The Funhouse ( United States 1981)

Who could fail to make a good horror movie out of a carnival? It has all the perfect ingredients: freaks, sleazy hustlers, creepy fun houses…Four potty-mouth teenagers decide to spend the night in the spooky ‘funhouse’ located in a carnival notorious for leaving (presumably) a string of murders that were left unresolved. While in there, they witness the carnival promoter’s freakish son murder the fortune-teller. He wanted to satisfy himself in a socially acceptable way, lol. Apparently the $100 he paid her wasn’t enough.

One of the group foolishly steals the carnival take from the cash-box when the freak runs to tell his daddy of the crime he has committed. With the old man infuriated not only at his son’s mishap, but of someone stealing his cash, he has daddy’s little boy hunt the teens down, promising to take his son fishing if he kills them. So the film turns up the suspense a notch as the freak, who wears a Frankenstein monster’s mask, stalks those pesky teens.

Of course our heroes are desperate to make it out somehow but escape seems next to impossible. As they try to make their way out of the blasted funhouse, daddy barker turns everything on, throwing scary recorded screams and shouting voices at them. This ensures his freak son can locate their whereabouts. One by one, they fall prey to the murderous creep.

                               Can any of them make it out of the funhouse alive?

Fairly stylish horror flick, this really puts the viewer through the ringer, such is the sweaty menace dripping from the screen. We see what director Tobe (Salem’s Lot) Hooper could do with money and resources. The film isn’t that gory, however, which may not please some. The lack of pace is the main weakness for me. Although even that flaw adds to the sense of unease gradually building. Hooper doesn’t  show much action for the first half-hour or so.

Instead he wants the teens to have a good time in the build up, allowing the characters room to develop before decimating them one by one. The film’s opening scene, when a kid brother tease-scares his showering sister, spoofs Psycho. The sister (played by Liz Berridge) is the most sympathetic and thoughtful character. I found it easy to identify with her.

I recommend seeing the wide-screen version of the film so that you can appreciate how well made the movie really is thanks to impeccable camera-work. I liked the score, too. You also get a bunch of undesirables littered within the carnival setting: a “God will punish you” bag lady, a hobo with tattered clothes who seems to pop up when least expected, an old man spying on strippers through the peep hole of a tent, and some hunter who pulls a rifle on Berridge’s kid brother when he follows behind his sister to the carnival. 6 out of 10. Maybe 7.



  1. Great review! I’ll have to check this film out, the plot sounds unintentionally hilarious! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you!


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