Wednesday, June 25, 2014

TOURIST TRAP (1979) (Full Moon Blu-ray Review)

Label: Full Moon Features
Region Code: A
Duration: 85 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0, 5.1
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.78:1)
Director: David Scmoeller

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

A group of teens on a road trip through Texas breakdown on the side of the road and end up at the abandoned Slausen's Desert Oasis where the girls skinny-dip at a small water oasis before the gun-toting proprietor Mr. Slausen shows up and warns them not to wander at night for there are dangers in the area. Offering them refuge at his run down wax museum for the night the teens are picked off one at a time by the telekinetic weirdo brother of Mr. Salusen.

This is a creepy PG chiller that scared the bejeezus outta me as a kid but didn't do much for me this time around. Chuck Connors is alright here as the troubled proprietor of a was museum on the decline giving a creepy performance - he does crazy pretty well. The killer here is telepathically gifted and likes to put on deadly puppets shows with the mannequins on the property - some of which are quite creepy and the shrill cackling that accompanies the performances are unnerving.

The group of teens is pretty serviceable with a decent final girl. Molly (Jocelyn Jones, THE ENFORCER) doesn't break any new ground or offers anything new - not a particularly strong character she's a bit on the mousy of things. I was hoping Becky (Tanya Roberts, BEASTMASTER) would be the final girl. What a hottie and totally rocking a pair of cut-off jean shorts and a very full halter-top - when she had to go I was devastated.

The effects are pretty low-budget but effective for the time. we have lots of animated mannequins with hinged jaws used to great effect. Mr. Slalusen's wax mask is super eerie and makes for fantastic poster art. Bob Burns who worked on Tobe Hooper's TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE does some effects and set-dressing here and it is similarly sparse and dark.  

The new Blu-ray from Full Moon features a new HD master of the film and the 1080p upgrade affords this low-budget chiller a bit more texture and better color reproduction with a slightly sharper edge. It does have a few issues beginning with a very soft and gauzy shooting style which doesn't create the most razor-sharp image for the format. Also the grain structure seems a bit odd from time to time - mostly in the very first scene - it just seems off. Add to that a weird mirroring effect seen in the lower right hand of the image when Woody is rolling the flat tire. After this initial scene the grain is more pleasing and natural. 

Additionally much has been made of this Blu-ray missing about five minute of footage. It's been a good long while since I've watched the DVD but I can't say that I am such a fan that I could tell you what was excised. The reasons for it's absence  have never been definitely explained but both Charles Band and director David Schmoeller have differing opinions on that. Schmoeller suggests that Band may not have had access to the original negatives and went with a cut print for the source of the HD master.

FM have chosen to go with the lossy 2.0 and 5.1 Dolby Digital in place of a DTS-HD Master Audio track unfortunately. Things are well balanced but Pino Donaggio's score would have benefited greatly from the lossless boost. As t is the 5.1 offers only modest depth and channel separation and the stereo track is just as effective. 

Extras include a brand-new audio commentary from director David Schmoeller who talks about the production - both good and bad and working with the cast. There's also a 25-minute documentary produced by Ballyhoo Motion Pictures "Exit Through the Chop Shop" comprised of an interview with Schmoeller inter-cut with clips from the film covering much of the same ground from the commentary. Additionally there are also a selection of Full Moon trailers for our enjoyment. 

TOURIST TRAP is a PG-rated horror film with very little blood and no gore whatsoever but it does have a generous amount of atmosphere thanks in part to the Pino Donaggio (BLOW OUT) orchestral score and some decent cinematography. It loses points for the obvious identity of the killer but wins me over with how weird and demented it is, a very strange film.