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|Directed by||Tobe Hooper|
Mark L. Lester
|Written by||Larry Block|
Miles Goodman (uncredited)
|Edited by||Jack Hofstra|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$7.8 million|
The Funhouse is a 1981 American horror film directed by Tobe Hooper. It was written by Larry Block and stars Elizabeth Berridge, Kevin Conway, William Finley, Cooper Huckabee, Miles Chapin, and two-time Academy Award-nominee Sylvia Miles. The film's plot concerns four teenagers who become trapped in a dark ride at a local carnival and are stalked by a deformed killer.
A masked intruder attacks Amy as she showers, resembling the famous scene from Psycho. The "attacker" turns out to be her younger brother, Joey, a horror movie buff, and his weapon is merely a realistic-looking plastic knife. He has played the first of several practical jokes on her.
Against her father's orders, teenager Amy visits a sleazy traveling carnival with her new boyfriend Buzz, her best friend Liz, and Liz's irresponsible boyfriend, Richie. At the carnival, the four teens smoke marijuana, peep into a 21-and-over strip show, heckle fortune teller Madame Zena, visit the freaks-of-nature exhibit, and view a magic show.
Richie dares the group to spend the night in "The Funhouse"—actually a dark ride. After the park closes, the teenagers settle down inside the ride, at which point they witness the ride assistant—a man in a Frankenstein's Monster mask who never speaks—engage Zena as a prostitute. He experiences premature ejaculation, but despite his request Zena will not return her $100 fee. He murders her in a violent rage.
The teenagers try to leave, but find themselves locked inside the ride. As they attempt to escape, Richie secretly steals the money from the safe from which "Frankenstein's monster" took Zena's fee. The ride's barker, Conrad Straker, discovers what "Frankenstein's monster"—his adopted son Gunther—has done to Zena. Conrad also realizes that the money is missing. Thinking Gunther took it, he attacks him. Gunther's mask is removed revealing a gruesomely deformed face with sharp protruding teeth,long white thinning hair and ruby-red eyes.
The teens see this, and Conrad realizes someone is watching. He stalks the ride to eliminate any witnesses and heckles Gunther into a murderous rage. Various ride props are used as murder weapons. Richie and Liz die by the hands of Conrad and (respectively) Gunther. Buzz kills Conrad, but is then killed by Gunther. During a showdown between Gunther and Amy in the funhouse's maintenance area, Gunther is electrocuted and crushed to death between two spinning gears.
As dawn breaks, Amy emerges from the funhouse while the animatronic fat lady perched atop the ride laughs.
- Elizabeth Berridge as Amy Harper
- Cooper Huckabee as Buzz
- Largo Woodruff as Liz
- Miles Chapin as Richie
- Kevin Conway as Freak Show Barker/Strip Show Barker/The Funhouse Barker/Conrad Straker
- Wayne Doba as Gunther Straker (The Monster)
- Sylvia Miles as Madame Zena
- William Finley as Marco the Magnificent
- Shawn Carson as Joey Harper
- Rebuka Hoye as Strip Show Dancer
- Jack McDermott as Mr. Harper
- Jeanne Austin as Mrs. Harper
The Funhouse opened in 814 theaters in the United States on March 13, 1981, and earned $2,765,456 in the opening weekend and grossed $7,886,857 in total. Film critic Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune liked the film and gave it a positive review. Tobe Hooper was specifically praised for bringing style and suspense to what could have been a standard early-1980's blood and gore-focused horror film, and his work here was largely responsible for him getting the job of directing the original Poltergeist.
The film received mixed to positive reviews and currently holds a rating of 62% on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, signifying "fresh".
Classification as a "video nasty"
The film was unsuccessfully prosecuted as a video nasty in the UK a few years after its release. Some commentators have questioned its attempted banning, given that the film is fairly tame in comparison to other entries on the list, leading some to suggest it was mistakenly chosen instead of the infamous Last House on Dead End Street, which was released under an alternative title The Fun House and oddly didn't appear on the list. It was released uncut on VHS in 1987 and later on DVD in 1999.
A novelization of the screenplay was written by Dean Koontz, under the pseudonym Owen West. As the film production took longer than expected, the book was released before the film.
On July 18, 2011 Arrow Video released a new Special Edition Blu-ray Disc in the UK, with the following special features:
- Audio commentary with The Funhouse S/FX wizard Craig Reardon and Jeffrey Reddick (creator of the Final Destination series)
- Audio commentary with producer Derek Power and genre scholar Howard S. Berger
- Audio commentary with Justin Kerswell, author of Teenage Wasteland and host of the slasher cinema website Hysteria Lives, and author Calum Waddell
- Carnage at the Carnival: Tobe Hooper Remembers "The Funhouse"
- Miles of Mayhem: Acting in Tobe's Funhouse with star Miles Chapin
- A Trilogy of Terror: The Make-up Madness of Craig Reardon, the S/FX wizard recollects his collaborations with Tobe Hooper; Eaten Alive, Poltergeist and The Funhouse
- Master Class of Horror: Mick Garris, the director of Sleepwalkers and the miniseries adaptation of The Shining reflects on the crimson-covered career of his longtime colleague Tobe Hooper
- Live Q&A with Tobe Hooper from San Francisco
- Never before seen behind the scenes photographs from the collection of Craig Reardon
- Brand new transfer of the film in high definition (1080p)
- 4-panel reversible sleeve options with original and newly commissioned artwork
- Double-sided fold-out artwork poster
- Collector's booklet featuring brand-new writing on the film by critic and author Kim Newman.
January 30, 2012 also saw a UK release of The Funhouse by Arrowdrome DVD.
Arrow Video released a Special Edition of The Funhouse on Blu-ray on 26 November, 2012.
Universal Home Entertainment released the film to DVD in the US on September 7, 2004. Shout! Factory is planning a new US DVD, in addition to a US Blu-ray Disc release under their horror sub-label "Scream Factory".
Also noted that Gunther was meant to appear in the Boogeymen: The Killer Compilation. However, Gunther didn't make the list. He did appear in the TV commercials of the Boogeymen.
- The Funhouse CD Album
- Interview with Gene Siskel in Fangoria #15 (1981)
- "Video Nasties: The Funhouse". horror-movies.ca. Retrieved 24 June 2012.
- "Did You Know?". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 24 June 2012.
- The Funhouse at the Internet Movie Database
- The Funhouse at AllMovie
- The Official Funhouse Forum for the Arrowdrome Release