EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|FUNHOUSE, THE (director: Tobe Hooper; screenwriter: Larry Block; cinematographer: Andrew Laszlo; editor: Jack Hofstra; music: John Beal; cast: Elizabeth Berridge (Amy Harper), Cooper Huckabee (Buzz), Largo Woodruff (Liz), Miles Chapin (Richie), Kevin Conway (Carnival Barker), Wayne Doba (Barker’s Son), Shawn Carson (Joey Harper), Sylvia Miles (Madame Zena), William Finley, (Marco the Magician); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Derek Power/Steven Bernhardt; Universal; 1981)|
|"Bad date chiller."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Tobe Hooper ("The Texas Chainsaw Massacre"/"Salem's
Lot"/"Poltergeist") has fun
directing this bad date chiller that's stylishly set at a sleazy
traveling carnival and follows the setup on the Old Dark House films,
but with more black humor and more gruesome sequences. It's cleverly written by Larry Block.
The Funhouse has two teen couples,
hunky filling station attendant Buzz (Cooper Huckabee) and the
vulnerable virgin Amy Harper (Elizabeth Berridge), and obnoxious geek
Richie (Miles Chapin) and Amy's
best friend Liz (Largo Woodruff),
to the Fairfield County fair to see the traveling carnival. Liz goes
there despite warned by her stern parents not to go there, as the last
time the carnival visited there was a nasty incident. Joey (Shawn Carson), Liz's bratty
practical joker younger brother, sneaks out the window to also attend
the fair. The teens smoke pot, and as a goof plan to stay out all night
in The Funhouse. After witnessing the Barker's (Kevin Conway) freakish
son, wearing a Frankenstein mask, murder the nasty fortune teller (Sylvia Miles) who insulted him when
he paid $100 for her services and after premature-ejaculation his money
was not refunded which brought on an uncontrollable rage. The teens
the murder and hear the monster's evil dad planning to once again cover
up a murder by his monster son, but the frightened teens can't escape
the locked Funhouse and begin to get picked off one at a time by the
sicko father-son team. The film's highlights show how the monster
dispatches the eyewitnesses in inventively gruesome ways.
Hooper is at his best exploring the
seedy traveling carnival atmosphere (from a freak show to the homeless
patrons talking nutso to a raunchy magical act by an alcohol-swilling
magician), using the grotesque figurines inside the Funhouse for cheap
scares one would get at the carnival and offering the promise of
forbidden thrills that go further than the carnival scares. The
film is filled with homages to other slasher/horror pics, from
Psycho to Carpenter's Halloween. The makeup for the Frankenstein
monster, when he takes off his mask and it's revealed he has a hideous
face with a cleft forehead, albino skin and bulging red eyes, was
created by Rick Baker and executed by Craig Reardon.
Because Hooper didn't fully develop
of the characters, the audience only roots for the most likable one,
Amy, to survive, as her final confrontation with the raging and
unsympathetic monster is tautly carried out as the two play a deadly
cat-and-mouse scenario around The Funhouse's chain of grinding gears.
REVIEWED ON 7/22/2010 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ