Horrorfest 2013 Presents: The Funhouse (1981, Tobe Hooper)


Part well made scare marathon, part funny and cheesy homage to previous 50s and 60s horror films, Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse (1981) is another example of his gift at making entertaining horror movies. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was absolutely terrifying and captivating, while Lifeforce is pure cheesy goodness on an epic scale. The Funhouse works almost as a bottle episode stretched out as a full length feature movie: a bunch of kids are trapped in a carnival funhouse, stalked and hunted by carnival freaks. One of them is even more freak than man, a monstrous evil that might be inhuman. At the same time Hooper can’t help but conform to slasher genre conventions, which both helps and hurts this movie.

Chief among those conventions being the need for a “Survival Girl,” a woman who is considered pure although in this case she is more just slightly aware of what is going on. This girl keeps thinking that going deeper into the carnival is a bad idea, that maybe something terrible is going to happen. Of course she ends up being right, yet by the time the rest of the group she goes in with figures it out the murders begin to happen. Violence is responded to with more violence, and by the end of the long gory night people will never be the same. Especially that poor young lady who should have remained at home and kept her sanity.

At times Hooper gets too cheesy, and there are a few scenes that are rather downright predictable. The Funhouse almost wears out its welcome, and yet its still a really good horror film, a movie that presents the carnival scene, warts glory and all. Not to mention a really creepy and memorizing performance from Kevin Conway, who does a great job being two different people. Underneath the bright lights, past the freak acts and the cheap parlor games, lies a darker world that only some are aware of. Those who dare to enter must pay the fee, and the fee is rather high. Rather high indeed.

A Brood of Brainwashed Blood Thirsty Killers (Strange Behavior, 1981)


Note: This is a lost Horrorfest review that after some changes and editing I’m presenting to you horror fans:

As much a slasher movie as it is a sci-fi “Science gone amok” movie, the under rated cult film Strange Behavior is a rather odd, and thus stands out from its brethren. By the time of Strange Behavior’s release, slasher movies were a large part of the horror genre and 1980s was about to usher in the sub-genere’s heyday. Created a year after Halloween clone Friday the 13th, Strange Behavior has been somewhat forgotten, perhaps because of its weird plot. Or maybe the numerous slasher movies that followed left more of an impression upon viewers.

Having now seen way more 80s slasher movies since viewing this film, I now realize even more how unique and original this movie really is. Weird experiments taking place at a local college are resulting in the studies’ willing guinea pigs killing people at random. What it all really means is a mystery, however someone is maybe pulling the strings from behind the scenes.

The film’s dreamlike 80s pop style soundtrack, well executed by Tangerine Dream, only makes this movie feel and seem even more bizarre. However the film doesn’t seem to go far enough with its commentary on conformity and leaves behind the science implications in favor of gory yet well crafted terror inspiring moments that really fail to be scary if you have viewed a horror movie before.

What really sticks out in my mind is how the film ends-the last act is really quite unexpected. Considering that it was fairly well made and is clearly smarter than most of the slasher films that followed, Strange Behavior is a rare gem. I thank TCM for airing the movie when they did back in 2010, and I hope that more people get a chance to check out a most welcomed addition to the slasher genre. 82/100

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