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The Funhouse (1981)

R | | Horror | 13 March 1981 (USA)
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Four teenage friends spend the night in a carnival funhouse and are stalked by a deformed man in a Frankenstein mask.

Director:

Tobe Hooper

Writer:

Lawrence J. Block (as Larry Block)
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Elizabeth Berridge ... Amy Harper
Shawn Carson ... Joey Harper
Jeanne Austin ... Mrs. Harper
Jack McDermott ... Mr. Harper
Cooper Huckabee ... Buzz Dawson
Largo Woodruff ... Liz Duncan
Miles Chapin ... Richie Atterbury
David Carson David Carson ... Geek
Sonia Zomina ... Bag Lady
Ralph Morino Ralph Morino ... Truck Driver (as Ralph Marino)
Kevin Conway ... Freak Show Barker / Strip Show Barker / Funhouse Barker
Herb Robins ... Carnival Manager
Mona Agar Mona Agar ... Strip Show Dancer
Wayne Doba ... The Monster
William Finley ... Marco the Magnificent
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Storyline

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

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

From The Director Who Brought You The "Texas Chain Saw Massacre" See more »

Genres:

Horror

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

13 March 1981 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Carnival of Terror See more »

Filming Locations:

Dade County, Florida, USA See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$2,765,456, 15 March 1981, Wide Release

Gross USA:

$7,886,857
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (cut) | (video)

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Dean R. Koontz wrote a novelization of the screenplay under the pseudonym Owen West. The book contains a lot of backstory added by Koontz. Because of this, and the fact that the book was released before the movie due to a delay in post production, it is often mistaken that the movie is based on the book, but the book is in fact based on the movie. See more »

Goofs

Near the beginning of the film, after Joey scared Amy and she chased him into the bedroom, she told him she wasn't going to take him to the funfair on the weekend because of it. Nearer the end, the Funhouse Barker says that the funfair is packing up in the morning and moving on. See more »

Quotes

Richie Atterbury: Amy'll hit it off for sure. Buzz is a terrific guy.
Liz Duncan: She's stoned. When you're stoned, Charles Manson is a terrific guy.
See more »


Soundtracks

Music from_Bride of Frankenstein (1935) _
(uncredited)
Composed by Franz Waxman
See more »

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User Reviews

Cosmic prank
31 July 2012 | by chaos-rampantSee all my reviews

Along with every other horror fan out there, I have been puzzling about Tobe Hooper. Texas Chainsaw features highly in my list of favorite films. At least two of his other films are really worthwhile, one of them right here. But, it all quickly unraveled for him and by the time he had moved on to Cannon in the mid-80's, he was pretty much over as a filmmaker. I think the crux of the problem is that he was not Hollywood material. He seems to have been a shy and almost asocial presence on his own sets, a kind of droopy, charmless guy, bullied off The Dark by the crass Kinski, sidestepped in Poltergeist by the more agile Spielberg, which can be viewed in Europe as the kind of quality that signifies an artist, but the Hollywood environment requires someone to direct the crowded set and costly , complicated production, and that means energetic decision-makers of some persuasive wit and strong character.

You see, he did not come up through the Hollywood system at all. He was a documentary cameraman in the 60's and you can see that in his best work. He did Chainsaw in a close circle of friends, away from Hollywood fanfare. It just didn't seem like he could muster the ego for necessary friction to see that vision through (the drug problems were probably ways to cope with that). His own fault was that he couldn't find it in him to cut out on his own.

At any rate, I consider Hooper our loss. The guy had a genuine vision and that vision is prized by me, even snippets of it like we have here.

Here's an easy riddle: the film is typical in the slasher vein about a group of teens stranded after-hours in a funhouse. Its singular call to fame now is that it was once part of that notorious list of Nasties. Now that list is dumb and arbitrary in a number of ways, but why this nearly bloodless film? Why not Friday the 13th?

But of course for the same reason that Texas Chainsaw got an R rating. The very fabric and walls of the thing are violence.

Oh, a lot of what's inside including the storyline and bad guys is silly or simply mediocre, and mainly put together from bankable horror elements, from jump-scares to ruby-red color filters, which is after all the gist of a funhouse: the horror house is fun because you anticipate the elements and staging, and look forward to this being controlled around you. The opening that slyly takes us from a re-enactment of famous scenes in Halloween and Psycho through a Frankenstein poster on the wall to Bride of Frankenstein playing on TV, is Hooper's way of commenting on the redressing of spare parts he's going to use.

That's fun and really a lot of the film is, but not genuine vision. Hooper's vision is something more powerful than either Carpenter or Argento, both effective in other respects, were doing on this level, and that is the place itself is causing evil. It was dumbed-down by Spielberg in Poltergeist - written by him but a Hooper-originated project - as an actual force in the walls, and all sorts of gizmos and movie effects were brought around to clarify. But it was something altogether different to a 'haunted house' effect in its original conception.

Chainsaw is the most pure in this regard. But, it's a recurring feature in Eaten Alive, Salem's Lot, Poltergeist, and this. Hooper explained it as a 'physical sensation' he was after. I think it's something more he achieved.

There is violent energy in the gears and walls of the world, and it's the turning of those gears much more than storybased character decisions that control and manifest the energy as a kind of semiconscious , animal evil in the narrative of the film.

You can observe that the 'Funhouse' extends and anticipates the actual physical place (opening scene - dog - shotgun guy). It's something mischievous in the air. In our film, all of it is centered on a imaginative kid on his way to the scary place. That kid is scared out of consciousness. Shots of the unconscious kid are intercut with shots of the terrified teenagers trapped inside the maze. And there is the enigmatic shot of the boy saying nothing about that to the parents.

This is brilliant. The boy pulled a prank and expects one back from his sister, the cosmic prank that shatters lives is the universe conspires to stage the real thing.

Nothing of this registers directly, because we are distracted by the much more ordinary monster in the narrative (initially Frankenstein).

The entire last 20 minutes are a zap of cinematic energy from these cosmic gears that create and destroy the monster that is the prank that throws the world helter skelter (the finale takes place in a staging area full of gears).

Why? Because the god of the machine is watching (as the old crone cackles about) and wants to be amused.

Make no mistake, this is the sister film to Texas Chainsaw.


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