Tourist Trap

I saw Tourist Trap on Joe Bob’s Last Drive-In, a twenty-four hour movie marathon that I highly recommend. Tourist Trap is a weird movie that borrows its look from Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but without that movie’s fabled grit.

No, Tourist Trap has a bizarre vibe all its own. It stars Chuck Connors and Tanya Roberts along with a group of attractive roadkill – er, I mean youths. Seeing Tanya Roberts before she became famous is a real eye opener, sort of like watching Jennifer Aniston in Leprechaun, the best movie you’ll ever see about a homicidal leprechaun.

The plot: six young people get stranded at a roadside wax museum run by friendly weirdo Chuck Connors. Unfortunately, Chuck’s crazy telekinetic brother isn’t as friendly and the attractive youths get picked off one by one. I will say that the killer wears some pretty freaky masks. Our youthful revelers dress in cut-offs and t-shirts, but the final girl wears a white dress paired with a white sunbonnet and looks like she’s going to church. The subtext, it burns my eyes!

Tourist Trap gets an A-plus for its creative use of mannequins. Chuck’s house used to be a roadside wax museum, and Chuck’s wacky brother uses his telekinetic powers to animate those mannequins – at points, he goes way beyond animating the mannequins. He thinks the final girl looks like his dead wife, even though she looks nothing like her, but he’s crazy so we should cut him some slack.

Tourist Trap sure isn’t boring. I don’t know if it deserves the title of a cult classic, but it doesn’t deserve to be forgotten. It’s well-made and it has a bizarre vibe that I liked. If possible, watch Tourist Trap on Joe Bob’s Drive-In, as his commentary will add to your movie-going experience!

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Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People

Damn, I fell behind early this year. Okay, the next movie on the chopping block is Matango: The Attack of the Mushroom People. This film was directed by Ishiro Hondo, who also directed the original Godzilla (along with a number of sequels), so I was inclined to like this movie. A confession: I saw Matango years ago but don’t remember anything about it, so it’s the same as seeing it for the first time!

The plot: seven revelers set sail in their party boat on a Three-Hour Tour and get shipwrecked on an island. Here the similarities to Gilligan’s Island end, alas; it’s a shame there was never a crossover between these two franchises. I would have paid good money to see that.

Anyway, there is fresh water on the island, but not much food – turtle eggs, seaweed, sea birds. Mushrooms grow everywhere, but they can’t eat them because reasons. One by one, members of our merry band do eat the mushrooms. Instead of dying, they transform into fungi themselves! Or do they? Perhaps there is another level to Matango, something having to do with how easily civilization can slip away. Or maybe this is just a weird movie about mushroom people. I dunno; you tell me.

Our seven castaways don’t splinter as a group because they didn’t really like each other in the first place, which I found to be realistic. The film does a good job of giving most of the characters actual personalities. People quickly show their true colors, and those colors aren’t pretty. It came as no surprise to me that the writer is the first to go crazy and eat the mushrooms.

I wouldn’t call Matango psychedelic as we only catch glimpses of the walking fungi until the end. Most of this movie is unrelentingly grim and depressing as our band of not-so-merry castaways lose their grip on reason and slide into madness. Parts of Matango have an apocalyptic feel; the single survivor (not a spoiler!) is in an asylum in Tokyo, where he has a view of the lights of the city, and I got the impression that one of the movie’s messages was that this too could easily slip away…