johnlink ranks THE FUNHOUSE (1981)

Desperately needed to wash the sour taste of the Patriots losing in the AFC Championship from my mouth. As I perused HBOGO, I thought some cheese might do the trick. Specifically, some early-80s horror cheese!

funhouse sans fun

I watched THE FUNHOUSE (1981) on 1.20.13. It was my first viewing of the film.

I didn’t know this was directed by Tobe Hooper, of TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE fame, until the opening credits rolled. I’ve since learned that this was the movie he was so intensely working on that he turned down Spielberg’s offer to direct ET. Can we just stop and think about what a Tobe Hooper directed ET would be like? What a different world we would live in.

Anyway, THE FUNHOUSE is pure campy nostalgia. Sometimes it is fun, sometimes it is a little weird. It’s never really all that scary. The opening, an homage to PSYCHO, starts with a young girl in a shower getting much more naked than Hitchcock would have made her. She is being stalked by a killer, who plows through the shower curtain… only to reveal that it is her young brother goofing off.

For me, that was the best part of the movie. It was self-aware and smartly crafted. It was also shot after the entirety of the film was done, and the rest of the film is missing its irreverence.

The story here is that four kids, one a virgin, on a jock, one a sex-tempting blonde, one a glasses-wearing goof, are going to a carnival. They take forty minutes to establish their stock characters, never to reveal anything but their general blandness. The first forty minutes doesn’t completely lack entertainment, but it certainly feels unnecessary after a few decades of horror movies further establishing these archetypes.

Eventually, they hide out in one of the carnival’s attractions. Their plan being to have wild sex and do drugs all night. Instead, they witness a murder and eventually become hunted themselves.

Hooper goes for similar themes in this film as he was going after in TEXAS CHAIN SAW. The killer is a mentally stunted oddity who wears a mask and can’t control himself, putting the family at risk. The problem is, what was done with such ferocity and power in TEXAS CHAIN SAW comes across as derivative and stale in THE FUNHOUSE.

The highlight of the movie is Kevin Conway, playing a variety of the carnival barkers as well as the father of the monster. He is both the most charismatic and the scariest thing in the film. Unfortunately, noone else is up to his standard. Elizabeth Berridge is passable as the virginal Amy. None of the other three are memorable.

I don’t think this movie is an embarrassment or anything. I’ve seen plenty worse. There just isn’t much here to grasp on to. The climax is laughably bad though. Amy just stands around and screams while the bad guy basically kills himself through his clumsiness. The Monster might be one of the least scary and least intimidating bad guys I can remember in a horror movie.

Sometimes I think its worth seeking this stuff out once, just to check it out. But I can’t even really say that with THE FUNHOUSE. There just isn’t much here.





~ by johnlink00 on January 21, 2013.

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