Entertainment

Tourist Trap: Why Is This 70s Slasher Trash Suddenly So Popular?


Older and younger people have always been at odds. Older folks feel that younger folks have no interest in learning the “right” way to do things. Younger people feel that older people are too “set in their ways.” However, something very odd is happening on the internet. A “new” horror movie is being discovered. Is it some stylistic gem ala It Follows that will forge the genre in a new direction? Is it one of the classics like Friday the 13th getting a remake that will be anything less than dreadful? No. It is a movie from 1979 called Tourist Trap that has Millennials all aglow and the old folks (people that are older than Millennials) shaking their heads in utter disgust.

To be frank, nothing about the Tourist Trap plot could really be described as special. The film has some very unique qualities but the set-up of the story isn’t anything we haven’t already seen. Young people are stranded at a museum. They soon find themselves stalked by the likes of Mr. Slausen (Chuck Connors) who is the museum’s crazy caretaker. (As an aside, how come in these films it’s always crazy people that are given these jobs in which they have to be responsible?) He doesn’t carry a meat cleaver or a machete. Rather Slausen’s weapon of his choice is the mannequins that he keeps in a collection. It is this unique device, and the fact that Slausen’s killer is able to use telekinesis, that really separates Tourist Trap from being a throwaway horror film.

So why is it is that Millennials have suddenly taken to this film that seemed DOA even when it was released? A search was done to track the grosses on Tourist Trap. It seems that this film, like many slasher movies, came and went almost as soon as it hit theaters in March of 1979. However, cable TV ultimately revived Tourist Trap somewhat, and apparently there is a fair amount of “underground” interest in all things mannequin.

Now, it isn’t like Tourist Trap is gaining fan interest on the level of The Room or The Rocky Horror Picture Show. However, some new pins and shirts have shown up on the Cavity Colors website. This means that interest for this film and products related to Tourist Trap are fairly high. The fact that the pins and shirts sell for $13 and $26, respectively, only further boosts this film’s cachet among the 18-29 set. With this youthful interest, it is probably easy to see Tourist Trap as a new horror movie. Some might even think that it is going to start showing up on movie screens as either a revival or new release. It isn’t. And the fact that products for this film are on a site like Cavity Colors is almost mind-boggling.

So why are Millennials so enamored with Tourist Trap?

Well, unlike Leatherface, Michael Myers, or Jason Vorhees, the killer in Tourist Trap talks. There is a passion to their voice that adds a weight and gravitas to their every word. Okay, Freddy Kreuger also spoke, but much of what he said was in the form of jokes. The killer in Tourist Trap doesn’t really do that. If anything, the IQ level of the killer in this film seems absurdly high. How else to explain how they are able to kill the way they do? Seeing how the murders are set up, the way they are premeditated, that is something that we don’t generally see from “slasher films”. Millennials seem to appreciate that this character breaks the mold. He seems gender neutral which predates the killer in the more lauded Silence of the Lambs by 11 years. In fact, looking at the one sheet for this film you may very well think that the killer is a woman. As an aside, casting the manly Chuck Connors in this non-binary role was a stroke of genius. He plays the role of Mr. Slausen with classic, leading man swagger. Heck, this is The Rifleman we’re talking about here! This movie works because it plays on subversion. That is another thing that Millennials seem to appreciate. In fact, it might be the most punk rock thing about them. They are very much into shifting paradigms. What better way to do that than to embrace a horror film that appears miles away from the ones they should consider sacrosanct? It truly seems as if Millennials might see something of themselves in Tourist Trap.

Truthfully, Millennials love of this film might simply stem from their well known defiant streak. They refuse to be told what to do. This includes being told what cult movies they should worship and adore. Based off this alone, Millennials will reject the so called classics that Generation X holds so dear. Thus they went out of their way to find a cult movie to call their own. Even though Tourist Trap came out in 1979, we haven’t really been hearing much about it since it became a “thing” among the Millennial set. On the face of it, it is easy to dismiss Tourist Trap as being a House of Wax ripoff or a Texas Chainsaw redo. However, you get 5 minutes into it and you can easily see that it becomes something you haven’t seen before or since. It’s a unique horror movie in every way. It subverts (there’s that word again) the genre with unexpected twists that are easy to embrace. Tourist Trap is as good or perhaps better than the other movies of its era, and no one has really started talking about it until now.

The original Halloween is often seen as the film that really kicked off the slasher film craze. This film came out in 1978. After that we got Friday the 13th in 1980 and all the other 80s horror films that people from my generation still fight tooth and nail for. With the success of Halloween, it isn’t surprising that Tourist Trap got lost in the shuffle. However, Millennials probably don’t see much to get excited about with Halloween. They may think the tale is pedestrian. Let’s be honest, for as good as Michael Myers is, is he as clever as Mr. Slausen? Is Jason or Freddy as interesting a killer as that character? For Millennials, Mr. Slausen is the one who should be getting all the glory. He should be the toast of the horror convention and sequel/reboot set.

The biggest problem for Tourist Trap now is maintaining its momentum. The film is so weird and scary that old timers who don’t remember it, or have never seen it, are going to be just as excited to connect with it. Slowly but surely, Tourist Trap will then feel farmed and franchised. The big question is will the millennials who liked it yesterday still like it in a few weeks? Or, will they drop it like a hot potato which makes it hard to write a piece like this. As I write this story, Tourist Trap feels like a special club. Will other people be allowed to like a movie that is so yesterday? Especially now that this special club no longer feels special and the fascination is gone?

Wouldn’t it be ironic if there was suddenly a big revival in the Puppet Master franchise among the Millennial set? With over ten films in this franchise the Millennials could feed off of it forever. Why is this ironic? Because the first film in this series was kicked off by David Schmoeller who, you guessed it, directed Tourist Trap. The movie is currently streaming for free on Youtube. You can watch it here if you have a spare 90 minutes burning a hole in your pocket.


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