PLOT: On one fatefully frightful Halloween night, a group of friends head out to the Land of Illusion haunted attraction, only to be welcomed by a sadistic sextet of the world's most dangerous serial slashers.
REVIEW: With a good decade spent in the editing bay, chopping up big and small screen footage alike - newfound director Andy Palmer (FIND ME, ALIEN STRAIN) shows equally trenchant high-volume knife-skills of a different kind with his aptly titled third feature FUNHOUSE MASSACRE. What a blast! Boasting a brisk and eminently entertaining tempo, a cool and clearly presented premise, gorgeously evoked Halloween atmospherics and one hell of an inventively tallied kill-count, FUNHOUSE MASSACRE delivers exactly what its billed as...a pleasurable flood of immeasurable blood-spill. Really, outside of a couple of story arcs that didn't quite warrant the triumphs they feign, as well as a bit of a second-half backslide into the climactic realm of the cartoonish, in the end I found FUNHOUSE MASSACRE to be a riotous, ruthless royal rumble of well-scripted, well-meaning comedic horror. Do wise friends and enter at the funhouse once!
It's Halloween night. We're treated to a 10-minute, tone-setting pierce of a preamble - both harshly humorous and viscerally violent - in which we visit a "super-max" mental asylum under the watchful eye of a worn out warden (played by the great Robert Englund). As he gives a young female reporter a sightseeing tour around the asylum, he introduces her (and us by proxy) to the ragtag gaggle of inimically infamous inmates harbored in the institution: we have Animal McCannibal (E.E. Bell) - a chef who got caught literally serving customers; Dr. Suave (Sebastian Siegel) - a sadistic dentist with ill intent; The Taxidermist (Clint Howard) - a bird-stuffing specialist: Rocco the Clown (Mars Crain) - a former wrestler known for brutally killing too many opponents in the ring; and last but not least...Mental Manny Dyer (Jere Burns) - the de facto ring leader and cult figurehead responsible for the biggest mass suicide in history. Quite a swell roundup, right? Fuckin-A! Especially when a sixth member, a sexy doll-faced seductress, Stitch Face as she's affectionately dubbed (Candice De Visser), breaks the five other sickos out and make for a hideaway in the town's nearby Land of Illusion Scream Park. Let the motherf*cking fun begin!
First though, we need protagonists to counterweigh the evilly antagonistic sextet. To that end, we meet Laurie (Renee Dorian) and Morgan (Matt Angel), an adorably innocent and budding romantic couple, both shy and virginally awkward. Easy to side with and root for. There's the sexy as hell Christina (Chasty Ballesteros) and her jockstrap boy-toy Jason (Sterling Sulieman); as well as a pair of stoner buddies Mikey (Michael Eric Reid) and Randall (Leigh Parker). Drawing further sympathy is a duo of cops, the grizzled vet Sheriff Kate (Scottie Thompson) and the bumbling newbie Deputy Doyle (Ben Begley). It's worth mentioning here that both Begley and Dorian co-wrote the script, which goes a long a way in the tonal horror-humor retention intended from page to screen. That is, with these actors writing their own parts, a better, more inherent grasp of the material makes for a sturdily supported foundation of tonal consistency. If that makes sense. Anyway, as the heinous half-dozen mass-murderers hightail it out of the asylum and head for the Land of Illusion Scream Park to hide out - run by Courtney Gains no less (CHILDREN OF THE CORN, THE BURBS) - an ineluctable collision course between them and our harem of heroes turns our destination into an enthralling gore-slathered slaughterhouse!
We won't divulge much more in the way of plot, but one of the rad things about FUNHOUSE MASSACRE - aside from boasting a gruesome gallery of specialized antagonists - is just how double-sided the grisly showdowns become. This isn't a simple case of six maniacal madmen (and madwoman) picking off one unsuspecting teen at a time, oh no. What's cool here is the traded blows between both sides. Some of the serial killers triumph, some fatally fail, and some of our so called heroes do the same. This keeps the viewer off-guard with unpredictable action, which lends itself to a far more entertaining watch. Moreover, the death scenes themselves and murderous modalities they encompass are nothing short of refreshing. Rocco, for example, wields a giant High Strike carnival hammer as his cudgeling death instrument of choice. Doctor Suave, on the other hand, pulls out deleterious dentistry drills as his torture implement...so on and so forth. These weapons give way to some wildly flagrant fatalities, mounds of goopy red viscera and innumerable rivulets of blood. Good stuff! Add to the intrinsic production value of Land of Illusions itself - ambient fog wafting about, neon-dipped flickering light-work, grotesquely themed set-pieces, authentic looking animatronics etc. - and we get a tangibly elicited Halloween spirit that works in the favor of the movies overall mood.
Perhaps most important though, I was not for a moment bored while watching. It's a likely a credit to Palmer's editing acumen the way the movie jaunts along so briskly, never allowing a truly dull spot to distract the blitzes of ultra-violent action. Even in the low-wattage scenes, the witty energy and character synergy is high, studded with doses of good-intentioned humor that allows the film to tow the line between being too austere as a straight slasher flick, and too over-the-top as a re-appropriated farce. I for one loved the sly little call-back to THE BURBS when one character calls Courtney Gains Pinocchio. Loved it. No, the tone and tempo excel here, which makes for an uninterruptably attractive spectacle. Speaking of, props to DP Filip Vandewal for crafting such beauteously shot night scenes and such a palpably festive Halloween milieu. I'm not sure what the budget was for this film, but trust, it looks legit.
In opinion, the only facets of the flick that fall short for me are the ones involving lofty if familiar story arcs among a few of its characters. The rookie cop becoming a hero for one, the burgeoning romance consummated amid abject panic for another. Not that I didn't buy these story beats per se, it's just that, at a mere 86 minutes or so, not enough time was allotted in order to fully chart a well earned payoff. Furthermore, by in effect having two sets of protagonists - the two cops and the cute couple - there's an emotional divestment here that sort of disallows each character to warrant true sympathy, triumph, or whatever their particular story arc involves. But really, this is a movie called FUNHOUSE MASSACRE, and on that titular promise alone, this movie f*cking delivers! It's well conceived, concisely laid out premise is bolstered by barbarous bouts of unrelenting carnage, finely balanced tone and tempo, gliding pace, and wonderfully elicited Halloween ambience. I mean it guys, FUNHOUSE MASSACRE's a gas!