With one week free to run rampant on Full Moon Entertainment’s new instant streaming site, the only logical thing to do is lock the door, turn off the lights, hide under the sheets, and binge on whatever gorefest, frightfest, creepshow or otherwise horror, cult, scifi or fantasy schlock one can cram in.
David Schmoeller may be the singular kingpin that governed much of Full Moon’ success, and it is easy to see why. Even in hindsight, there is a dedication to the craft rarely see either then or now. Clearly an enamorer of the both the subtleties required to make a lasting horror and a greedy abuser of all the things we require to roll our eyes at these days, his debut feature “Tourist Trap” may be one of the keenest little gems in the Full Moon archive.
Full Moon must be commended for its dedication of using slightly whimsical cartoonish music for its opening credits. In fact, setting the immediate weather and climate of a film is one of Schmoeller’s apparent specialties. “Tourist Trap” has a hunk without the knowledge of how to use shirt buttons pouring water down himself and speaking the first line of dialogue – “damn”. Luckily, we do not have to wait and wonder how long it will be before he bests his first moment, as his gruesome end is found in one of the swiftest in the genre. Schmoeller’s affiliation for puppetry is experimented with in this his first attempt in the medium. Though it would not be perfected until nearly a decade later, the initial seeds are planting with a loving, green thumb, and the first kill is truly a sight to behold.
‘Slausen’s Lost Oasis’ is the name of site seeing attraction, as astutely titled as a forgettable dead end tourist trap could be. Destined to anyways stay on the tip of your tongue whenever you look back on watching this film. As forgettable as the objects within, it is, like many haunt-filled houses of the genres in the ’60s and ’70s beginning propagated by “Psycho”, a center of gravity for the orbiting locations of the real terror. Davey’s home, the ‘forbidden zone’ this time around, is a veritable mad house of trickery and absurdity that propels some truly impressively crafted set pieces.
While seemingly incapable of filling the space between them, “Tourist Trap” certainly delivers when it gets the scenes required. The horror wax museum subgenre truly hit is pinnacle here. All the associations are here with just a sprinkle extra – life-like replicas of long deceased loved ones that only seem realistic to those inside the film, inanimate objects that move about to impair victim’s movement, & mannequins that imitate life in a fashion that has only be copied at best or pathetically altered at worst in subsequent films. While the primary villain is a poor copy of Leatherface in many ways, his boarish, grunting breathing and cheek-split mask with a tongue perpetually stuck out of it are masterfully tended to. Unfortunately he begins to talk to much, and his dialogue (“you’re heart will burst from fright before you lose consciousness!”) is significantly less refined.
The ominously overused misdirection of the Slausen brothers is done with clichè for those in hindsight, but still “Tourist Trap” is a trend setter in its own right that either propagated much of what seems familiar now or coalesced much of it into a relatively cohesive whole. The final reveal is done with such overdone exuberance that one has to question is obvious conclusion with relish. In fact the entire Final Girl sequence is itself a massive misdirection leading us to even greater excellence. A mild chase scene through the woods abandons the confines of the museum and house of horrors to tear another page from ” The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” before returning to the preservation symbols we all know and love in “Psycho”.
“Tourist Trap”‘s actual finale beyond bizarre, a crowning achievement in more ways than. By now, the audience should be accustomed to the old switcheroo, but yet they still have a few more tricks hidden away to turn the whole tale around again. A heart felt tear-jerking confession, a hero returns, a hero falls, lovers reunite and axes are used with swift, emotional justice as a buzzard and a car drive off to a freeze frame ending.