Friday, September 9, 2022

‘The Funhouse’ 4K Review – Scream Factory Makes Tobe Hooper’s Slasher More Gritty and Gorgeous Than Ever

Tobe Hooper.

At the mere mention of his name, which of the late filmmaker’s works leap to mind?

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, of course. Certainly his most iconic film, and surely his masterpiece.

How about that film’s gonzo 80s sequel? Or perhaps Eaten Alive, his EC-tinged grindhouse film featuring a maniacal hotel proprietor and his pet crocodile? Maybe your mind leaps to his blockbuster spook story Poltergeist, his nightmarish alien invasion remake Invaders from Mars, or his superb television miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot?

But what of The Funhouse, Hooper’s stylish, scary entry in the then-burgeoning teen slasher boom? Released in 1981, a golden year for releases in that subgenre, The Funhouse stands as a vital entry in the filmmaker’s canon, marrying his penchant for dark humor and grisly horror with a studio budget, paving the way for much of his work throughout the next decade. While genre enthusiasts surely appreciate the film, its muted reputation suggests that it continues to be an underloved gem even forty years after its initial release.

Here to rectify this injustice is Scream Factory, upgrading their 2012 Blu-ray to 4K with a number of bonus features that shine a light on the film’s production history and its continuing legacy.

When a quartet of friends visit a small traveling fair, one of the group dares the others to secretly spend the night in the carnival’s funhouse. After hours, hidden away, the group witnesses a murder committed by a mute in a Frankenstein mask, kicking off a series of events which find the four kids on the run from the silent killer and his carnival barker father, who wish to eliminate all witnesses to the crime. Locked inside the funhouse with nowhere to go, the friends arm themselves with funhouse props and prepare to do battle with their stalkers. Will they survive? And if so, what will be left of them…?

Delivering solid thrills and a terrifying killer (the face under that mask!), this little switchblade of a slasher makes one hell of an impression. The actors all perform admirably (Elizabeth Berridge in particular, portraying Final Girl Amy), while Hooper’s direction is sharp and stylish, masterfully ratcheting up tension and delivering shocks with lethal precision. While Hooper had delved into slasher territory with his previous efforts, his work on The Funhouse cements the filmmaker as an excellent craftsman in that subgenre.

Hooper provides insight into his approach with the film in the audio commentary featured on Scream Factory’s 4K disc, moderated by filmmaker Tim Sullivan. The sole bonus feature on the disc (despite mention of an included trailer on the 4K’s packaging), this talk is laidback but informative, charting the film’s origins and delving into production minutiae. It’s well worth a listen for Hooper fans and filmmaking enthusiasts alike.

But the major draw for the 4K disc is, of course, the image. Featuring a new 4K scan from the film’s original camera negative, this release is easily the best The Funhouse has ever looked, even topping Scream Factory’s already impressive 2012 Blu-ray release. Razor sharp image (save for some scenes which feature some softer photography, of course), with cinematographer Andrew Laszlo’s eye popping color work faithfully represented throughout. The scan also boasts some noticeable film grain, giving the feature a beautiful, grainy film look that thankfully hasn’t been DNR-scrubbed away. The early carnival scenes in particular are marvelous, looking gritty and gorgeous in equal measure.

The 4K disc also features 2.0 and 5.1 soundtrack options, which carry over onto the Blu-ray disc included with the new 4K. Also featuring the new scan, the Blu-ray is home to numerous additional supplements ported over from the previous release, including:

Trailers & Radio Spots: one trailer, four TV spots, and four radio spots feature here, all featuring that glorious early 80s slasher marketing appeal.

The Barker Speaks!: (11:40) an interview with actor Kevin Conway, the film’s creepy carnival barker Conrad Straker, produced by Red Shirt Pictures.

Something Wicked This Way Comes: (08:57) a Red Shirt interview with executive producer Mark L. Lester.

Carnival Music: (10:20) another Red Shirt joint, this one featuring a conversation with composer John Beal.

Audio Interview with William Finley: (3:33) an excerpt from a larger interview with the late De Palma regular, who discusses his brief but noteworthy contribution to the film as Marco the Magnificent, his second of three collaborations with Hooper.

Deleted Scenes: (5:28) a collection of material initially trimmed from the feature, then reinserted to pad out the film’s length for television airings shorn of its various instances of sexuality and violence. These scenes are presented in 4:3, from what appears to be a VHS master.

Book Advertisement: (00:29), a brief ad for the film’s novelization by “new master of horror” Owen West – actually Dean Koontz writing under another name. It’s worth noting that the novelization is a great work in its own right, the first three quarters of which is entirely new material that acts as a prequel to the events portrayed in the film.

Beyond these older features, a new set of interviews has been included with this 4K release, produced by Justin Beahm’s Reverend Entertainment. They are:

Carnival of Blood: Largo Woodruff on The Funhouse: (9:08) a great chat featuring fun reminiscences from the actor who portrayed Liz Duncan.

Let’s Spend the Night: Miles Chapin on The Funhouse: (11:16) the actor discusses his time playing troublemaker Richie.

Dancer in the Dark Ride: Wayne Doba on The Funhouse: (15:23) a talk with the man behind the monster behind the Frankenstein mask.

Alive, Alive, Alive: Craig Reardon on The Funhouse: (18:46) a fun interview with Craig Reardon, responsible for the film’s “Special Makeup Execution”.

Overall, an excellent release for an underloved gem. If you’ve never had the pleasure of catching this essential slasher classic, now’s the time. For everyone else, trade in that previous disc already.

The Funhouse 4K review

The post ‘The Funhouse’ 4K Review – Scream Factory Makes Tobe Hooper’s Slasher More Gritty and Gorgeous Than Ever appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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