Plot: What’s it about?
While the carnival seems like a nice place to go on a double date, it can also serve as a terror filled and confusing location, especially when your life is in danger. Amy’s (Elizabeth Berridge) father tries to warn her against going to the carnival, but she goes opposite his wishes and allows Buzz (Cooper Huckabee) to take her there on their first date. These two are joined by Richie (Miles Chapin) and Liz (Largo Woodruff), and all four seem ready for a fun filled double date at the carnival. As they peruse the grounds, they end up drawn to a mysterious funhouse and venture inside. Once inside, the foursome decides to spend the night inside the funhouse, as both a prank and test of courage. While this starts off in good enough fun, they soon bear witness to a murder, when a deformed man kills a fortune teller in a bitter rage. When the four attempt to escape from the funhouse, they find themselves lost within the confusing mazes and mirrors. While hiding, one of them drops a flashlight which causes some noise and alerts the deformed funhouse operator’s son that someone is inside. Can these teens escape from this hellish funhouse, or will the deformed man lay waste to them all, much like he did the fortune teller?
I finally have the chance to review The Funhouse, one of the more interesting offerings from Goodtimes Home Video. While I’ve seen this movie several times before, this is the first time I have taken a look at this release of the film. Since my old VHS was pan and scan, I was looking forward to the widescreen edition included here. In fact, this would be the first time I’d seen the movie in the original aspect ratio, and since I like this movie I was ready to roar once this disc arrived. I will talk about the disc itself later on, right now it’s time to discuss this horror classic. While the whole “teens spend the night in a scary place to prove their courage” angle has been worked time and time again, I feel this is the finest adaptation created, perhaps because the circus is such a perfect setting for such a story. This is one spooky movie and a must see for horror buffs, and you all know who you are. The characters are memorable, especially the antagonist and the funhouse works to perfection as a backdrop. I’ll leave my comments at that, as you should discover the rest on your own. If you’re a fan of horror movies, then you’ll want to pick this one up for sure, but anyone looking for a memorable thriller should try this on for size as well.
This film was directed by Tobe Hooper, who knows how to make an effective horror movie as well as anyone. In this film, he uses the magical atmosphere of a carnival funhouse to terrorize the audience, which seems to work as an eerie backdrop. The whole idea of being alone at night in a spooky funhouse with some deformed killer chasing me has solid horror potential. What I really like is how Hooper injects visual impact and humor into the storyline, both of which enhance the film’s entertainment value tenfold. Needless to say, this is one of Hooper’s better films, which is saying something given his other works. If you’re looking for more of Hooper’s magic, I recommend Eaten Alive, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Salem’s Lot, and Lifeforce. The acting in this film is decent on an overall scale, but Kevin Conway seems to steal most of the scenes he is in. His role might be secondary, but Conway (Mercury Rising) puts in a memorable performance. The rest of the cast includes Elizabeth Berridge (Amadeus), Miles Chapin (The Associate), William Finley (Double Negative), Sylvia Miles (Wall Street), Largo Woodruff (The Ladies’ Club), and Cooper Huckabee (Bad Girls).
Video: How does it look?
The Funhouse is presented in a 2.35:1 widescreen transfer, which is not enhanced for widescreen televisions. This is the finest looking version of the movie to date, but some troubles still emerge. The compression seems to be shaky, as edge enhancement is frequent, though not distracting by any means. This is a very colorful film and the transfer handles the vibrant hues well, without any bleeding or smearing, and flesh tones seem natural at all times. Also in peak form is the contrast, which offers detailed shadows and no murkiness.
Audio: How does it sound?
This isn’t an audio driven movie, but it does have some eerie music and effective subtle atmospheric audio. The included 2.0 surround track captures all the needed juice, and offers a nice environment in which to view the film. The music sounds as eerie as ever, and the surrounds provide some terrific subtle audio to add to the suspense. But the dialogue doesn’t end up buried, it sounds crisp and clean, with no problems I could note.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Two screens of production notes are included with this release.