With an opening scene that manages to pay tribute to both Carpenter's "Halloween" and Hitchcock's "Psycho" at the same time, "Funhouse" is an essential early 1980s horror film. Hooper, of course, directed the landmark "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," and he still had his mojo intact when he made this. He enlisted the services of Rick Baker for make-up duties, and the mask Baker created for the monster in this film is kind of a Fangoria classic. Lead damsel-in-distress Berridge also wasn't a bad actress and even had a role in "Amadeus."
Berridge is naturally a virgin whose party animal friends want to go to a visiting carnival. Her parents warn her that some kids turned up missing last time the carnival was in town, but she doesn't heed their warnings. Once there, her buddies convince her it would be a good idea to sneak into the Funhouse and spend the night there having sex. She naturally caves into the peer pressure.
While they're there, however, the group witness a murder: Sylvia Miles, carnival's bitchy fortune teller, is killed off by a strange retard in a Frankenstein mask. Needless to say, the retard doesn't look normal. As it turns out, under that mask he's a horribly disfigured, drooling, homicidal creature with fangs. Locked in the funhouse, the kids attempt to survive the night as the raging retard goes on a killing spree.
Perhaps the biggest weakness of this film is the low body count. After all, it is a slasher film. Here, we've only got four teens. It also takes a good long time for the action to pick up. But the characters are more realistic than your standard hack-and-slash, the make-up is A-OK and Hooper gives the film a John Carpenter-esque look that's hard not to like. In short, this is a nice film for nostalgic fans of early 1980s horror. But if you're looking for action and gore, look elsewhere. Baker's mask design, while pretty cool, is low-key. The creature's face doesn't move or change. It looks very much like one of the masks in the "American Werewolf in London" nightmare Nazi sequence. The story is simple -- no real twists and turns. And you know what's gonna happen to Amy, the virgin -- the same thing that happens in all early 1980s slasher films. It'll be up to her to defeat the bad guy.
It's a surprise they never made a "Funhouse 2." Hooper would go on to making big budget films like "Poltergeist" and "Lifeforce," before becoming a hack.