Friday, July 25, 2014

The Funhouse (1981) Review:

Director Tobe Hooper is not one to have many theatrically released films under his belt but for it's his earliest efforts people seem to remember them the most. Most notably would be The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), but that also means including this one. Although it is not as cleverly crafted nor as strangely terrifying as Mr. Hooper's first outing; it does have some redeemable qualities. The part that works the best to this picture's credit is the idea of which it focuses on. Funhouses are never what they promise, anywhere. The only intent funhouses are made for are to have fun by being creeped out. Nobody really goes there for actual fun and games.

"I sense no danger here"
Well not according to these characters. Meet Amy (Elizabeth Berridge) a young teen girl looking to have fun with her hotshot boyfriend Buzz (Cooper Huckabee) and two other friends. Together they head out to the local carnival that's running in town and decide to be there snobbish young selves. Adding to that particular attitude is completely ignoring her parents wishes of not attending the carnival since there were some issues with it from the year before. Oh but no harm should come this time, it was all a misunderstanding - sure. Protagonist wise there isn't any particular actor that stands out. Lawrence Block's screenplay is at best average. It has interesting ideas but doesn't bother to conclude them with much closure except for its main plot.

Funny thing is that Block only wrote for one other production and that was the failed and now cheap looking Captain America (1990). But perhaps even stranger is that there are various elements to the story that are similar to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974). Specifically that some characters have the Southern accents, work as a family and do not have normal lives. All very similar to the cannibal family that Leatherface belonged to. The man in charge of this family is The Barker (Kevin Conway - who would play better roles later on his career). Conway is probably the best part when it came to characters but sadly he was underused. Along with Conway were other strange characters that appeared from time to time. An example of this would be of some old preacher woman. And her significance was for?

Ahhh, there's Mr. Conway!
As for the funhouse itself, since that is where our story takes place mostly, it works at times. Some of the vintage props look great because by today they look rather creepy. But there were also other items that felt like something today’s funhouses would include too. The best particular scene would be the chase in the basement. That was creepier than the actual funhouse. Andrew Laszlo's cinematography, the guy behind First Blood (1982) got some nice shots of the carnival but once inside the funhouse, nothing was really interesting. John Beal's music was alright occasionally. He did have some creepy tunes but other than that it wasn't very memorable. It's not unwatchable but there are better things to see unless carnivals are truly unsettling to you.

The setting can't fail at being creepy because what funhouse isn't? What makes it average though is its non-engaging characters and flimsy writing.

Points Earned --> 5:10

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