The Funhouse on Blu-ray

Saturday, 16 July 2011 09:46

“The Funhouse” comes from horror director Tobe Hooper, renowned for a rather influential Texan chainsaw massacre movie, “Poltergeist” and Salem's Lot. High on pot and heavy petting, two young couples visit a trashy travelling carnival. Non-plussed with the shoddy exhibits and rides, they foolishly decide to up the ante by spending the night inside the funhouse. Unbeknownst to them, a murderous freak lurks inside.

The film stars Elizabeth Berridge (“Amadeus”, “Hidalgo”) as Amy, Cooper Huckabee (True Blood, “Gettysburg”) as her hunky boyfriend Buzz, Largo Woodruff as Liz and Miles Chapin of “Hair” and “The People Vs Larry Flynt” fame as her squeeze Richie. The ill-feted sleepover is Richie's idea, and is going swimmingly until they witness a gruesome strangling by a masked carnie. They could be next unless they can escape undetected.

The Funhouse makes it debut on Blu-rayThe movie starts strongly with a clever pastiche of the godfathers of the slasher genre: “Halloween” and “Psycho”. After that there is quite a long and slightly tedious lull before the action proper kicks into gear. Whilst the commotion and disorienting energy of the funfair is captured very well, it does not get under the audience's skin sufficiently to establish an atmosphere of dread.

Once the murder is witnessed things fortunately do pick up nicely, especially when the freakish killer is fully unveiled. What the prosthetic make-up lacks in flexibility it more than makes up for in hideousness, helped by Wayne Doba's chillingly unhinged performance as the monster.

The two mischievous but relatively innocent couples lean sufficiently on the right side of the sympathy line, and we care for their safety. This helps to intensify the sense of danger as the monster and his grizzled father (played by prolific actor Kevin Conway) hunt them down inside the funhouse.

John Beal's tempestuous score also bolsters the nerve-wracking, oppressive atmosphere, sweeping the action along at key points in the film. The funhouse itself takes on a more menacing persona, with the power cutting in and out at the worst possible times, and the machinery-strewn level underneath the floor makes for both a good hiding place and a whirring death trap.

On this new Blu-ray format, the high-def sharpness and clarity of the movie ebbs and flows a little, but most of the time the focus of the camera is clear and bright. One gets the feeling that Hooper often intended the depth of field to be very narrow, so objects in the foreground and background are blurred and shimmering in comparison with those in the middle ground. The sound quality is far from cutting edge, though the aforementioned music fairs better in terms of clarity and volume.

Bonus content accompanying the release includes the usual Arrow avalanche of commentaries, interviews and pack items. The complete list includes:

  • Audio commentary with “The Funhouse” SFX wizard Craig Reardon and Jeffrey Reddick (creator of “The Final Destination” series)
  • Audio commentary with producer Derek Power and genre scholar Howard S Bergman
  • Audio commentary with Justin Kerswell, author of Teenage Wasteland and host of the slasher cinema website Hysteria Lives, and author Calum Waddell
  • Stuck in the Funhouse with director Tobe Hooper
  • 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 SFX 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 Shining" reflects on the crimson-covered career of his long-time 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
  • Collectors’ booklet featuring brand new writing on the film by critic and author Kim Newman
  • Four-panel reversible sleeve options with original and newly commissioned artwork
  • Double-sided fold-out artwork poster.

The quality of this extra material varies quite widely, both from an interest and audio/visual fidelity point of view, but fans will definitely find plenty to get their teeth sunk into.

“The Funhouse” (1981) is out now on Blu-ray disc, courtesy of Arrow Video. The main feature has a running time of 95 minutes approx, carries an ‘18’ certificate and retails for £27.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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