SEPTEMBER 7 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : FUNHOUSE
“You know what this room needs? An evil clown statue. Oh wait…“
The town carnival was always a place of fascination for me. A sort of mobile caravan of weirdness. The row of games where you can loose your teenage life’s savings while trying to win a $3 stuffed Tweety bird for your girlfriend. The buckets of assorted fried meats you can gorge yourself on before they have to jump start your heart, and then there’s the unsavory combination of smells around every turn. When you put an assortment of porta-potties, open garbage cans and a few hundred tons of corn dogs a few feet from each other you’re bound to create some sort of toxic sludge. That might explains how they keep those creepy carny workers alive, a netherworld chemical of food by-products thereby reanimating their lifeless corpses for another day of work much like office coffee. I’d also question some of the rides safety testings. Ever notice the small single rusty bolt that holds your creeky cart precariously to the metal octopus arm?…at any moment snapping and sending you into the parking lot like a homemade turkey catapult? Well now you will…and you’re welcome. Fortunately most people make it out alive in the face of these carnival dangers.
In the horror film “the funhouse” some carnival patrons aren’t so lucky. Amy our lead virginal hero is going out with her friends to check out the arrival of the carnival. We know she’ll survive because she’s a virgin and as we all know they can create forcefields around them from evil (or drunk frat guys whichever they encounter first.) After a Halloween inspired shower-scene attack by her perverted little brother she decides sideshow freaks would be a welcome change of pace. They check out the mutant cattle show, get mild whiplash on the bumper cars and visit a fortune teller who freelances as a hooker. Will the fun ever stop? They even stop at a girlie strip show tent hoping to get a sneak peek. I don’t recall seeing that particular attraction at my local town fair when I was a teenager. The closest to that was the 4H melon contest next to the farm animal petting cage. It sure would have increased tickets sales though.
Amy seems to be mysteriously drawn to a creepy funhouse at the outskirts of the carnival and her friends decide it would be a great idea to actually stay the night inside. The funhouse is a massive structure with a winding track of riding carts that tour through a variety of creepy displays and animatronic weirdness within it. There’s also a creepy robotic fat lady who sits on top of the building laughing mockingly at any bulimic teen that walks by.
Once inside, the teenagers ditch the carts and frolic in some poorly made evil forests that seemed to be constructed by the same people that build cheap floats for town parades. Things go from bad to worse when they inadvertently witness the killing of the fortune teller hooker (fortune-hooker!) who just gave a quickie to some guy dressed as Frankenstein. Frank didn’t feel he got his money worth so he kills her instead. Business transactions never go well between mutant beasts and gypsy hookers, but she really should have predicted that.
The kids are soon discovered and Frank who actually turns out to be some sort of real life freak mutant is stalking them along with his equally crazy dad. With only 4 teenagers total, the body count isn’t going to get too high but mutant Frank is all about quality kills not quantity. There’s surprise lynchings, axes to the head, impalements, trapdoors, air duct maulings, and some torso/gear grinding action. All this making up for a great popcorn b-movie but I’d have to say that the main star of this movie really has to be the funhouse itself. It’s creepy, icky and filled with the stuff of nightmares and yet consistently out-acts the actual cast members. I say give this one a spin in your DVD player and save an elephant ear for me.
Keep an eye out for…
- little brother perverts
- carnival bag ladies
- gypsy hookers
- carney choking
- mutant cattle shows gawking
- rope a nerd lynchings
- accidental sword impalements
- freak carney grinders
funhouses, carnies, and a live performance of the Oak ridge boys? Stop the horror!
rated 9.1 out of 10 for the movie
SEPTEMBER 7 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : FUNHOUSE
- Amy Harper - The virgin and in turn the heroine of our story. By the end she is close to loosing her mind. But she doesn't and lives to fight another day. Just once I would like to see the virgin die.
- Joey Harper - Stupid little kid who follows his big sister to the carnival. Absolutely no reason for being in this movie except for the fact that he trips on a couple bums and gets freaked out by the fun house multiple times
- Mr. and Mrs. Harper - Really bad actors who just play standard parent rolls. They warn the daughter against going to the circus.
- Buzz - Jock type that Amy is on her first date with. Stands up for his women and gets killed for it.
- Richie - Geek type who comes up with the whole idea of staying in the fun house over night. Dies for his stupidity.
- Liz - Richie's little girlfriend. Ends up offering herself to the monster so the monster will let her live. Which is never a good idea, even if it is a horny monster. Killed for her stupidity.
- The Monster - Accidentally kills his hooker while the 4 teens watch and that is when the madness begins. Gets electrocuted and pulled through some gears in the end.
- The Father - Master to the monster, a backwoods/carnival guy. He aggravates the monster to kill the teens. Gets a poll pushed through him and lives a good deal longer after that, but in the end it is hard to live with a 1 inch hole punched through your stomach.
- Misc. Bums - Only there to be tripped over and to give warning about the wrath of God. A failed attempt at trying to give this film a moral basis.
While out on a double date at the circus one of the guys thinks it would be fun to stay all night in the funhouse at the carnival. Shortly after entering the funhouse they are witness to a creature killing one of the carnival folk who he paid for... ...uh, um pleasure. They go searching for an exit, and of course when they find it, it's locked! While Buzz is trying to bust down the door Richie goes to check if the woman is really dead. While doing so decides it's a good idea to steal the killer's money. When the father comes in and find his money gone he sics the monster onto the teens and murder ensues. One person survives this whole ordeal and, big surprise, it's Amy. The Virgin. This movie was badly lit and extremely slow. (The movie is almost an hour in before anybody dies.) All I can say is I learned a lot from this movie.
Things I Learned From This Movie:
- Bad acting does not double as concern.
- 8 year olds are very proficient at sneaking from their homes.
- Crazy preacher women hang out in bathrooms.
- Sounds in the night are very similar to the sound of a cheap laser beam.
- Hicks enjoy threatening children with guns
- "Alive" never ever means alive (as in walking and breathing) at a circus.
- Circus announcers are even more freaky when speaking in monotone.
- Circuses come with standard games, animals freak shows, and strip clubs.
- All circus folk drink... ...heavily.
- Circus psychics aren't used to being heckled and get extremely pissy when they are.
- Never trust a circus announcer, when they say "world of terror" the really mean tunnel of crap.
- Circus grounds are the equivalent to a hotel for bums.
- Stupid people come up with even stupider ideas.
- Monsters pay for sex, and actually get it.
- No matter how small a building looks on the outside it will always be 10 times that size inside.
- Hicks always like beastiality jokes best.
- Circus folk take an incredibly long time to think up simple plans.
- It's not common knowledge that yelling into a fan does not work.
- Circus folk will save a hideous freak, but beyond that have no care for human life.
- Small carnival rides have large engine rooms.
- Fuse boxes are left open for the convenience of anybody looking to kill.
SEPTEMBER 7 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : FUNHOUSE
Another great film by director Tobe Hooper, this film never got the right respect that it deserves. I first saw it when I was about nine and loved it right away. Known as just being yet another 80's slasher flick it has almost been completely forgotten. Like most under appreciated films it takes time to find the right audience and sometimes it never does. This film seems to fit neatly in the middle as being both as a bad and great film.
The only thing that seems to be wrong with it is that it takes quite a while to get going. It's starts off slow and remains that way for most of the first half of the film. But it's in that first half we are able to watch and understand who the characters really are. There are some scenes that seem to be unnecessary at times too. It does do a good job with keeping the feeling of the main theme constant and also keeping the look of the carnival very real and convincing.
Once the young teens find themselves locked inside 'The Funhouse' is when things really start to pick up speed and the suspense begins! The film does a great job with visual and lighting effects to create a very creepy and nightmarish atmosphere that works very well. You can never really tell what is really hiding in the shadows.
The plot in the second half is very typical in a simple slasher film with a killer that stalks his victims but in this case it's more unique. The killer is something interesting in itself and that it's not a man with a knife but a beast like thing that has a mind of child. There's even times when 'The Funhouse' itself seems to take on a life of its own and taunts the poor teens.
Even up to the final climax the entire mood of the film never fades and the evil and creepy world of 'The Funhouse' stays with you.
(There is also a novelization of the film that offers a different look and back story that was written by Dean Koontz in 1980. An interesting fact about that is it is often mistaken that the film was based on a novel since the novel came out before the films release because of post-production. Koontz at that time published it under an alias. A great read.)
SEPTEMBER 7 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : FUNHOUSE
A surprisingly disturbing little hidden nugget of early eighties fright, The Funhouse brings back a lot of fond memories . . .
. . . of the carnivals that typically roll through Anytown, USA.
This is probably what makes The Funhouse so disturbing. I mean, who hasn’t gone through a funhouse in a carnival? Could this happen to me, I mean after all those carnies are a freaky people, right?
I have often heard that people thought that The Funhouse kind of ripped off Halloween because of the whole opening scene but other than a clown mask I would say this is not so at all.
After a scare from her baby brother Joey (Shawn Carson), Amy (Elizabeth Berridge) gets ready for a big night out in the little town with Buzz (Cooper Huckabee) and her friends Liz (Largo Woodruff) and Richie (Miles Chapin). Whilst enjoying the carnival they get the bright idea that spending the night in the funhouse would be a grand idea. Little do they know that Joey followed them to the funhouse and knows that they are locked inside. Unfortunately for them, by the end of the night – he is not the only one to discover their little secret.
I really loved the way that they spent time kind of slowly panning the whole carnival experience. You got to see all the fun features – from the freak show to the strip show to the rides and games – and you got a real sense of the atmosphere that is quintessential carnival.
All that and a real life freak, Gunther Straker (Wayne Doba) son of the carnival’s patriarch, Conrad (Kevin Conway – he also played the rest of the barkers in case you were wondering) who seems to have a penchant for having little accidents with the locals as he is getting his rocks off. He takes it a little too far this time though when he sullies one of the family, a mystic by the name of Madame Zena (Sylvia Miles).
As Gunther is being chastised for his careless act, the foursome who have watched the entire event are found out and thus begins the chase.
With some decent death scenes, creepy atmosphere and just freaky shit going on in general, The Funhouse was definitely a wild ride that I would recommend whole heartedly.