The Funhouse is a 1981 horror film that centers on four teenagers who become trapped inside a funhouse and stalked by a deformed man. The film was directed by Tobe Hooper and the screenplay was written by Larry Block. The cast features Kevin Conway, William Finley and two-time Academy Award-nominee Sylvia Miles.
A novelization of the film was written by Dean Koontz, it was released before the film because production took longer than expected.
The film opens with a scene much like the famous Psycho shower scene. The assailant turns out to be Amy's younger brother in a mask with a fake knife.
Amy's parents warn her to stay away from the carnival due to the recent deaths of two young girls. She goes regardless with three of her friends on a double date. She goes with her new boyfriend Buzz, while Liz and Richie go as a couple. At the carnival, the kids smoke marijuana, peek in on a strip show, visit a fortune teller, oogle at deformed animals, and enjoy a magic show.
Richie dares the crew to spend the night in a dark ride called "The Funhouse". After the carnival shuts down, they sneak around and witness a man in a Frankenstein mask pay the fortune teller for sex. The man in the mask ejaculates prematurely and asks for the money back. The fortune teller refuses, the man becomes enraged and kills her.
The group tries to leave, finding the doors locked and no other exits. As they try to leave, Richie steals some money from the Frankenstein masked man's safe. The ride's barker, Conrad Straker, discovers the murder and becomes frustrated with the monster. As Conrad sees the missing money, he thinks the monster took it and starts attacking him out of rage. The monster's mas comes off revealing its true, gruesome nature.
As Conrad suspects the presence of the teenagers, he tries to coax them out. They remain hidden and Conrad walks throught the ride to find them. He also encites Gunter, the monster, into a feral rage to seek out the teens. As the kids are hiding, Richie tells a story of when he tried to scare his older brother hiding in a closet. Suddenly they are startled by an animitronic skelleton and Richie is pulled up into the ceiling by a noose. Later as Buzz wields an axe one of the rides cars approaches with a form sitting in it. One of the girls prompts Buzz to "kill it" and he blindly swings the axe into the body of Richie. While chasing the cart, Liz falls down a trapdoor, where Guther kills her.
Buzz and Amy enter another room where Buzz kills Conrad. The monster finds them and kills Buzz. Amy battles the monster in a machine room with a crowbar. Gunther grabs the crowbar and is subsequently electrocuted by it touching a fuze box. The monster is then attatched to a rig that sends him through two gears, crushing him to death.
Amy escapes in the morning while the animitronic fat lady over the funhouse entrance laughs.
- Elizabeth Berrige 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 Gunter Twinbunt 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.
Composer John Beal's mostly orchestral score was praised by critics, and the soundtrack CD later became a collector's item.
The film currently holds a rating of 62% on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, signifying "fresh".
The Funhouse earned $2,000,000 in its opening weekend, earning $7,000,000 in total. The film holds a "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes at 62%.
Classification as a video nasty Edit
The film was unsuccessfully prosecuted as a video nasty 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.
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, 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.
The 30th January 2012 also saw a UK release of The Funhouse by Arrowdrome DVD.
Arrow Video released a Special Edition of The Funhouse was released to 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 made the list. He did appear in the TV commercials of the Boogeymen.