October 8th, 2011

THE FUNHOUSE (1981) *** ½

Man oh man, do I love me some Funhouse. It’s a neglected classic; one that can easily stand toe to toe with Poltergeist, wrestling for position as Tobe Hooper’s second best film. It perfectly encapsulates everything I love about 80’s slasher movies. It’s got tits, horny dope-smoking teens, old Jesus freaks that warn said teens of their imminent death, hideously mutated murderers (WITH A LIBIDO!), and some damn fine hacking and mutilating. This movie is makes you proud to be an American.

You know it’s going to be good right from the beginning shower scene, which manages to crib from both Psycho AND Halloween. (I always say; if you’ve got to steal from somebody, steal from the best.) What makes this scene so great isn’t the gratuitous nudity, it’s the fact that the gratuitous nudity comes courtesy of the gal who winds up being the Final Girl of the picture. By actually showing her naked right from the get-go Hooper turns the notion of the virginal Final Girl on its ear. Sure, she’s still a virgin and all, but she’s a virgin who doesn’t mind showing off her classy breasts.

The plot is the very definition of Keep It Simple, Stupid. Four horny, dope-smoking teens go to the carnival and spend the night in the titular Funhouse. There they witness a deranged malformed maniac kill a woman who won’t sex him up. When the killer realizes they’re inside the Funhouse, he and his father try to silence them. And by “silence them” I mean kill their sorry butts.

The Funhouse takes a while for the killing to happen but when it does, it’s a lot of fun. There’s electrocution, strangulation, an axe to the head, a sword through the back, and the death of the killer is one of the most prolonged and over the top deaths of a killer you’ll find in an 80’s slasher. Sure, it may take almost an hour before our killer goes on a rampage, but in the meantime Hooper gives us tons of creepy atmosphere to tide us over. By doing so, he builds up a moderate level of dread to the proceedings so by the time the murders happen; we’re already on edge. The Funhouse itself is full of freaky animatronics, scary lighting, and assorted freaky shit. The whole place is just gnarly. It’s not as badass as Leatherface’s home or anything, but it’s legit.

This movie is just chockfull of memorable moments. Hands down the best part is the eerie scene where the teens spy on the killer trying to get it on with the elderly fortune teller. Because the killer is sexually active; unlike say, Jason, it makes him that much scarier. Not only is he a homicidal maniac, but he’s all kinds of sexually frustrated as well. (You’d be sexually frustrated too if your purple mutant face had a giant ass crack going down the middle of it.) The gals in the cast know this too and one even tries to beg for her life by saying “Don’t hurt me! I can make you feel good!” I don’t know about you, but that just creeps me out. Also, Hooper gives us one terrific Final Girl segment at the film’s conclusion. Of course, Tobe did the DEFINITIVE Final Girl scene in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre; so the man is just doing what comes natural.

AKA: Carnival of Terror. AKA: Funhouse: Carnival of Terror.

LEATHERFACE: TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 3 (1990) *

I first watched Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 went it first came out on video and absolutely hated everything about it. I used to think this movie was the worst horror franchise sequel in history. After later being subjected to stuff like Jason Goes to Hell, Halloween: Resurrection, Hellraiser: Hellseeker, and the A Nightmare on Elm Street remake, I’ve kinda changed my tune. Watching it again for the first time after two decades; I have to say the flick has grown on me. And by “grown on me”, I mean I’m giving it One Star now instead of none. At this rate, I’ll be able to say it’s a Four Star classic by the year 2071. (Of course, by that time I’ll be 93 years old and senile as a motherfucker, so it’s just possible I WOULD give this thing Four Stars by then.)

Kate Hodge (the hottie from She-Wolf of London looking hot as Hell here) and William Butler (from Ghoulies 2 and Friday the 13th 7) are on a car trip through Texas. While on the road they have various encounters with random jackasses like Tex (Viggo fuckin’ Mortensen) who creep them out. Eventually, they realize all these assholes are part of Leatherface’s vast ever-expanding cannibal family, and all of them are ready to put Kate and Bill on tonight’s menu.

Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 starts off OK; better than I remembered. But once Hodge and Butler wind up stranded in the woods it turns to shit. The only real bright spot comes from seeing Leatherface driving a pick-up truck covered in human skin.

There are several things that absolutely suck about this movie. Let’s start with the kills. The camera always cuts away just before showing the money shot. And most of the goddamned flick is so goddamned dark you couldn’t see a goddamned thing if they did show it. Even worse, many of the deaths occur off screen. I know the original wasn’t gory, but at least Tobe Hooper made that movie scary as a sumbitch. This one is more patience-testing than nerve-racking.

Another thing that sucks is the fact that Leatherface has far too many family members fighting for screen time in this one. There’s Viggo, a hook-handed tow truck driver, a little girl (the scene where she kills someone is done in extremely poor taste), and the wheelchair-bound “Mama”. None of these bozos are worthy cannibal psychos; not even Viggo. (It’s hard to imagine him turning into a big-time movie star from watching his performance in this flick.) I mean why call the movie LEATHERFACE if you’re gonna load up on a bunch of unnecessary family members?

And speaking of Leatherface, he’s a big disappointment too. His mask is shoddy looking and he dresses like a goddamned hippie. He’s also way too physically intimidating. Leatherface was, and shall always be a butterball. Making him built like a biker just doesn’t feel consistent with the character.

Then there’s the ending. Ken Foree gets his head halfway chopped off with a chainsaw then appears moments later with a little nick on his head. Do WHAT? This movie also ends so abruptly that you ju

Tomorrow’s Horror Franchise Movie: House 2: The Second Story.