Being partially unfamiliar with a noted director’s filmography can be adventitious for prospective viewers. Upon the unexpected passing of Tobe Hooper last year, discussion of his twisted horror/slasher The Funhouse, a title I had never heard of, spiked significantly online among fans, and has since found its way Down Under on Blu-ray thanks to Cinema Cult. Typical of the popular genre, things begin fairly innocently as we follow four teenagers enjoying the night at a small town carnival. However, when they decide to spend the night inside a hokey funhouse, they’re preyed upon by a horribly deformed man disguised in a Frankenstein mask.
Without a doubt, The Funhouse would be an absolutely perfect selection for late October. Its festival charm spliced with monster madness is infectious; inducing feelings of nostalgia for the times I would ride the ghost train as a child. An array of disturbing side-shows attractions our character’s gaze upon serve as a grim foreshadowing of what’s in store for them later on, and while events may seem predictable to regular audiences of these kind of movies, there’s a disorienting feeling that comes from a slew of mechanical creations that sucks you in, not to mention the labyrinth like structure of the funhouse itself. Elizabeth Berridge is adorable as the film’s heroin Amy, a wholesome young woman thrust from the carefree nature of youth into a nightmare of which there is seemingly no escape; relentlessly persuaded by a disfigured creature brought to life by the grotesque artistry of the legendary Rick Baker.
If you’re revisiting Tobe Hooper’s offerings to horror cinema or just wanting to make a new discovery, then I highly recommend The Funhouse, which looks fantastic in high definition, but choice your time to watch wisely as it’s all about atmosphere!
(1981, dir: Tobe Hooper)