Sunday, June 12, 2011

Funhouse (1981)

***(out of four stars)

A traveling carnival comes to town. Four teens get the bright idea of riding the funhouse and staying for the night. After the carnival closes, the teens witness the murder of the carnival fortune teller, by a man wearing a Frankenstein mask. The teens must stay alive long enough to escape... The Funhouse!

The acting in this film is quite good. Amy is played by Elizabeth Berridge. She's quiet and shy, but underneath that exterior, she's looking to get into some trouble. Cooper Huckabee plays Buzz, the tough, jock boyfriend. With them is Richie (Miles Chapin) and his girlfriend, Liz (Largo Woodruff). All of our teens play their roles respectively. But my favorite comes with the role of Conrad Strake played by the irreplaceable, Kevin Conway. This dude really brings out the "creepiness" in all those carnival workers you see. He plays three different roles - all of them equally effective and equally creepy.

The Monster is another great character in this film. The monster is a carnival worker but underneath his "Frankenstein" mask, he is a deformed creature. This is Conway's son in the film. In one scene the Monster kills Madame Zena (Slyvia Miles) after he pays her for sex. The monster prematurely ejaculates and wants his money back. When Zena doesn't comply with his wishes, well, he kills her. There's more than one way to get your rocks off, eh? When Conrad finds out that Zena is dead he's enraged. There's some banter back and forth where we find out that Conrad is obviously pro abortion. During this time the teens are listening and witnessing all of this from above. Richie drops his lighter and is spotted. Now Conrad and the Monster have some business to attend too.

What ensues is the teens being picked off one by one. Of course, our heroin Amy, is the last one left standing. There's a show down with her and the Monster, but you know he isn't going to win, right? I won't spoil anything here. Watch the film.

The kills for the most part are very tame. It's not a bad thing, but if you're looking for blood and gore, it's just not in this film. Sorry. What you will get is that authentic carnival atmosphere. That general creepiness that follows those things. Hooper did an amazing job capturing that atmosphere that a carnival brings. I commend him on that.

This film is fun. It has that wonderful 1980's look and feel. The characters are great, the carnival workers are great - again, an authentic feel to it. This film was shot in Hooper's Heyday. When he really had talent that resonated on the screen. It's a must see for sure.

Starring: Elizabeth Berridge, Kevin Conway, Cooper Huckabee

Directed by: Tobe Hooper

Screenplay by: Larry Block

96 mins


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