The Funhouse (1981) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
|This horror film was directed by the legendary
Tobe Hooper, who began as a wild independent filmmaker with Texas
Chainsaw Massacre, and later directed the mainstream horror success,
"The Funhouse" has plenty of excellent elements.
atmosphere is outstanding - constantly creepy and foreboding, and
appropriately sleazy. In order to create this film about a group of
teens who decide to spend the night in the funhouse after a traveling
carnival closes for the night, Hooper found a carnival in Ohio that
just the look he wanted, and plenty of old-style rides from the 40's and
50's. He had the
entire show shipped and re-assembled in North Miami for filming. It
provided a marvelous ambiance for the film, combining stunning colors
and graphics with the constant suggestion of danger and disturbed
behavior. The film was shot in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, mostly at
night, and it has a great look.
When it came to recreating the carny folks, the casting was inspired. This is about the looniest, most decrepit looking cast ever assembled outside a Todd Browning film.
seven minutes, essentially the opening credits, are an inspired bit of
horror film lunacy. We see a masked killer stalk a beautiful young
girl as she heads into the shower. We look through the eye-holes in
his evil clown mask as he seems to be searching through a house filled
with bizarre masks and macabre props and posters. He finally draws the
shower curtain back dramatically, and we see the blade descend again
and again, while we hear the Psycho shower music. Then we see a close
up of the knife collapsing against her skin, and he hear her shout
something like "Joey, I'm going to kill you".
As it turns out, it was just a kid brother playing an especially dramatic prank on his older sister.
The next 35 minutes of the film are the problem area. Essentially, nothing happens. This is the traditional horror movie period of foreshadowing, and I guess the tension is building or something, but all we see is four teenagers attending a carnival and having fun. Every so often, we see something that looks sort of suspicious. A creepy carnival barker holds his gaze on one of the girls too long, or something like that. Mainly just four kids having fun and getting stoned. As I noted earlier, the carnival is a particularly garish one, but there's just the usual bag ladies and fortune tellers and booth managers and two-headed cows that you would find in a real carnival. Great atmosphere, great photography, no action.
|Then, on a dare, they
decide to spend the night in the funhouse. Even this produces no
excitement for a while, as they make out for a bit. They interrupt
their lust to investigate some noises, and end up viewing a murder. We
are actually about 45 minutes into the movie before anything affects
them personally, but then they start to be killed off one-by-one by a
carnival barker and his mutant son, and things speed up a bit.
It moves too slowly for my taste, and needs more scares earlier, but some genuine positives make it worth seeing if you like the genre, especially on the DVD, with its theatrical aspect ratio.
There are so many positive elements, that it's too bad they didn't spend a bit more time on the script.
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