Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Funhouse


(1981) **3/4

Whenever one of these movies leads off with the whole, "this carnival we're going to was the site of some grisly murders last year," schtick, a tear wells up in one eye because I know this town's chances of ever getting a decent carnival after this one are pretty much shot. The funhouse is a dying form and I mourn its passing.

I also mourned the passing of the first 40 minutes of this movie (nearly half of the bastard) in which not a single lethal thing happens. That right there could have wrecked this whole film, but Tobe Hooper gives us some nice chew toys in that first half. The shots from inside the funhouse are alone worth all of that padding. This is a kick-ass fun house with dozens of really creepy puppet displays --- there's the fat japanese woman puppet perched atop the funhouse marquee (her cackling laughter mocks the lone survivor at the end of the night); weird old dude in a rocking chair; green goblin man with orange afro; one room features a saloon pianist and an executioner -- the reasons for grouping these two in one room elude me; there's a gigantic blinking eye (easily the coolest thing in this entire movie). Also, to enter the main rooms of the funhouse, the cars through a gi-fuckin-normous gorilla head. All kinds of neat stuff to look at.

Despite its nifty displays, there's nothing in it that would make me think it a good idea to spend the night. This is, however, the scheme of the four main characters. Amy, Liz, Buzz and Richie smoke a bunch of dope and sneak into the funhouse after-hours. In the midst of their cavorting, they witness the half-wit, mutant son of the funhouse operator (whose job it is to shuffle around in a Frankenstein costume, ushering funhouse visitors to their cars) murdering the fortune teller. Heading down to check out the scene of the crime, Richie hangs around the room after the others have left to steal money from the funhouse cashbox. When the theft is discovered, the funhouse operator sends the monster-kid on a rampage after the four teens.

Things that worked for this movie: Set design; an exquisite soundtrack -- pay particular attention to the score just as the park is closing for the night.

On the whole, a pretty satisfying movie. I docked it a 1/4 point because of all the lollygagging in the first half, but it's definitely worth a look.

5 comments:

Summerisle said...

Aaaargh! I was planning on being the first to post but succumbed to laziness.

Great, funny reviews!

DCD said...

"Whenever one of these movies leads off with the whole, "this carnival we're going to was the site of some grisly murders last year," schtick, a tear wells up in one eye because I know this town's chances of ever getting a decent carnival after this one are pretty much shot."

I laughed out loud at this...same goes for summer camps by the lake?

Octopunk said...

While there were a few musical moments that really worked, I think instead of "exquisite" I'd label the soundtrack "brain-jarringly loud."

The sound on the dialogue was quiet enough that you'd turn it up, and then some booming circus music would jump in and make my teeth rattle.

I'mnotMarcbutmyboyfriendis said...

okay, what about "exquisitely written," as to distinguish it from "tastelessly edited." it's not the composer's fault that the guy working the knobs in the editing booth is schizophrenic

Octopunk said...

No, it's your fault. You were alive in 1981, you shoulda been on this.