Thursday, October 12, 2017

Movie Review: "The Funhouse" (1981)

Director: Tobe Hooper
Year: 1981
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 36 minutes

Four teens decide to spend the night in the funhouse of a traveling carnival. Once inside for the night, they witness a murder by one of the carnies, which makes them the killer's next target. Now, they must find a way out of the funhouse before the killer finds them.

Ahh, the carnival, a place where people can have fun, eat junk food, ride rickety rides, and play fairway games that will cost more than any prize is worth. There is also a bit of a perceived underlying shadiness to the carnival worker. Maybe it's because of their nomadic lifestyle or the fact that they are strangers in every town where they travel. They are, more often than not, portrayed as unsavory characters in films. In "The Funhouse,"' this is no different. Famed horror director Tobe Hooper, who is best known for his iconic film "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," plays on our pre-existing fears by bringing in the most unsavory elements of the carnival and amplifying them. A group of teens, played by Amy Harper, Cooper Huckabee, Largo Woodruff, and Miles Chapin, attend the carnival one evening and being the horny, rambunctious people they are, decide to spend the night in the funhouse. They plan to hang out and have some sex, but what they didn't expect was to witness a murder. When the group is discovered, they become the killer's next target in order to make sure there are no witnesses.

This movie starts off with what could be called an homage, though some may call it a ripoff, of other classic horror films like "Halloween" and "Psycho," played mostly for laughs. From there, the movie takes a long break from any horror elements in order to introduce the four main characters as well as the carnival setting. Hooper and his makeup and costuming department do try to make the carnival barker and the other carnies look as creepy as possible. It isn't until well past the halfway point where anything truly violent or horrific happens. Once the kills start unfolding, the pace is pretty frantic from that point on as this mutant killer chases the four teens around an unbelievably large funhouse, picking each of them off one by one. There are a few really gross, bloody moments that will please most horror fans, and there is some tremendous looking makeup work on the mutant killer antagonist. There is, however, an odd subplot involving the main character's younger brother as he sneaks out and goes to the carnival himself. He pops up throughout the majority of the downtime and his little subplot ends without much excitement or horror which made us wonder why he was included in the first place. His whole little adventure seems like superfluous fluff to increase the runtime. The main meat of the movie lies in the tale of the older teens, and though their story takes a while to get going, it ends in spectacular, often bloody fashion.

"The Funhouse" might not be Tobe Hooper's best film, but it's a solid entry into his filmography.

My Rating: 5.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 6/10
IMDB's Rating: 5.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 67%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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