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Two young couples on a double date go to a mysterious carnival. As a prank they decide to spend the night in the funhouse. When they witness a brutal murder, they suddenly find themselves in horrific danger. Written by
Sean V. Taylor <email@example.com>
The title for the film's French release is 'Massacres dans le train fantôme', meaning 'Massacres on the Ghost Train'. See more »
When I was a kid, I once tried to spook my older brother by hiding in his closet. While I was waiting in there to jump out and scare him, a weird thought came into my head. What if he knew I was in there, and he was standing just outside the closet door, waiting to jump out and scare me?
So, what happened?
He locked you in, didn't he?
I waited for three hours till my parents came home and got me out. I was too scared to touch the doorknob. I... I wet my pants.
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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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