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Monday, October 14, 2013

31 Days of Scream-O-Ween! - The Funhouse

By Adam Ruhl

The Funhouse, that accidental video nasty, a 1981 horror film that only recently seems to be getting the respect it so rightly deserves. While it begins with tongue in cheek parodies of both Halloween and Psycho, within its frames it contains so much more. It contains the other unforgettable performance of Amadeus’ wife Elizabeth Berridge and a tale from the Director who taught us the value of good, prime meat. So without further ado, come with me and experience the long lost wonders in Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition of Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse.

The Funhouse
The Film:
Amy (Elizabeth Berrige) visits a Carnival on a double date. For the first third of the film we follow her and her friends as they act like typical 80’s teens, doing drugs, humiliating carnival performers, and peeping on peep shows without paying. Things finally take a turn for the worse when they peep on a carney dressed as Frankenstein while he pays the aging fortune teller to sleep with him and then kills her after he finishes prematurely and she won’t return the money.

Frankenstein unmasked is actually a horribly deformed man/monster named Gunther and Amy and her friends play witness to the monster’s adoptive father/barker covering up the murder. When they accidently make themselves known, they are trapped in the funhouse, fighting for their lives against the monster and his parent.

The Funhouse features more of a literal freak show angle, but has quite a lot of common ground with its director’s earlier film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Both of them feature a group of teenagers on a trip out who stumble across a deformed man and end up fighting for their lives against him and his murderous family. This film is not quite as graphic, but has much more visual intrigue; terrifying carnival imagery pops up in every scene. There’s some real footage of deformed animals on display that can be a little difficult to watch.

The Disc:
The Scream Factory cover art is a beautiful illustration by Nathan Thomas Milliner. It renders the movie as a well-loved old horror comic, a description I find pretty accurate for this title. The reverse is the original poster art, a terrifying jack in the box with an ax, a disturbing image I always found slightly scarier than the film itself.
The grain is crisp and the colors of the carnival and early 1980’s outfits really pop. There are some soft focus spots along the way but they appear just to be camera focus errors and not anything with the transfer. I have seen that happen with older films and the home video quality wasn’t good enough to reveal the flaws until Blu-ray.

The Features:
  • Audio Commentary with Director Tobe Hooper
  • The Barker Speaks! – An interview with actor Kevin Conway
  • Something Wicked this Way Comes – An All-New Interview with Executive Producer Mark L Lester
  • Carnival Music – An Interview with Composer John Beal
  • Audio Interview with Actor William Finley
  • Deleted Scenes
  • TV and Radio spots
  • Theatrical Trailer

The Specs:
  • 1080p Hi-Def widescreen 2.35:1
  • DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
  • English-only Audio & Subtitles
  • Original Release: 1981
  • Runtime: 96 minutes
  • Rated R

Final Grades:
Story: B- / The first half is all showing off the Carnival and the film lags until we meet Frankenstein.
Presentation quality: B+ / Mostly sharp with good preservation of detail.
Scare factor: C / Occasional jump but the monster is just a static mask.
Gore Factor: C / Very tame for a Tobe Hooper film.
Repeat view-ability: B- / You’ll most likely watch the opening scene and then jump to about the 45 minute mark  
Special Features: B / A few good interviews and the commentary shed a lot of light on what was for me a pretty obscure project.
Add The Funhouse to your collection, click HERE!
Check out yesterday's Scream Factory review, The Nest!

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