The Funhouse, as it turns out, isn’t all that fun. At least that’s the case for four misguided and IQ challenged teens looking for a place to get their grind on after hours. Breaking rules and hooking up are two of the biggest no-no’s in ‘80s horror. Those rules only apply, though, if you are trying to avoid becoming slasher fodder – lucky for the viewing public nothing could be further from their sexed-up and ultimately doomed little minds.
Taking place almost entirely at a sleazy carnival, complete with sleazy carnies, a freak show, and a peep show, The Funhouse capitalizes on the near universal fear of weirdos and traveling side shows. I mean really? What is the attraction? Well, outside of a perfect place to take a date (if you are a Douchebag), win her a stuffed animal, and then force her to sleep over inside a creepy funhouse inhabited by a mutated freak. Actually, I’ve been on a few dates where a mutated freak would have injected a bit of fun into an otherwise drab situation. But that’s another story for another time.
The weirdest part of this movie has nothing to do with freaks with axes or carnies. No, it involves little Joey, the younger brother of one of the doomed teens. He sneaks out of his house to follow his big sis to the carnival and becomes captured by a creeper (another carny) there. The film doesn’t come right out and tell you the dude is a pedophile, but it doesn’t say he isn’t. Particularly strange is for some reason after capture Joey is asleep (just coming out of sleep, anyway). Other than being captured (and possibly butt-plugged) Joey has no other role in the film. Draw your own conclusions.
Overall the film is unique and stylish enough to make it a must watch for slasher fans, largely due to Tobe Hooper’s pinpoint direction. Hooper builds up the fear several times including a harrowing scene involving the protagonist screaming for her Dad who is just a few feet away. Of course, he can’t hear her because a giant fan. Close, but no cigar.
This is by no means a super gore-soaked film. Instead The Funhouse relies on foreboding undertones and suspense to create a memorable slasher film during an era full of them. Hooper’s work on this film rivals the work he did on his oh so famous first film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Here’s hoping his next film, From a Buick 8 takes him back to his horror roots (he has struggled mightily to get his groove back). It’s a Stephen King adaptation, which Hooper should be familiar with after his excellent work on the TV adaptation of Salem’s Lot. Horror fans are pulling for ya!
Snore Factor: ZZz