Good Times Home Video // 1981 // 95 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // November 2nd, 2001
Pay to get in. Pray to get out!
Let's be honest: what's scarier than a local carnival? White trash Tilt-O-Whirl workers with only six fingers, deep fried food that looks as if they may have been left over from the 1966 World Fair, and giant gruesome monsters that love to eat teenagers! Director Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Poltergeist, Lifeforce) gave a much needed boost to the dying "carnival genre" with his 1981 effort The Funhouse. Starring a bunch of people that probably never worked in film again, The Funhouse is out on DVD from Goodtimes Home Video!
The Funhouse features a deceptively simple plot: a bunch of teenagers sneak off to a local carnival where bad things happen to them care of sharp, pointy objects and drooling madmen. The teen cast is led by Elizabeth Berridget as Amy, the naïve heroine who will ultimately have to face the lead baddie at the end of the film (for those of you who think I just spoiled the plot, don't be so dim -- this is a horror movie that never deviates from the expected). Along the way the teenagers will meet all kinds of weirdoes and freaks, including a fortune teller (Sylvia Miles, Midnight Cowboy), a creepy strip show barker (Kevin Conway, The Quick and the Dead), and an ugly monster with a face only a mother could love (from a distance of about 2,253 miles away).
Will the kids get out alive? Or will the last laugh be on them...in the dreaded Funhouse??
Once in a while I come across a genuinely fun horror movie that I never knew existed. I picked up The Funhouse at a local DVD store for about $9.99 on a whim. It took me over four months to finally get around to watching it (on a car trip to Minnesota, no less). I was pleasantly surprised to find that I really, really enjoyed The Funhouse! Tobe Hooper has crafted a tale that is simple and direct: throw some kids in a locked funhouse with a monster and let the mayhem begin! There are no deep philosophical messages or complex character studies going on in The Funhouse. Instead, we get some bountiful scares and a very cool looking creature by Oscar winning make-up man Rick Baker (An American Werewolf In London, Star Wars).
Hooper obviously has a genuine love for small town carnivals, for his attention to detail is very accurate. Everything from the fat lady to the cotton candy and popcorn machines are included in this movie, and I could have sworn that I smelled nachos cooking in the air (then I realized that the car I was on the way to Minnesota had pulled up to Taco Bell and I came to my senses). Once the kids get into funhouse with the monster and his keeper (Conway again, in a funny and icky role) the movie really kicks into high gear for some creative death scenes and chilling scares. There's even a gratuitous boob shot thrown in just because Tobe knew that's what the viewers wanted. Boy, does this guy know this genre's fan base or WHAT?!?
You know, it's funny -- while I loved The Funhouse, I don't have a whole lot more to say about it except that it's worth seeing. It's just a good, old-fashioned scare machine oiled and greased to perfection. It doesn't take you anyplace spectacularly new, but it does offer up something that's missing in most horror movies these days: effects and make-up mixed with true terror and entertainment (try finding THAT in '90s horror flicks like The House On Haunted Hill or Valentine).
The Funhouse is presented in 2.35:1 non-anamorphic widescreen. For a company that usually is not very good, Goodtimes has done a passable job on this title. While the transfer often looks too dark or murky, the color palates are usually bright and bold with no signs on bleeding during the film. Black levels sometimes looked TOO dark, and a small amount of edge enhancement was spotted in a few sequences. I'd have liked to have seen this movie presented anamorphically, but you can't always get what you want in life. Oh well.
Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround and works in the confines of the film. While I'd have loved to have heard a new 5.1 remix for a movie like The Funhouse, I'm content with this track seeing as it's clear of all distortion and hiss. Also included on this disc are English, Spanish and French subtitles.
The biggest problem with Goodtimes is that they're the least likely company to ever throw substantial extra features on their discs. True to form, Goodtimes has only included two pages of brief "production notes" on this DVD edition of The Funhouse.
Aside of the lack of supplements and defects on the transfer, the only complaint I have about this film is that it's all over with much to quickly. Chant it with me! We want more monster! We want more monster!
I can easily recommend this title since you should be able to find it for around $9.99 or less at most DVD stores. It's a fun movie that harkens back to a golden time in horror (the 1980s) when directors and writers knew what they were doing, and did it with panache. It's no Citizen Kane, but it is entertaining all though its 95 minutes, and that's all I ask from a movie with a title like The Funhouse.
The Funhouse is free to go from town to town spreading its horror as it goes! Case dismissed!
Review content copyright © 2001 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Good Times Home Video
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 1981
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Production Notes