Review by Ed Nguyen
Elizabeth Berridge, Cooper Huckabee, Sylvia Miles, Largo Woodruff, Miles Chapin,
Director: Tobe Hooper
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0
Subtitles: English, French
Video: Color, anamorphic widescreen 2.35:1
Length: 96 min.
Release Date: September 7, 2004
will scream with terror. You will
beg for release. But there will be
no escape, for there is no release from the Funhouse."
Hooper has made a successful career directing horror films.
Although his efforts of late have been fairly laughable, who can forget
his cult classic debut, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Or,
for mainstream family audiences, the Steven Spielberg-produced Poltergeist? Or, one of my secret favs, Lifeforce,
not really a great film but certainly great to look at!
Another of Hooper's early films, The
Funhouse (1981), is a solid and entertaining film deserving of cult status.
premise is a fairly simple one. One
evening, two teen couples go on a double date to a carnival.
The guys decide it might be exciting to spend the night hidden away in
the house of horrors. Typical,
right? Still, the girls reluctantly
agree, and all four teens sneak off into the spooky funhouse.
Unfortunately, something goes horribly amiss, and the teens' fun outing
transforms into a night of sheer terror.
a cast comprised largely of unknowns, save for a young Elizabeth Berridge (best
known as Mozart's buxom wife in Amadeus).
Berridge’s girl-next-door persona in The
Funhouse provides audiences with a likable and winsome heroine.
As for the other cast members, well, this is
a horror film, after all. Some of
them might just meet a ghastly and untimely demise.
In fact, The Funhouse opens
with a typical slasher shower sequence that is a blatant rip-off of (or homage
to) both Psycho and Halloween.
portrays Amy, the young heroine who goes out on an evening date with her
somewhat obnoxious new boyfriend Buzz (Cooper Huckabee).
Amy's friend, Liz (Largo Woodruff), tags along with her nerdy date,
Richie (Miles Chaplin). And sneaking along behind all of them is Amy's pesky kid
brother Joey (Shawn Carson), who ends wandering aimlessly around the carnival
before losing track of his sister and getting scared out of his own wits.
the film’s four teens hide in the funhouse, they are accidentally locked in.
More ominously, they are not alone inside, and after secretly witnessing
a blood-chilling crime of passion, they realize that unless they can escape from the
funhouse, the same fate awaits them, too.
the plot is fairly predictable, and any horror fan worth his salt should
reasonably surmise the general direction of the storyline.
Still, The Funhouse, which is
based on a Dean R. Koontz novel, retains a good sense of style and thrills and
offers enough plausible twists to elicit more than a few sudden shrieks.
I've always considered carnivals at night to be a little spooky.
I'm not speaking of amusement parks, mind you, but real
traveling carnivals, with their fortune-tellers, magicians, houses of horrors,
and exhibits of mysterious or misshapen creatures (and sometimes people).
Throw in a creepy barker or two, and a carnival can be downright freaky
in the dark. This film has a
particularly eerie house of horrors, and if a Moebius strip were constructed
like a house of horrors, it would be much like the one in The
Funhouse. Not only does it seem
larger inside than outside, but it comes with the prerequisite shadows and dark
chambers, not to mention plenty of mechanical zombies, chains and gears,
cobwebs, and things that go bump in the night.
The Funhouse is not a masterpiece by
any stretch of the imagination, it is still a lot of spooky fun and well worth
checking out on a dark and stormy night!
presented in a color widescreen format. Although
the transfer is only single-layered, the film looks quite nice, with good color
saturation, accurate flesh tones, and solid black levels.
Details are sharp and clear without any obvious dust or dirt,
surprisingly. This is a very clean
transfer with only a trace of grain.
presented in stereo 2.0. It's not
too powerful but generally serves the film well.
Elizabeth Berridge proves to be a great shrieker, and had she done more
horror flicks, she might have given Jamie Lee Curtis a run for the money as teen
horror queen of the early 1980's.
are no blood-thirsty, murderous clowns in this film, contrary to any impression
given by the DVD's front cover artwork. The
only bonus feature is the trailer. Otherwise,
this is a bare-bones DVD.