Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Funhouse (1981)

Directed by Tobe Hooper. Once the big post-Friday the 13th horror boom really got rolling, clearly they often just started with titles and worked their way backward. One strategy is to begin with something whimsical and make it gruesome. Like a leprechaun or a candyman...or a funhouse!

The fundamental flaw with “The Funhouse” is laziness. There’s a huge difference between a funhouse and a haunted house and this movie doesn’t distinguish between the two. Features of a funhouse might include a maze of mirrors, a rolling barrel you walk through, staircases that move, a crooked room -- this sort of foolishness. Features seen in the funhouse in “The Funhouse” include: gruesome monsters hacking at people with knives, your friends hung from a noose.

But I don’t just mean these are the fates that befall the characters in the movie. You see this sort of stuff when the funhouse is supposed to just be “fun.” Kids go to this carnival, they “step right up,” and then ride around in a dumpy little cart through a roll-away trailer full of this haunted house garbage. But when four friends decide to spend the night in the funhouse, Amy (Elizabeth Berridge, "Amadeus"), Buzz (Cooper Huckabee, "Django Unchained"), Richie (Miles Chapin, "The People vs. Larry Flynt") and Liz (Largo Woodruff, "The Funhouse") get much more than they bargained for! Horror! If you follow!

The kids accidentally discover that one of the carnies has a son who is a mutant sex maniac that killed the hooker who made fun of his penis (I know, I said enough at "one of the carnies has a son," right?). So now the crazy carnie wants to grind up the teenagers in the gears that run the funhouse -- so it’s pretty much like every "Scooby Doo" you've ever seen.

Recommended, if you, like me, first saw this in 1982 at the Bedford Grove Drive-In, in Bedford, New Hampshire as the second feature with “Cat People” and are curious to see how much of it you remember. Otherwise, I’m not sure I’d bother. Instead you could go back to director Tobe Hooper’s 1974 classic, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” which truly is a masterpiece of sick, awful horror. I mean, unless that’s not your thing. Then, for heaven’s sake, why would you do that to yourself?

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