VHS Review: Fun House

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Tobe Hooper’s audacious carnival splatter involving two young couples that decide to have a slumber party in a fun house overnight. After witnessing the murder of a psychic prostitute, they’re on the run for their lives but find themselves trapped inside the fun house with no way out.

For a short time, Fun House was banned in the UK and labeled a Video Nasty. I use to wonder why because it’s not all that gruesome. The monster’s face is pretty horrific but that’s still not good enough for a banning. However, this is far more horrific than some of the other titles on the list. Turns out, the film was mistaken for “The Fun House” which is one of the alternate titles for The Last House on Dead End Street. How bout’ that.

This Fun House does not get the respect it deserves. It’s actually a decent horror film and a classic in my eyes. The lighting and set design are far beyond impressive. With this script, intensity, and sinking vibe – Fun House doesn’t have to rely on blood and guts to save the day. It succeeds immensely and brings sheer terror to its viewers. This makes me envy drive-in attendees in the 70s. Technically, this film came out in 1981 but I cancel that out due to the grimy 70s feel, reminiscent of previous slasher films. Even though there is very little gore, we get to witness masterful special effects for the freak. J.B. Jones was a master of his craft. Especially, for this time period. Fun House also pays homage to Halloween and Psycho in the opening sequence with excellent POV shots.

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The acting is pretty good with a cast full of nobodies. Elizabethe Berridge took on the lead role as our final girl, Amy. Berridge didn’t have much of a career as an actress but played Beethoven’s wife in Amadeus. Her character Amy, is dating a gas station attendant named Buzz (Cooper Huckabee) Ah, every parents dream. All the characters in this film are pretty basic. Richie (Miles Chapin) is obviously knocked off first because it was his dumb idea to stay over night in the fun house. Then there’s Liz (Largo Woodruff) who is a stunning blonde but dumb enough to offer her body to the monster before getting killed. Way to go Liz.

The storyline is pretty basic. Our final girl’s parents disapprove of her going on a date with a gas station attendant named Buzz and they certainly do not approve of her attending the dangerous carnival where two young girls were slaughtered the previous year. Upon their arrival, they spend their time riding rides, gawking at a peep show, and they attend a freak show with things like deformed babies in jars. I have actually gone to one of these things at the state fair with my old room mate. They even had animals with five legs and two heads. We even got stuck in one of their fun houses. The ride stopped completely and it was pitch black. We might have only sat there for ten minutes but it was still creepy. Any way, the group decides to stay in the fun house over night and they pay dearly for it. You know how these things go.

Steven Spielberg asked Tobe Hooper to direct E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial but he turned it down because he was working on this movie. However, Hooper and Spielberg would work together on Poltergeist.