ll have to become a mannequin too (one track mind, this guy), but Jerry’s at the door. He busts in and finds Shotgun standing there looking pretty happy to see him. White Dress zips over to Jerry, and Shotgun finds it funny that Jerry wants the other girls, as well. White Dress rightly tells Jerry to kill Shotgun, but Jerry’s a fucking puss. He even lets Shotgun get close to him, but that’s because Shotgun knows that Jerry’s not really Jerry but just a fucking mannequin at this point. To prove this, he pulls him apart into pieces and throws him to the ground. Take that, audience expectations!

So now more mannequins come to life, and again, it’s super fucking crazy, and she can’t believe it, but Shotgun’s like, sorry lady but this is real. Then he starts dancing around with a mannequin and White Dress looks defeated and somewhat surprised that, indeed, these mannequins are alive.

They all start moving around on their own, laughing and just having a grand old time. But fuck this, she says, and grabs an axe to do what needs to be done. Mainly, chop him in the back of the neck.

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“This is what it feels like getting murdered? I thought it felt good this whole time!”

He staggers around for a moment holding the the handle, then falls to the floor. White Dress screams and screams and we cut to her driving away with her friends in the jeep. Only they’re all fucked-up dead mannequins now, so I guess she just took them with her to use the carpool lane.

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Mannequin III: Roadtrip!

AND THAT’S IT! THAT’S THE END OF THE MOVIE, YOU FUCKING INGRATES!

Conclusions

What a weird, fucked-up movie. Honestly, the only thing creepier than ventriloquist dummies are mannequins that come to life, and this movie has those by the truckload. It has the same basic setup as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (group of young people stumble across a rural hellscape and get murdered by a bizarre figure). But this movie ups the ante by having only one person doing the tormenting, and that person having telekinetic powers.

I always like The Little Movie That Could, and just like in the last entry in this series (Madman), this one succeeds with flying colors. Sure, it’s just another “crazy person murders the young for bizarre motives,” but the inclusion of the haunting mannequins and the intense, top-notch performance by Chuck Connors (star of the ancient TV series The Rifleman and a professional basketball player before the NBA allowed black athletes) makes him a terrifying villain.

As I mentioned halfway through the review, I realized that I’ve seen this movie before under the auspices of it being a Rifftrax release. However, I didn’t realize this for so long because watching this movie with a comedy commentary over it changes the perception of the film quite a bit. Without my favorite riffers throwing jokes over the action, the film is actually pretty unsettling on its own. Sure, it’s a low-budget horror cash-in film, but it rises above this common clay by including a number of truly bizarre elements.

Rating

A lot of these late 70’s horror flicks tend to blur together: they’re low-budget, shot and lit on the cheap, and the actors are “acting” in the same way  high school drama could also be considered “acting.”  What sets this one apart is the illusion of the macabre that the grotesque mannequins create. How goddamn creepy are mannequins? Very.  And giving the murderous psychopath telekinetic powers was also an interesting wrinkle and one that actually makes sense(?) in the film (as opposed to villains whose powers and abilities are very ill-defined, like Michael Myers). And hey, I’m not made of stone: watching some cute young gals run around in tight shorts and tube tops isn’t the most unpleasant thing in the world. I’m only human.

It was also personally interesting to watch because I’ve seen this film before through different circumstances, and read it two completely different ways both times due to the presence/absence of a comedy commentary track. Although even with the Rifftrax, the visuals were much more horrific than they usually cover.

Between the unnerving mannequins, disturbed villain, and zippy pacing, Tourist Trap is a surpisingly unique entry into an oft-maligned and repetitive genre. Three out of four Dr. Pepper machines. First round’s on me!

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