Monday, July 2, 2012

Golden Title: The Funhouse (1981)

The Funhouse (1981) (AKA Carnival of Terror)
Rating: *****
starring: Elizabeth Berridge, Shawn Carson and Jeanne Austin

Opening with a room adorned with horror posters and monster toys, a figure picked up a mask and began to talk a girl in the showers. Unknowing of the danger that watches her, she finds herself soon stabbed to death by the masked assailant. Or so she thought.

Meet Amy, who not only is pranked by her younger brother with a fake knife and a mask, but is also planning to spend a night out of town, and into a traveling fun fair, with her friends and boyfriend, much against her father's wishes. The rebellious youngsters checked out one carnival attraction at a time, namely a 21-and-over strip show, Madame Zena the fortune teller, an freakshow, and a magic show. But all'seasy fun and games until one of them decided to spend a night in one of the fair's bigger attractions, a dark ride known as The Funhouse after closing hours. 

With much weed packed with them to smoke and spirits in high hopes, the group reluctantly settles inside the ride, and witnessed a frenzied attack of Gunther, a silent, Frankenstein-wearing ride assistant against the prostituting Madame Zena after sexually insulting him. 

Out of fear, the two couples tried to leave, but when the teenagers try to leave, but find themselves locked inside the ride and, with one of them stealing some money behind their backs, finds themselves in a dire situation once the ride assailant's father, Conrad Straker, the ride's barker, became aware of their presence. Now out to hunt them down, Conrad sic his son, revealing to be a deformed freak with a sharp maw and piercing red eyes, to hunt them down and eliminate any witnesses. 

Now trapped in a labyrinth full of ghoulish figures, traps and two murderous figures out in the shadows, can these youngsters survive the night and make it to daylight?

Thus settles everything you need to know and love about Tobe Hooper's next masterpiece. Though underrated and often regarded as another slasher in the 80s, The Funhouse is exactly that with a few good tricks on its own.

The general build of the movie is one thing that makes The Funhouse a unique slasher; though it's already uneasy, the mood and pace early on the movie gave us some time to know and enjoy our pecking order. And while they are as thin in character as a walking stick, they're, nonetheless, reminiscent of the usual Hooper style of character direction, which are usually colorful characters that dons their own respective pro and con traits.  Of course, the rest of the casts, usually adult figures and carnies of this film, are more thinner than the main cast, which made the four more relatable by comparison, though one can't almost say the same about the two main bad guys here, the Straker family.

A few months ahead before Friday the 13th Part 2 debuts adult Jason, Hooper already fueled his own man-monster mongoloid that is Gunther. What makes him somewhat deep was it's body language of a creature in turmoil; while his stepfather beats him up in for his mistakes and wrong doings, he also yearns for acceptance and even go as far as siding with the same man who beats him. In return, his father accepts him, and in his own way, tries to protect him from any danger that would expose Gunther's true nature, which just so happens to be the four unwilling teens who just happen to do a dumb decision at a wrong place, at a wrong time.

The build lasts for almost an hour, which maybe a turn off for many impatient viewers, but it may all be worth it as the last act had the stalk and kill gag going, and done with ravishingly great effect.

Another of Hooper's creative innovation for the movie was the premise itself; the dark ride features a random number of automatons and mannequins, colored lightings that would make Dario and Bava proud and eerie music that taunts and shackles the hapless victims into falling prey to the two killers. Hooper actually made a menace out of a seemingly ordinary, and would have been a safe and fun, location, perfectly capturing it in a stylish cinematography, as the threats had their full advantage against these victims, though, it did however turned against them when some of the teens decided to fight back. All of this was put to a full example during the film's ever tense finale, where the final girl wanders cautiously around the gears and pumps, experiencing one lunging mannequin to another, flashing lights intensifying the situation and mechanical laughters mocking her damaged persona and weary anticipation of an awaiting danger ala Grand Guingol.

Though some of the kills aren't as powerful as the rest on its time, the scripting needed some work and some viewers might find the film lacking the same rawness as that of Hooper's true masterpiece, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Funhouse still delivers what slasher films delivers the best: good kills, good scares, good build-up and a terrifying villain. Dishearteningly scary? Not much. Fun to watch? Heck yes.

1 female strangled to death against a live fuse box
1 male strangled with rope, later gets an axe buried into his head
1 female clawed to death
1 male pushed to a sword, impaled
1 male shot
1 male crushed to death between gears
total: 6

1 comment:

  1. gteat review for an uber-amazing movie. You know, I'm totally in love with The Funhouse, and IMO it's Hooper's second-best movie he ever made.