Hooper's career has had such a downward spiral that whenever
you look back at his older work, it's impossible not to look
on it more kindly simply because it's not, say, The
Mangler. The Funhouse is a case in
point - a movie that was something of a disappointment on release
now seems pretty decent.
Shot between Salem's Lot and Poltergeist
- when Hooper seemed Most Likely to Succeed out of the horror
new wave that included George Romero, Wes Craven and David Cronenberg
- the film opens with a pastiche of the opening scenes of Halloween
(and elements of Psycho), setting the scene
for a movie which, if shot today, might almost be seen as a
post-modern self-referential production. Alternatively, we might
simply think it was a movie bereft of originality.
true early 80's style, it takes a group of rather unappealing
'teens' and sets them up for the slaughter - virginal Amy, her
meathead date and their obnoxious friends are visiting the carnival
(against the express wishes of Amy's parents, who ominously
warn of the deaths that occurred in the last town it visited).
In a dubious plot development, the kids decide to spend the
night in the Funhouse (that's a ghost train to you Brits). Well,
that's what you get for not letting them visit bars until they're
21 I guess.
while making out, they witness a murder by the mutated son of
the Funhouse's owner, and after clumsily making their presence
known, are left to try and escape before Mutie tracks them down.
handles all this with skill, but no amount of creepiness can
disguise the flaws here. The biggest is that we have to wait
over an hour for any killing to commence, and when it does,
it's all too quick and too dull. Hooper succeeded in not showing
any blood in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre because
the film was so brutal, so intense and so damned good that he
didn't need to - here, the virtually off-screen deaths simply
don't deliver the required shocks. It's hard to see what the
British censors found to cut back in the day, and mind-boggling
to know that this film was briefly considered a video nasty.
film certainly packs in familiar elements. The mutant killer
is little more than a revamped Leatherface, and many of the
sets and father-son moments could have come straight from Texas
Chainsaw (or its sequel, which also uses a fairground
setting). The teens are stalk-and-slash stereotypes and a sub-plot
involving Amy's irritating kid brother goes nowhere (oddly,
her parents are set up to seem somewhat sinister too, it seems,
but nothing comes of that either).
the film does work is in setting up the seedy, unsavoury and
unpleasant Carnival world. Of course, in the UK at least, a
visit to your local fair will be far scarier, with chavs looking
to mug the unsuspecting, but the carnival here is suitably grubby,
sinister and other-wordly. Here at least, Hooper shows his masterful
skills at creating an unsettling atmosphere.
no classic, The Funhouse is at least a harmless
timewaster. Whether that is enough to buy this bare-bones DVD
(without even a trailer) is open to question.
IT NOW (UK)
IT NOW (USA)