The Funhouse (1981)

Directed by: Tobe Hooper

Written by:
Lawrence Block


Elizabeth Berridge .... Amy Harper
Cooper Huckabee .... Buzz
Miles Chapin .... Richie
Largo Woodruff .... Liz
Kevin Conway .... The Barker
Shawn Carson .... Joey Harper
Wayne Doba .... Gunther the Monster
Sylvia Miles .... Madame Zena

Special Appearance:

William Finley .... Marco the Magnificent

Release Dates:
Theatrical: March 13, 1981








Four teenagers on a double date decides to go to their local carnival that rolled into their town although one of them named Amy Harper (Elizabeth Berridge) lied to her folks as they disapprove of her going in which she tells them they're going to a movie. To top it off her bratty little brother Joey (Shawn Carson) sneaks out of the house to spy on them.
The four of them have a good time trying to win prizes as well as smoking dope. A bag lady (Sonia Zomina) warns them about the dangers there but they don't listen. They encounter strange surroundings like freak animals for display such as a two headed cow as well as strange employees.

They decided to hideway there for the night during after hours and party. But then they encounter a horrifying event.
They spot a mentally challenged man who looks like an inhumanoid type monster named Gunther (Wayne Doba) who worked at the carnival dressed in a Frankenstein costume murdering the local fortune teller there named Madame Zena (Sylvia Miles) for refusing the refund his money when she refuses to have sex with him.
Not only that, one of the teens named Richie steals money from the owner who runs the funhouse at the carnival.

When one of the funhouse owners named the Barker (Kevin Conway) finds out there are teenagers staying at the carnival and that they stole his money, he sets Gunther out to track them down.
They are then trapped in their funhouse as one by one they are trapped and killed.


The film shows good close up shots on some hands picking up stuff in different parts of a house like a make machette and a clown mask as well as a shot on the person wearing the mask looking through the eyes and walking towards the bathroom near a shower in which he makes this scene had a combination between John Carpenter from Halloween and Alfred Hitchcock from Psycho.
There's good shots with Amy Harper having a discussion with her parents by having a serious discussion with her plus a nice shot on her little bro Joey near a staircase eavesdropping. Yet the moments on their conversations looked a little too planned out.
There's good shots on Amy by having a discussion with her boyfriend Buzz in their car about what went on which looked not too bad. Slightly cheesy though.
There's good shots on the two of them smoking up driving in their vehicle with Richie and Liz as another couple in the back which looked like typical partying type of teens.
There's a good shot on Joey by climbing out of his window of his house and sneaking away. Plus there's a nice shot on him near a metal fence looking still and quiet and then, suddenly a dog barking which is a perfect jumping moment.
There's many good shots on the group of friends hanging out at the carnival as well with them spotting the strange animals there. Plus there's many good takes on the Barker introducing events on a microphone which his presence doing so looked a little spooky.
A nice camera shot looking up on Buzz using a hammer on those bell prizes and striking it down.
There's a good scene with both Amy and Liz in a washroom having a discussion and then a bag lady taunting them and speaking wickedly which looked nicely done and creepy too.
There's a great scene with Amy getting her fortune told with Madame Zena and her friends in the background snickering and laughing which looked well done and wondering if Zena will lose it due to the mockery happening. There's a good close up shot on both Zena trying to concentrate with Amy on what she sees on the palm of her hand and then a nice moment with a crystal ball falling down and Amy breaking down and laughing.
There's a good scene with the friends eavesdropping and peeking through an area where Zena is talking to Gunther the monster and planning to get it on as he charged her to do so. There's great moments with him strangling her and slamming her next to a fuse box electrocuting her with a nice shot on her wide eyed expressions and then falling dead.
There's a good shot on a cigarette lighter dropping from above with the Barker slowly picking it up and trying to find out who's spying on them which leaves a great chill down your spine after how nastily he treated Gunther as this leaves a chill down your spine when we all spot this.
There's a good argumentive scene with Buzz towards Richie after he finds out that he stole the money which looked tense and energetic.
There's good shots on Joey hiding and spying on people as well as him running from one place to the other. There's a nice shot on him hiding behind a trailer which looked still and quiet with Gunther grabbing his hand out near him which makes you really jump and then him screaming and running with the Barker grabbing him and then a nice moment on this little brat screaming and crying.
There's good shots on the friends by looking around in a dark funhouse trying to find a way of escaping which was nicely shot as well as a good shot on Richie suddenly having a rope around his neck and getting hung. Everyone reacted well screaming in terror.
There's also a good shot on Liz crying intensely chasing after a car from a funhouse with her dead boyfriend on it as well as a good shot on her falling through a trapdoor.
There's a nice shot on her by getting choked up and scared with Gunther creeping up towards her and a nice shot on her trying to pick up a dagger.
There's a good moment with Joey acting quiet and expressionless when his parents are picking him up like he was disturbed by what he saw and a carnival manager speaking strangely towards them acting too kind when he assured that he was fine. Meanwhile there's a great shot on Amy in the funhouse trying to scream to her parents sobbing where there's a window with a fan blowing. This came together very dark and creepy.
There's a nice cold moment with the Barker by pointing his gun towards both her and Buzz getting obnoxious towards them. There's many great blocking shots on both the Barker and Amy brawling it out with her screaming in terror as you wonder who will survive all of this.
There's a great moment with Amy in a room with some machines running and trying to survive against Gunther.
Bottom line is that it seems interesting, looks interesting but yet it doesn't go anywhere too much but it's well done for what it is. I mean the story was for sure strange and very twisted too on the going on's at a freaky carnival with the two headed cows displayed and obnoxious employees who work there. We also have your every day partying teens getting into all sorts of trouble too which is a nice touch for a horror flick like this one.
Yet it's strange to have a monster in the film and not explaning how he came to be. Again it's explained about the lord working in mysterious ways. The film is quite cheesy but yet it can be cheesy horror fun watching all the way through.
The film was shot at Universal Studios in which Tobe Hooper was moving out of independent flicks and doing big business one's. However, this film was not a mainstream flick like it was intended to be since not many people know about it unless you are a horror buff like me. It was also a typical teenage 80's horror flick which is not meaning that it's bad. In fact this is one of those movies so bad it's good. It's also a cross between a monster flick and a slasher flick too.
This film can easily be influential to other horror films and can see where Rob Zombie got some of his ideas with his music, comic books and even House of 1000 Corpses.

The acting is very 80's dated like but it's okay. Elizabeth Berridge (Amy Harper) had the nice girl looks for the film and struts her stuff but sometimes she tries way too hard and seems a bit wooden especially when she gets aggressive during the beginning of the film. However, she knew how to scream in hysterics and cry out of terror which she shows great energy by doing both of these and keep be on her way to a scream queen fame like Jamie Lee Curtis or Linda Blair.
Cooper Huckabee
(Buzz) as the boyfriend looked great on set with his masculine attitude and wonderful charm. He also shows alot of aggression and panick when the terror surrounds him proving that he can pull off a character in the film. I could see him getting other work in low budget films.
Miles Chapin
(Richie) had the right looks as one of those geeky type of teens with a nice bubbluy attitude and really studied his part quite well and a good character he did for a horror flick like this one.
Largo Woodruff
(Liz) has the beautiful looks and really knew how to cry intensely with the terrors surrounding her at the funhouse after hours. She brought alot of dynamic energy to her role in the film like most of the cast here.
Kevin Conway (The Barker) stands out well too as the evil one who owns the funhouse and has a good performance with his obnoxious attitude and shows a great evil look to him too along with a cold speaking voice to top it off bringing it all together. There's a great moment with him by getting physical towards the onscreen monster by hitting him and intensely telling him to smack himself as well as calling him names after he finds out the money they made is gone which looked truly psychotic.
Supporting eccentric actress Sylvia Miles (Madame Zena) lived to play a nasty drunken fortune teller and then a prostitute after hours. She does well with her accent in which she knew how to behave like those typical mysterious fortune telling people as she usually has been cast playing these kinds of aggressive supporting roles in other films. She brings alot of great aggressions and came across nicely as someone you don't want to deal or mess with at all with her obnoxious attitude. For example, a great rage with her kicking some people out and threatening them with violence which looked quite tense after she tried to tell them a fortune. She does well getting obnoxious towards an onscreen monster of the film which looked believeably performed with her job being a prostitute after her job as a fortune teller and refusing to refund his money in which she does well snapping at him about that too.
Child actor Shawn Carson (Joey Harper) seems to do well in this one too as a typical little brat and has a nice sensitive look to him which really drew attention on the big screen since we need a little kid trying to get into all sorts of mischief and he does his part with all of that nicely. He does well screaming and crying after some maniacs at the carnival gets a hold of him which looked quite naturtal for a fearful child.

A teenage girl played by Elizabeth Berridge unrobes herself before taking a shower and her breasts are revealed.
There are three strippers at a carnival tent.

Nothing too bloody but there's an axe in a teens head and a sword through a man's stomach.
Neither one is graphic.

John Beal was magnificent with his classical composing by having alot of sharp suspenseful violin playing as well as the odd heavy drum booming. There's also a nice orchestral chiming for the opening credits of the film as well as the closing too sounding very carnival like. He puts it all together for this motion picture which really makes the movie sound incredibly effective with every touch he used for it.

Madame Zena: (After picking up her crystal ball she just dropped glaring angrily) Don't come back or I'll break every bone in your fucking body!! Beat it!!!

Funhouse: [discovers that the Monster - who also turns out to be his son - has killed Madame Zena after paying her for sex... because she wouldn't give him a refund] You paid Madame Zena a hundred dollars for this? You crazy fool, I could have gotten you one of them tent-girls for fifteen! Well, you never were much for knowing the value of cash, were you?

Funhouse: [to the freak] Hit yerself, you ugly thing!