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The teenager Amy Harper dates Buzz Dawson for the first time and they go to the carnival with their friends Richie and Liz. They smoke grass and have good-time visiting the attractions including a side show with freak animals. The silly Richie suggests the group to spend the night in the Funhouse for fun. During the night, they witness the murder of the fortune teller Madame Zena by a man wearing a mask of Frankenstein from an opening in the ceiling of a room. They decide to leave the fun house but they find all the exits locked. Meanwhile Richie sneaks in the room and steals the money of the manager of the place. The masked man returns with his father and owner of the fun house to show the corpse of Madame Zena; when the man realizes that he had been robbed, he presses his son that removes the mask and shows his horrible face. Richie startles and drops his lighter in the room. The owner asks his freak son to chase the thieves and eyewitnesses in a night of terror for the teenagers. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
It was director Tobe Hooper's idea to shoot the film in anamorphic Panavision. See more »
Amy and Buzz leave her house in a 1966 Pontiac LeMans (obvious because of the grill and chrome badging behind headlight). The deep recess in the top of the c-pillar indicates that it is a convertible. Moments later when they are going down the road and even more clearly in the carnival parking lot when they are parking, it is a 1967 Pontiac GTO with a black vinyl top (notice the different grill insert and blinkers, as well as missing chrome badges on fender). See more »
Fast-paced and atmospheric thriller set in and around the carnival midway. Two couples visiting the local traveling carnival decide to spend the night in The Funhouse and fool around as a lark. After witnessing a murder, they become the targets of a deformed maniac and his barker dad who are determined they will not leave to report it to the police. I read the Owen West (aka Dean Koontz) novelization back in the day, which was infinitely more padded with back story, abortion issues, religious fanaticism, and a rather Byzantine attempt to link the heroine and her younger brother to the killers before they ever set foot on the midway. Mercifully, the film abandons all of the excess baggage and strips the story done to the bare essentials. I enjoy Tobe Hooper's direction here much more so than that shown in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre as it seems we are seeing a much more polished effort. He nicely establishes the atmosphere of the midway, which by turns is colorful and sordid. The central characters are nicely delineated (although due to the abandoning of the subplots from the novelization, Shawn Carson's younger brother seems like a fifth wheel rather than integral to the story) and well played by an appealing cast. They seem like credible and overwhelmed young people rather than fodder for the axing. Lead Elizabeth Berridge, in particular, has a nice girl next door quality and radiates a resourcefulness through her terror without ever seeming like either Superwoman or a victim. The make-up for the primary killer is particularly effective and novel. The film builds up a substantial head of steam before going for broke in a wild Grand Guignol climax. The score is also worth mentioning as it provides a very effective counterpoint to the action. Ironically, this film is rarely mentioned by horror fans, having been buried amid the morass of Friday the 13th clones that proliferated in this period, but it is definitely one that should be rediscovered.
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