Friday, September 28, 2012

The Funlousy: "The Funhouse" (1981)

First, I want to bore you with a story from my past.

I shanghaied my poor father into taking me to see this when it first came out. I was 13. All I remember about it is the Elizabeth Berridge nude scene (I thought she was cute), and some guy getting an axe to the head.

Now, twenty years later, I rented this to relive my youth (and Berridge's topless scene). This film is not scary; wasn't then, wasn't now.

The rest of this review is one giant spoiler just because. After getting frightened in the shower by her little brother with a rubber knife (ripping off both "Halloween" and "Psycho" in the process), Amy (Berridge) goes to the local carnival with her hunky date and another couple. Little brother follows them there. The two couples wander around the carnival for the first half of the movie. I do not know if this was supposed to be character development, all that developed for me was boredom. On a whim, the couples decide to spend the night in the funhouse, watched over by a guy wearing a Frankenstein mask. Kevin Conway plays three different roles as three different carnival barkers, and for the life of me I cannot figure out why. The couples witness Frankenface murder the fortune teller (Sylvia Miles, eons from "Midnight Cowboy") and the funhouse barker (Frank's father) comes in and unmasks his son. Of course, his son is a monster and probably retarded to boot, continuing the long cinematic history of having mentally retarded people as psychotic killers. The two couples are trapped in the funhouse, running from the killer and the killer's daddy. Little brother hangs around long enough to get picked up by his parents, but does not tell them where Amy is...well, I guess he was afraid of her. Again, I cannot figure out why. The two couples are offed one by one, until the final fight.

Tobe Hooper, riding the goodwill he generated with "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" for much too long, just cannot seem to get behind the screenplay. The gore is low, as is the body count (for a slasher film), and the pace is deadly slow. There are a few dark moments where you cannot tell what is happening. All the carny folk come off as hicks, the teens are horny, and the killer is a genetic mistake. Aside from Tobe Hooper's name, this is just another slasher film from the early 1980's that somehow did not spawn a sequel. Sometimes your prayers are answered.

I cannot recommend "The Funhouse," although it is better than Hooper's later "Crocodile." (Boy, I really hated that film!). (*) out of five stars.