aka: Carnival of Terror, Funhouse: Carnival of Terror
Director: Tobe Hooper
Starring: Elizabeth Berridge, Shawn Carson, Jeanne Austin, Jack McDermott, Cooper Huckabee
Something is alive in the funhouse… something that, tonight, will turn the funhouse into a carnival of terror!
Amy Harper is a young lady going on date with Buzz. Together with another couple they decide that it’s a good idea to go to the local carnival that are only there for a few days. Amy’s little brother Joey knows that she lied to her parents when she told them they where going to the cinema instead of the carnival, so he sneaks out to follow them to the carnival to see what they are up to.
The carnival is filled with strange, sleazy and weird carnies, even more than what you would expect at a carnival. The four decides that it would be a great idea to spend the night at the carnival. They hide inside of the scary funhouse til the carnival closes, spying on the carnies when they see that one of the freaks that have been walking around in a Frankenstein mask is trying to pay a lady for sex. Before they even get undressed, he “finishes” and he wants his money back. When the lady refuses, he gets mad and kills her. The teens have seen enough and are now trying to get out of the place, but they have been spotted and will not be able to get out without a fight.
The Funhouse is a good and atmospheric horror movie by Tobe Hooper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Eaten Alive). You never quite know what you will get in a Hooper movie, but this one is one of his finer moments. It’s a very slow paced, but never dull, movie where the focus has been placed on the atmosphere and visual look of the carnival. He gets great help from cinematographer Andrew Laszlo and a good and subtle score by John Beal (Terror in the Aisles, Killer Party). It doesn’t produce many scares, but there is some tension throughout the movie and it might convince the younger ones that carnivals are not a place to spend the night.
The characters are your typical average teenagers of the time, who all seems like good people who are just out to have a great night and have fun together. I found especially Elizabeth Berridge’s (Amadeus, Montana) character Amy to be done well. She might be your average shy and young girl taking her first steps into adulthood, but I think she was filled with charm and was a perfect girl for a horror movie like this. The rest of the teenagers and the carnies mostly do a good job with their characters as well.
The look of the monster didn’t do much for me, it was a silly mask and I would prefered if his looks where hidden for a longer time and maybe not shown so much as it was. The carnies who worked there however all looked dirty and sleazy and I think they didn’t really need a monster as the killer here, it could rather have been one or all of the carnies. There’s also a nice homage to both Halloween and Psycho at the beginning, which was done nicely and was good touch by Hooper. He really was on his a-game here and it’s too bad that he wasn’t able to keep this sort of quality in his future movies.
The Funhouse is a fun horror movie that I would put in the top of Tobe Hoopers filmography. They really did a great job with the look of the carnival and with such a good setting it would be hard to fail producing an entertaining horror film.