Sunday, February 8, 2009

Horror Movie Review: The Funhouse

The Funhouse

Starring: Elizabeth Berridge, Cooper Huckabee, Largo Woodruff, Miles Chapin, Kevin Conway, and Wayne Doba

Directed by: Tobe Hooper

Written by: Lawrence Block

Production Companies: Mace Neufeld Productions and Universal Pictures

Release Date: March 13, 1981

Let's face it, sometimes we expect too much of our directors. We watch and enjoy a film, maybe even love it, and expect the director to reproduce that magic every time. When you stop and think about it, that's impossible...but we do it anyway. Making that assumption about Tobe Hooper, who had great films The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist to his name, I rented and sat down to watch The Funhouse with high expectations.
Shawn Carson plays Amy's annoying younger brother, Joey. Carson had more problems with carnivals when he played Jim Nightshade in Something Wicked This Way Comes.
And the recipe was promising. A carnival...a killer...and young, pot smoking victims. What could go wrong?

Amy Harper's been forbidden from going to the carnival by Mom and Dad, but that doesn't keep her from telling a little fib about going to the movies with Buzz. With friends Ritchie and Liz, they head to the carnival where they innocently ride some rides, peak at the dancing girls in the hootchie-cootchie show, and smoke some pot. I'm not sure why Dad didn't want little Amy to go to the carnival.
Kevin Conway as Conrad Straker.
Everything's fine until they decide to get off the funhouse ride and hide inside to spend the night. Even that would have been ok, except they accidently see Gunther, the son of the funhouse attendant, kill Madame Zena after paying her for some female companionship. Oh, and Ritchie steals some money from the father and son team. Oh, and Ritchie gives away that they are there...Man, next time leave Ritchie home.

Then the father and son are off to kill the interlopers. The fatherGunther Straker just wants a kiss... saying, "I'm just protecting my family."

But it took 45 minutes before the teens' lives were at stake. That's half of the 96 minute film. That's too long of a wait. Watching teens act up at a carnival doesn't provide much suspense. I'll admit Hooper tried. Kevin Conway playing several of the carnival barkers added a sense of oddity. Some of the camera angles attemted to establish a feeling of disorientation while they wandered the attractions, but in the end...the first 45 minutes could have been a tame comedy or a drama.

Buzz, Amy, and Liz think that's the most disturbing thing they'll see this evening.Once Gunther and his father start attacking the kids, things don't improve a whole lot and many of the scenes were not frightening. Two interesting scenes could be found, however. One where the killers create an identity mix up and one of the friends kills the other, and a scene where Liz finds herself cornered by Gunther.
Scoobie-Doo, where are you?
My last complaint, I swear...the make up for Gunther wasn't convinching. That kind of ruined the whole thing. He spent part of the time in a Frankenstein's Monster mask and he was scarier in that than when we saw his real face. Keep make-up effects simple, or hidden in shadows, but we saw too much of it.

It was disappointing, especially after the promising start with allusions to both Halloween and Psycho.

Related Trailers

Cooper Huckabee, who played bad boy Buzz, also starred in The Curse. The trailer for the film apparently doesn't exist online, but here is a disturbing scene from the film, also starring Wil Wheaton.

Largo Woodruff, who played Liz, didn't return to the horror genre until 2003 when she had a bit role in Jeepers Creepers 2

Tobe Hooper later directed, in 1985, Lifeforce which starred Patrick Stewart.

Lawrence Block only wrote one other movie script, Captain America, which was so bad it was scary...

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