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The Funhouse (Shout! Factory) UHD/Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • The Funhouse (Shout! Factory) UHD/Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: September 6th, 2022.
    Director: Tobe Hooper
    Cast: Elizabeth Berridge, Cooper Huckabee, Miles Chapin, Largo Woodruff, Wayne Boba
    Year: 1981
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Funhouse – Movie Review:

    1981’s The Funhouse, directed by Tobe Hooper, opens with a scene that is an homage to both Halloween and Psycho wherein a boy named Joey Harper (Shawn Carson) plays a gag on his sister, Amy (Elizabeth Berridge) as she's showering and getting ready for a date. He spooks her, she yells at him and then she gets ready for her night out, unaware that her annoying little brother is going to sneak out of the house for the night and follow her.

    Her new boyfriend, Buzz Dawson (Cooper Huckabee), picks her up and then they grab pals Liz Duncan (Largo Woodruff) and her date Richie Atterbury (Miles Chapin). Amy wants to go to the movies but Buzz insists they go check out the new carnival that's rolled into town. They arrive and spend a good amount of time wandering around and enjoying themselves. A warning from a strange woman in the bathroom goes ignored, but a fortune telling session with the crotchety Madame Zena (Sylvia Miles) takes a dark turn. Regardless, they take in a magic show hosted by Marco The Magnificent (a sorely underused (William Finley) and peek in on a burlesque show before then deciding to head on into the funhouse ride.

    From here, Buzz and Richie decide it would be fun to hide out inside the funhouse and spend the night. They girls aren’t into it but eventually it’s decided that this is what they’ll do and after Amy calls her parents to say she’s crashing at Liz’s place they sneak and expect to have a night of making out and goofing off. All of that changes once they see the guy who was operating the ride wearing a Frankenstein mask (Wayne Doba) engage in a little pay for play with Madame Zena. When he finishes in seconds and she won’t give him her money back, he kills her, which gets him in trouble with his father (Kevin Conway), who soon realizes that the day’s take in cash has been stolen.

    One dropped lighter later and our four main characters find themselves in a whole lot of trouble…

    Featuring some neat makeup designs by none other than Rick Baker and some genuinely excellent set design and decoration, The Funhouse may take its time before it gets to the horror, spending a lot of time simply showing off the carnival itself, but it’s fun to look at regardless. A quirky and colorful movie, until it descends into darkness in its final third, it offers up a pretty cool monster, some solid murder set pieces and a decent score as well. Production values are pretty solid across the board, and Hooper and company do a good job of building suspense throughout the second half of the film.

    The acting is also pretty good. Elizabeth Berridge makes for a likable and photogenic lead. She’s the ‘good girl’ of the group and she has the right look to pull that off. She also does a great job of looking absolutely terrified once everything hits the fan for her and her friends. Cooper Huckabee and Miles Chapin play the goofy guys pretty well and Largo Woodruff is also pretty decent in her role, though she doesn’t have quite as much range as Berridge does (though to be fair to her, she isn’t given quite as much to do). Wayne Doba is under loads of makeup and his performance is almost completely non-verbal, but he makes for a fun monster and he and Kevin Conway share some good scenes together, even if their relationship is eerily similar at times to the one shared between Leatherface and The Cook in Hooper’s earlier Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Sylvia Miles steals the few scenes that she’s in, while William Finley is great in his cameo, leaving us wishing he’d had more screen time than he gets here. Also be on the lookout for Ray Dennis Steckler regular Herb Robins in a supporting role as the carnival manager!

    The Funhouse – UHD Review:

    The Funhouse comes to UHD in an HEVC encoded 2160p 4k transfer with HDR10 from a new 4k master of the original negative and framed in its original 2.39.1 widescreen aspect ratio. It’s hard to take issue with the quality of the image here, it looks excellent. There’s considerably more visible detail here than on the Blu-ray and considerably better depth to the image as well, although there are some scenes that look softer than others, likely stemming back to how the movie was originally shot. Color reproduction looks fantastic, especially the many scenes that take place at the carnival and inside the funhouse itself, and black levels are nice and deep, avoiding crush and noticeable compression in these sequences. Skin tones look excellent and the film is pretty much pristine, retaining the grain that you’d want it to given that it was shot on film, but not showing really any noticeable print damage at all.

    English language audio options are provided in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio and DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio. Purists will no doubt opt for the stereo track but the surround mix stays fairly true to form, keeping the dialogue more or less in the front of the mix and using the surround channels to spread out the excellent score and to play around with some directional effects. Both tracks sound very good and feature properly balanced levels and crisp, clear dialogue. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion to note and there is good depth here. Optional subtitles are provided in English.

    The only disc on the UHD is an archival audio commentary track with director Tobe Hooper moderated by filmmaker Tim Sullivan. This track is worth checking out if you haven't heard it before as in it Hooper discusses where his career was at during this point in his life, how he came to direct The Funhouse, casting the film and his thoughts on the actors in the picture, some of the technical details of the cinematography and lots more. Hooper is in fine form here and Sullivan keeps him engaged.

    The included Blu-ray disc features the same commentary as well as quite a few more extras, starting with Carnival Of Blood: Largo Woodruff On The Funhouse. This is a nine minute piece where she talks about how she grew up in New York and then moved, got into acting, got her start doing a lot of commercials, getting a part in Woody Allen's Stardust Memories, auditioning for and landing the part for The Funhouse, what it was like working with Hooper, getting along with her co-stars, not doing the nude scene that was asked of her, memories of shooting key sequences, the makeup she had to do for her death scene and having to learn to curse to get in character.

    The eleven minute Let's Spend The Night: Miles Chapin On The Funhouse interviews the actor about how he got the part in the movie while working on a play in Manhattan, meeting and getting along with Tobe Hooper, shooting in Florida, the soundstage funhouse setup, not being a fan of carnival rides, shooting with real animals in the freak show scenes, some of the production problems that arose during the shoot, changes that had to be made to the script, Wayne Doba's performance as the monster, Sylvia Miles' breasts and shooting his death scene.

    Dance In The Dark Ride: Wayne Doba On The Funhouse spends fifteen minutes with the actor reviewing his work as the monster in the movie. He talks about moving to California in 1975 and working as a dancer, getting the role of the monster in the movie, not having to worry too much about the script as he didn't really have any dialogue, delivering an almost entirely physical performance, Tobe Hooper's dark energy and what he was like to work with, how uncomfortable it was to be under all that make up in the movie, the film's six week shoot, having to film his finale with Elizabeth Berridge and the pros and cons of using a rubber crowbar and what it was like working on his first feature film.

    Alive, Alive, Alive: Craig Reardon On The Funhouse sees the man who was in charge of the film's special makeup effects talk about his relationship with Tobe Hooper, working with the director on Eaten Alive, how he wound up getting to work on The Funhouse, the challenges that he had to deal with during the shoot, Hooper's intelligence and skill as a director, the design work that went into the monster's mask and the mold work that had to be done for it, what went right and what went wrong on the shoot, the decision to make the monster an albino, some of his work on Poltergeist and how he feels about the movie more than forty years after working on it.

    The rest of the extras are carried over from the older Blu-ray edition, beginning with an eleven minute interview with Kevin Conway titled The Barker Speaks! He details getting the part, his thoughts on the movie, what it was like working with Hooper and what was involved in shooting his character's demise.

    Something Wicker This Way Comes is a nine minute interview with executive producer Mark L. Lester. He discusses his love of horror pictures and exploitation movies, how he came to be involved with the movie, thoughts on the script, budgetary limitations, shooting in Florida and his thoughts on the movie's success.

    Composer John Beal is up next in the ten minute Carnival Music wherein he talks about how he got into the music business and started scoring movies, his love of film, what he tried to bring to the movie with his work on the score and what went into creating the music featured in the picture.

    There’s also a quick three minute audio interview with actor William Finley where he talks briefly about his work on the movie as the magician.

    Outside of that, we also get give minutes of alternate scenes from the TV version of the movie, the film's original theatrical trailer, a few TV spots and some radio spots. Menus and chapter stops are also included. As far as the packaging goes, Shout! Factory packages this release with a collectible slipcover and some nice reversible cover sleeve artwork.

    The Funhouse - The Final Word:

    The Funhouse holds up well, an entertaining horror picture with a great setting, a cool monster and some strong performances. The UHD release from Shout! Factory offers a really nice upgrade in picture quality and a solid assortment of extra features old and new. Recommended!

    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized The Funhouse Blu-ray screen caps!

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    Ian Jane
    Last edited by Ian Jane; 09-15-2022, 06:17 PM.
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