Nov 8, 2010

Final Girl Film Club: The Funhouse (1981)

Disclaimer: This review is a part of Stacie Ponder's Final Girl Film Club. She picks the flick, and (like a bunch of zombie sheep...bah!) we review 'em. Sounds so simple that even a mutant retard in a Frankenstein mask could do it. - Earl

I'm going to be totally honest with you all here for a moment.  I haven't seen The Funhouse in probably twenty years.  I'm doing this review straight from memory, but that's okay.  This was one of those films that was being shown on Showtime or HBO back when we first got cable, an I must have seen it a couple of dozen times in all.  I could probably close my eyes, put on an REO Speedwagon album and the film would just play on the inside of my eyelids.  My own personal freakshow...with boobs!

But I will use the Internets to assist me in this endeavor.  Because what's a review without salient sucky details?   Like the fact that horror-meister Tobe Hooper directed it.  I had no idea that he was involved way back when I saw it, but thinking about it now it kinda makes sense.  He had done back-woodsy, red-necky weirdos before in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the awful Eaten Alive.  So back-woodsy, red-necky carnival folk seems like a logical progression. 

I remember the film starting as a ripoff of the beginning of Halloween.  A POV tracking shot following the killer's eyes through a mask.  Or maybe it was a Psycho homage because there's a nekkid shower scene almost immediately.  I guess if you are gonna steal, it's better to steal from the classics, amirite?  Then the action switches to a virginal young girl going to a carnival with a new beau and some friends.  They get the silly idea of spending the night in the funhouse of the carnival...why not?  But then bad things start happening after they witness the murder of a fortune teller/carny hooker at the hands of a dude in a monster mask.

Seems the poor guy got a little excited at the prospect of some way-past-her-prime hooker vajajay, and he prematurely popped his load.  Much to the delight and laughter of the old lady of the evening.  But, as the saying goes, it's not nice to laugh at a mutant carny retard after a premature ejaculation.  Jenny from Forrest Gump knew that.  If she had laughed at Forrest in her dorm room he would have worn her head as a hat all around the Gulf Coast instead of naming a shrimp boat after her.  But I digress...

Laughing at the lovable lug was just one in a series of stupid mistakes made in this film.  Like spending the night in the funhouse in the first place.  Or stealing the mutant's father's money when they thought no one was looking.  Now the game is really afoot.  All they had to do was hunker down and hide until morning, but nooooo!  Had to go and piss off the freak's daddy.  You can probably guess where the rest of the film goes from there.  Freak and father hunt down the meddling kids (hey!) until the eventual bloody end for most of them.  Sure, there is a survivor.  But it's not telegraphed by Tobe Hooper at all.  Except that it is.

So in the end (hehe), did I love it or did I hate it?  Well, I kinda loved it.  I think.  That may have to do with my fond memories of watching R-rated cinema at home as often as I wanted to.  I seem to recall that it was a bit of a slow build-up.  I don't they even wound up in the funhouse until about 45 minutes into the film.  I could be wrong about that one.  But what I do remember, I think I really liked.  

I'm interested to read what the rest of the Film Club Coolies have to say about this one upon re-watching it or watching it for the first time, for that matter.  Like I said, I remember it so well that I don't think I'm missing anything by re-watching it right now.  Then again, maybe I am.
Note: Remember to play the Badgerdaddy Trivia Challenge every day. I'm really trying hard to imagine Forrest Gump as a serial killer now...FUN!


badgerdaddy said...

I think, if I remember right, that this was based on a book of the same name by Dean Koontz, but was totally altered and Koontz disowned it. IMO, the movie is far, far better than the book. In your face, Koontz!

Great WV - trolmet

Avitable said...

I haven't seen it nor heard of it, although I can't imagine Tobe Hooper putting together a movie that would be better than something Koontz wrote - the man is creepy.

Verdant Earl said...

badg - A quick look at the trivia section for this film on IMDB tells the tale that the book by Koontz was actually a novelization of the screenplay. But the release of the film was delayed by production problems, so the book was published prior to the movie's release. So it's the other way around. The book was based on the movies, not the other way around.

Avitable - I'm not the biggest Hooper fan, and I'm not a Koontz fan either. But Affleck was the bomb in Phantoms! Word, bitch! Phantoms like a mallfucker!

Avitable said...

Why aren't you a Koontz fan? Some of his books have been as disturbing as King - Intensity comes to mind. And then there are more bittersweet books, like his Odd Thomas series, or Lightning. I never know what I'm going to get from him, but I think he always writes well.

Verdant Earl said...

Avitable - see that's the thing. I think he can conjure up a disturbing tale, that's for sure. But I was never impressed with his writing skills. Characters, dialogue, etc... I probably haven't read enough of his novels. He has a ton. And it's weird how he used so many pen names early in his career. Like he had to use trickery just to get his stuff published. Or you could counter-argue that it didn't matter what name he used, he was that good. Me? I generally finished a Koontz novel with a big ole taste of meh in my mouth. But I'd be willing to give him another try since it's probably been 15-20 years since I've read one of his books.

sybil law said...

I actually think I've seen this one! My friend Suzanne and I (in junior high and high school) used to purposely rent bad horror flicks and watch them all the time!
Forrest would be a GREAT serial killer!

Heff said...

Never even heard of this one !