The Mannequins in This PG-Rated Horror Movie Will Traumatize You

The Mannequins in This PG-Rated Horror Movie Will Traumatize You

Movies


The Big Picture

  • Tourist Trap
    is a unique and truly frightening horror film with telekinesis.
  • The director aimed to replicate
    The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
    , creating a distinctive horror style.
  • Despite a PG rating,
    Tourist Trap
    is scary without explicit content.


In the late 1970s, horror’s slasher boom started thanks to big hits like Tobe Hooper‘s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in 1974 and John Carpenter‘s Halloween in 1978. The fad really took off in the 80s with Friday the 13th and its infinite clones, but stuck in the middle was a little horror movie from 1979 called Tourist Trap. Starring The Rifleman‘s Chuck Connors and Tanya Roberts from Charlie’s Angels, Tourist Trap looks like just another slasher on the surface with yet another plot about a creepy guy in a mask killing young women. It only takes five minutes into the runtime, however, to discover that this slasher isn’t one at all. Instead, it is a truly frightening horror film that includes telekinesis and the creepiest mannequins you’ll ever discover. And it did it all with a PG rating.


Tourist Trap

A group of young friends stranded at a secluded roadside museum are stalked by a masked assailant who uses his telekinetic powers to control the attraction’s mannequins.

Release Date
March 16, 1979

Director
David Schmoeller

Cast
Chuck Connors , Jocelyn Jones , Jon Van Ness , Robin Sherwood , Tanya Roberts , Dawn Jeffory

Writers
David Schmoeller , J. Larry Carroll


‘Tourist Trap’s Director Was Looking to Make a Movie Similar to ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’

Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre changed horror when it was released in 1974. The genre was in an age of more religious themed films thanks to 1968’s Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist in 1973, but Hooper’s masterpiece, about a family of killer cannibals stalking young people, was gritty and disturbing, while also feeling like something that could really happen if you took a wrong turn in the middle of nowhere.


Tourist Trap was written and directed by David Schmoeller, who would later helm Puppet Master in 1989. In 1979, however, he’d never made a feature film before working on Tourist Trap, which started off as a bit of a rip-off to a classic. In an interview with Daily Grindhouse, Schmoeller said:

“I had just graduated from film school and was looking for a way to break into Hollywood as a feature director. When I was in grad school at the University of Texas at Austin shooting my thesis film, Tobe Hooper was in Austin shooting The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It was a low-budget hit that launched his career. I decided to do a horror film in the same vein.”

One look at the film’s poster and you can tell what Schmoeller started out going for, as his killer’s mask looks very similar to the skin worn by Leatherface. Tourist Trap even starts out like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, with a group of future young victims out in the middle of nowhere when their car breaks down. When one of them, of course, walks alone into a rundown roadside building, you know what’s going to happen next. It’s then though that everything in Tourist Trap turns sideways.


The Mannequin Scenes in ‘Tourist Trap’ Will Haunt Your Nightmares

The character of Woody (Keith McDermott) is a goner the moment he walks into the backroom of an abandoned gas station. All right, bring out the masked killer to hack him to death. Woody does indeed die, just minutes into Tourist Trap, which isn’t messing around, but it’s how he dies that throws you for a loop. Out of nowhere, the creepiest looking mannequins you’ll ever see appear, their jaws moving, laughter escaping from their mouths. Once you’ve picked yourself up off the floor, where you nearly passed out from fright, you’ll wonder how this is happening. And just how is that pipe floating in the air before launching itself unmanned into Woody’s back?


Tourist Trap is disguised as a slasher, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre meets Halloween, but the real film is hidden under the gimmick. Tourist Trap is actually more akin to other horror classics like Psycho and Carrie, for our killer is not in the right frame of mind, and oh yeah, he’s able to move things with his own mind. As Schmoeller told Daily Grindhouse:

“My thesis film,

The Spider Will Kill You
,

was a

Twilight Zone

short about a blind man and mannequins. I thought the aspect of mannequins coming alive – and their ability to scare you (or creep you out, at least) – was a good ingredient. I used some of the basic structure of
Chainsaw
(van full of young victims) and the lone madman who appears to be okay (
Psycho
).”


The killer has a fondness for mannequins, making a whole family out of them, which just so happen to be his very human victims underneath the plastic. He doesn’t kill by stabbing or hacking anyone (the very definition of a slasher) but rather scaring his victims to death. Mannequins are already terrifying enough on their own, with their off-kilter human appearance being the same reason why we fear dolls. These aren’t just ordinary mannequins though, but are controlled to move by the killer. Their eyes will follow you across the room, they will lift their arms and turn to you, and oh God, the sounds they make.

And it’s all done with a shocking PG rating! There is a small amount of blood in Tourist Trap, but there are no curse words, no nudity, no sex, and no drugs. That doesn’t mean that Tourist Trap is lacking anything at all. The absence of tropes is actually a positive, as it allows the film to go in its own direction and be its own monster, without being confined to the rules of what came before.

Related

The ‘Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ Remake Is More Disturbing Than the Original, Fight Me

Leatherface isn’t the scariest character in the franchise.


‘Tourist Trap’ Shows That Horror Doesn’t Need To Be Rated R To Be Scary

Tourist Trap might be rated PG, but it didn’t aim to be. Schmoeller told Terror Trap, “That rating stunned us. And it killed the movie. No one goes to see a PG horror film.” It really is shocking that Tourist Trap is rated PG, but this was an era before the creation of PG-13, which came about thanks to families complaining about the violence in PG moviesIndiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Gremlins. There is nothing graphic or obscene enough to make Tourist Trap rated R, so PG it is.

Just as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre tricked the audience into thinking it was a gory film (there’s barely any blood at all), Tourist Trap reels you in and makes you think that what you’re watching shouldn’t be seen. It’s those damn mannequins and the killer that does it. The unusual approach is dizzying, as we’re put in a realistic setting with real-feeling characters, but then dropped into the lair of someone whose powers have no limitations. If Tourist Trap has any weakness, it’s the music, which is admittedly a bit silly and not very fitting of a horror movie. The film was produced by Irwin Yablans, the same man who helped create Halloween, which was in post-production at the same time. Schmoeller told Terror Trap that when Yablans heard the score, he hated it and wouldn’t talk to him. Schmoeller said, “He thought Tourist Trap was going to be a big hit. He thought Halloween was just your average horror film. Then John Carpenter did this remarkably effective score and the film was transformed.”


Sure, Tourist Trap could have used a better score, but it’s a minor flaw. Halloween is a quieter movie with a killer who doesn’t speak. Carpenter’s music is almost the voice of Michael Myers, the same way the score for Jaws speaks for the shark. That’s not needed for Tourist Trap. You’ll be too busy freaking out over the terrifying screams of mannequins to hear anything else.

Tourist Trap is available to stream on Peacock in the U.S.

WATCH ON PEACOCK



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