Up until THE FUNHOUSE, Tobe Hooper had only come pretty close to recapturing the relentless and ruthlessly nightmarish feel of the classic that catapulted him to fame, THE Texas CHAINSAW MASSACRE. TCM 2 came closer than most of his films, but it traded in psychological terror for buckets of blood 'n' guts, where the first TCM had very little.
THE FUNHOUSE goes back to Hooper's roots, trading in the gore for playing with your nerves like Jimmy Page playing guitar. Traveling carnivals have always had a sinister, menacing undertone to them - that's part of what makes them so attractive - and Hooper, with a smart assist from Larry Block's script, takes that queasy unease and turns it up to '11', so that when the true horror is revealed, it's intensified that much more.
Four friends on a double date (Elizabeth Berridge, Miles Chapin, Cooper Huckabee and Largo Woodruff) decide to hole up in the Funhouse of a traveling carnival just outside of town way past closing time, just for kicks. It's a weird place that gives off a freaky vibe, but they don't come to realize just how freaky, until they see something that puts all of their lives in danger, and realize to their horror that not all the freaks in the show are fake...or at all "fun".
I don't want to spoil the surprises, but as is his habit, Hooper front-loads the movie with some acting vets, including genre favorites William Finley and Sylvia Miles. Plus the great Kevin Conway plays a pivotal role in bringing about the terror and death that the seemingly endless night holds for the trapped teens.
Anyone expecting Hooper and company to just pour on the gore is bound to be disappointed. THE FUNHOUSE is more about empathy and atmosphere...I mean, who HASN'T been through a funhouse like this at some time in their lives? The more you can put yourself in the place of the main characters, the spookier the film will be for you - especially in the third act.
Kudos to everybody for putting in some damn good performances, but especially to Berridge and to Wayne Doba who gives us a monster that is by turns pathetic, disgusting, pitiful and horrifying. And for John Beal, who created a score that plays with your nerves just as powerfully as the visuals do.
This is one of those best viewed alone, with the sound up and all the lights out...And don't worry - if you screech like a little schoolgirl at some parts, it'll be our secret, I promise...(hehheh)
The teenager Amy Harper dates Buzz Dawson for the first time and they go to the carnival with their friends Richie and Liz. They smoke grass and have good-time visiting the attractions including a side show with freak animals. The silly Richie suggests the group to spend the night in the Funhouse for fun. During the night, they witness the murder of the fortune teller Madame Zena by a man wearing a mask of Frankenstein from an opening in the ceiling of a room. They decide to leave the fun house but they find all the exits locked. Meanwhile Richie sneaks in the room and steals the money of the manager of the place. The masked man returns with his father and owner of the fun house to show the corpse of Madame Zena; when the man realizes that he had been robbed, he presses his son that removes the mask and shows his horrible face. Richie startles and drops his lighter in the room. The owner asks his freak son to chase the thieves and eyewitnesses in a night of terror for the teenagers.
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