Monday, April 25, 2011

Day 25 of the 30 Day Horror Challenge: Tourist Trap (not Parent Trap)

Day 25 - A horror film that you used to hate, but now like -

Every Year Young People Disappear…

Sitting poolside at my Uncle’s house a couple of summers ago, my sister and I stared ferociously at my Blackberry. Fright Rags had produced a shirt that was way too close to home for the either one of us. She was vehemently championing its purchase which I was able to do via my handheld device which was, incidentally, my first purchase via smart phone… and from the movie that gave me my first good scare. Upon receiving said shirt, the graphic was startling; as startling as the movie that had spawned its creation. It was a man in a mask bent over a young lady (with nipples piercing her clothing). She was screaming and the face that framed the whole work of art were laughing or screaming or something that was utterly terrifying. This from a black and white, drawn T-shirt. I still yell bravo to the shirt. I did not always say so to its movie of origin, Tourist Trap.

How could I not love the Chuck Connors, David Schmoeller classic (complete with overly intelligent score by none other than Pino Donaggio)? It’s not really that simple. It really depends on your definition of hate. I hated Tourist Trap in the sense that it kept me up late at night with night terrors. Memories of this film kept me creeped out for years. I can still see Chuck Connors coming down those stairs in that mannequin mask, ready to “wax” that exceptionally attractive, naïve young lady in the basement. What’s worse is that my older sister could remember that identical scene. She too was terrified and remembered it as the scariest picture she had seen as a child.

For years we tried to place the movie. All we knew (or thought we knew) was that it had “wax” in the title or must be about a wax museum. At one point I was certain that the movie was a Friday the 13th because I had seen a few sequels where characters ran into the basement followed by a masked man… the mask was white… Jason right? I was wrong. We were wrong. No wax in the title. No wax museum really (only mannequins… hee hee hee). It was no Friday the 13th sequel. Only her fiancé was able to pin the movie, finally. It’s virtually unknown to the general public too which means that we share our terror with few. Those who know it know it do not know through a child’s eyes for certain.

So in the same year that we found out which movie scared us so, we found a T-shirt with bearing its likeness. Netflix had it… the whole time. Probably for years it sat there waiting for us to find it. My fear of the movie didn’t stop me from watching it. I made sure to pick a nice sunny day in the middle of the summer. And you know what? That damn movie still scared me a bit. Maybe not quite as much as it had the first time I saw this picture, but the voices, the effects (no matter how cheesy) the music, the twist ending. That basement scene sticks in my head better now than it ever did when I was a youth. I have had it reinforced now. I’ve seen Chuck Connors in Summer Camp Nightmare and heard Donaggio do other scores. I feel like they were made for Tourist Trap.

I never truly “hated” Tourist Trap. I never thought it was a bad film, but I certainly thought it was coming to get me; Tourst Trap was my boogeyman I suppose… or Chuck Connors was… or the magical Mr. Slausson was/is. I’ve shown this to friends since then; They have found it eerie,somewhat cheesy. Sure the effects are dated, but that opening scene can still catch you off guard. It doesn’t exactly show you every detail and your mind can tend to wander to the darkest of places. Not to mention that Schmoeller thought he was making and R Rated movie at first. He got himself a PG and had to up the ante to push a light R rating at best (reverse MPAA… it’s a joke on that damn association anyway). Guess it was upped enough to scare the shit out of my family, but not enough to keep it off the matinee picture show on whatever channel was fiendish enough to show it in the early 80’s.

I thank Compass International for putting this movie out in 1979. My sister thanks them as well. She and I haven’t watched it together since we’ve discovered it. Wonder if it’ll stir any memories… better get my He-Man underoos on and maybe the Transformer comforter pulled up over my eyes for good measure.

-Dr. Jimmy

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