Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, December 8, 2016


Killer in a Franky mask 
THE FUNHOUSE (1981). Director: Tobe Hooper.

Amy Harper (Elizabeth Berridge) is anxious to go to the fair with new date Buzz Dawson (Cooper Huckabee) and her pals Liz (Largo Woodruff) and Richie (Miles Chapin). Not being terribly responsible individuals they basically do nothing when the fortune teller (Sylvia Miles) is murdered after an assignation for money goes wrong with a client -- said client being a hideously disfigured psychopath who runs around in a Frankenstein mask. The quartet find themselves trapped in the funhouse with the psycho and his father as the pair determine to do away with all of them. The Funhouse takes absolutely forever to get going, and when it finally does it's too snails-paced to build up much momentum although there are some spurts of action at the end. There are some good touches, but the fright scenes aren't especially well-staged for the most part. Like Eaten Alive, this is another disappointing early follow-up to director Hooper's famous Texas Chainsaw Massacre. If The Funhouse was an attempt to create a new popular maniac a la Leatherface, it didn't work. The widescreen Panavision works against the would-be claustrophobic feel of the funhouse scenes. The acting is good, however, with a sympathetic Berridge, and Sylvia Miles stealing the show with her fun portrayal of the fortune teller, Madame Zena, who drops her phony foreign accent when she gets mad. The script is terribly contrived and often implausible. John Beal's theme music is a plus, although the rest of the score is pretty much a waste. [This is not the actor John Beal.] Unlike most of the actors in movies like this, some of the cast members went on to other and better things.

Verdict: Not very memorable. **.

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