PLOT: For a night of fun, four suburban friends decide to frequent the local carnival exhibit that comes to town once a year. Among the incredible hodgepodge of sideshow attractions and freaked-out-carnie-curios, hidden from plain sight, is a hideously deformed monster-man masquerading in a Frankenstein head. And he wants to stalk and slash every goddamn patron on site!
REVIEW: After departing quite a bit from his trademark verve, vim and vigor - visually, tonally, and in terms of pacing - Tobe Hooper returned from the slow-burning TV effort of SALEM'S LOT to give us an admirably atmospheric freakshow-slasher-jewel in THE FUNHOUSE. And it's one of my favorites! First off, the flick was shot in 1980 and released in 1981, during arguably the height of slasher-flick-freedom and unremitting onscreen carnage. Remember, the Reagan era all but neutered slasher flicks like Lorena f*cking Bobbitt by the time the decade came to an end. So, just in terms of timing, Hooper's flick greatly benefitted right from the jump as a result of its current filmmaking climate. The general zeitgeist allowed such, a fact that shan't be overlooked. Now on to the show!
What I love so much about THE FUNHOUSE is the way it reverts to analogue Tobe Hooper. His vintage grindhouse visual style - fostered so brashly and incomparably in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and EATEN ALIVE - is not just prominently displayed in THE FUNHOUSE, the volume is cranked to motherf*cking 12 by the third act! The grand and gaudy Giallo-inspired neon color schemes, for example. My man pulls out all the titillating tricks to give us another example of a film populated with incredibly real, scarily maladjusted weirdos...and doing so in a way that perfectly reflects its overly-odd subject matter. This just in, no one can cast, shoot and capture the deplorably seedy, slimy and sleazy better than Tobe f*ckin' Hooper!
So in terms of plotting, yes, nothing terribly original sticks out in THE FUNHOUSE. But it's not about that. It's about the creepily un-duplicable atmosphere and bloodcurdling mood that Hooper establishes and continues to mount and build and boil until the cauldron finally erupts into utter madness by the final reel. Shite gets hectic! And it's about the characters. The seedy, sordid freaks you never seen in movies these days, a la Todd Browning's 30s classic. And to that end, you just never really know who the bad guy is in THE FUNHOUSE. I mean, any number of unsavory characters that we meet throughout the film could be hiding under that Frankenstein mask. So not quite a full-fledged whodunit, but definitely a suspenseful mystery as to who the real culprit is in the end. I love that aspect of the flick too, never knowing who to trust or who to lend faith in...never feeling like we have a safe place to turn once seemingly trapped inside the amusement park. That sense of enclosure and inescapability seems to be a theme in Hooper's work, and why not, dude's masterful at it.
BEST TNA SCENE: A lot to like here - a booby-laden shower scene for one , a bizarre prostitute seduction for another - but I'll go with the prurient three-way onstage striptease as an actual carnival attraction...during which three sexy broads peel off their skivvies for a rowdy crowd of liquored-up leaches. Good stuff!
BEST GORE BIT: I'll always go to bat for the wildly profligate FUNHOUSE finale, in which Hooper gets to have a ton of fun with an elaborate set-piece. Our deformed monster, on the attack, accidentally backhands a crowbar into an electrical mainframe...electrocuting and entangling himself in a mechanical pulley system. He screams, twitches, strangles and ultimately gags on his own blood. Sick shite!
HALLOWEEN DRINKING GAME: Sink another sip down the hatch every time:
- A person is killed in the film
- A ghastly new carnival ride or exhibit is taken
- Boobies appear onscreen