Scream Factory Presents – The Funhouse (1981)

To label the first half of the listless dud The Funhouse phlegmatic is an insult to mucus. It crawls on its hands and knees to a creature feature. It’s what Roger Ebert coined a Dead Teenager Movie with a slice-of-life focus on the park’s attractions. The most eerie sights are a two-headed cow and another with a cleft palette.

Finally, after an interminable uphill battle of pot smoking, peep-show voyeurism and exhibitionist sex, it shifts gears to a slasher film with a “freak”. Unfortunately, the critter is a lanky albino bat without a backbone. There is nothing more flagrantly idiotic for a movie villain than humanization and then abject humiliation when the deformed Gunther Straker (Wayne Doba) basically cowers and mewls for the majority. When Gunther is henpecked and harangued by his father for his violent temptations, Tobe Hooper duplicates the askew nuclear-family dynamics of Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

For such a declawed R-rating and harmless tonality, the hatchet-in-the-head overkill of one character and flaunting nudity of Amy Harper (Elizabeth Berridge) are jarring to the audience’s sensibilities. The rationale behind Kevin Conway as the three carnival barkers is not nonsensical, it’s completely nonexistent. Amy’s brother’s infiltration of the roving fair is a shaggy dog story that proceeds to no outlet.

funhouse_monsterIt hints at child-in-peril exploitation and quickly abandons those dubious plans. The Psycho shower scene with the Dario Argento killer-with-black-gloves trope is futile because it is a thrifty excuse for breasts and a jump scare. It might be faintly better than Eaten Alive but a calamity like The Funhouse still postulates the question what happened to the guerilla mastermind behind Texas Chainsaw Massacre?

Rating: 1.75 out of 5

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