The Funhouse (1981)

Viewed March 24th


Teenagers spend the night in the carnival funhouse, but end up getting stalked by psychos. 

I really like the way director Tobe Hooper directed this one-dimensional, but somewhat disturbing horror film. Every gesture is thought through in cinematic terms to draw you in deeper. In the first sequence alone (which manages to make obvious nods to Hitchcock and John Carpenter) we have point of view shots, a characters wearing a mask, a mask over the lens, doors obscuring our view, semi-translucent shower curtains, lights strategically directing our eyes and creating mystery, glints of knives, and a creative use of depth in the soundtrack. All of this is designed to absorb the viewer into the world, to ask what's around that corner, what's going on over there, let me in deeper. Also, in outline, the story is sort of mind-numbingly stupid, but at every cliche plot point, things are twisted just enough into the realm of the weird and surreal that the film manages to remain surprising. This method of keeping the viewer on an edge between the familiar and the unfamiliar can, at its best, result in a sense of uncanniness. If judged as a statement about the real world, The Funhouse is, of course, utterly stupid and shallow (if not actively adding to social problems); but if judged as an instrument to tickle the unconscious, it does some interesting things, particularly in the way it mixes imagery of teen sexuality with dusty freak shows.