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The Funhouse

Original U.S film poster.
Directed by Tobe Hooper
Produced by Steven Bernhardt
Derek Power
Written by Larry Block
Starring Elizabeth Berridge
Shawn Carson
Music by John Beal
Cinematography Andrew Laszlo
Editing by Jack Hofstra
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) March 13, 1981 (U.S.)
Running time 96 min.
Language English
Budget N/A

The Funhouse is a 1981 horror film that centers on four teenagers who become trapped inside a funhouse and stalked by a deformed man. The film was directed by Tobe Hooper and the screenplay was written by Larry Block. The cast features Kevin Conway, William Finley and two-time Academy Award-nominee Sylvia Miles.



Against her father's orders, teenage girl Amy goes to a sleazy traveling carnival with her new boyfriend Buzz, her best friend Liz, and Liz's boyfriend Richie. Amy's father has forbidden her going to the carnival because a couple of Girl Scouts were found murdered at its previous set-up. At the carnival, the four teens smoke marijuana. They peep into a 21-and-over strip show. They heckle Madame Zena the Fortune Teller, visit a freaks-of-nature exhibit, and view a magic show.

They telephone their parents and lie to them so they can spend the night in the carnival's funhouse - actually a darkride - after it closes. Then they notice the Funhouse Barker's assistant - a man in a Frankenstein suit who never speaks - making out with a lingerie-clad Madame Zena. She demands a hundred dollars from "Frankenstein," and when he ejaculates prematurely, she refuses to "go all the way" as agreed. When she will not give back the money, "Frankenstein" attacks and strangles her. After witnessing this, the four teenagers attempt to leave the funhouse, but find that it is locked. Richie also steals money from the steel strongbox from which "Frankenstein" had retrieved the money for Madame Zena. The kids have to hide again when the Funhouse Barker, Conrad Straker, returns and sees what "Frankenstein" - his son Gunther - has done to Madame Zena. After giving Gunther a violent reprimanding, Conrad decides that they'll place Madame Zena's body to make it look as though she was killed by "the locals." Conrad then discovers that all of the money from his strongbox is missing. He believes Gunther has taken it and tortures him, eventually taking off his Frankenstein mask. Gunther's face is gruesomely deformed, with sharp protruding teeth and ruby-red eyes.

Startled, Richie drops his cigarette lighter, which lands near Conrad and Gunther. Conrad notices and realizes they are not alone, and that someone has likely witnessed Gunther's killing of Madame Zena. The witnesses will have to be found, slain, and buried as surreptitiously as possible. Conrad and Gunther were also the ones who had murdered the Girl Scouts for tripping over their secret; had word gotten out, Gunther would have been lynched and butchered (like his mother), or put on display in the freak exhibition (like his late younger brother Tad). After killing Richie with a noose, actually a funhouse prop, Gunther captures Liz with a trapdoor. Liz tries to lure Gunther into a trap with promises of sex, but when she stabs Gunther he attacks her, stabbing her to death with his sharpened finger nails. Conrad tries to shoot Amy, but Buzz jumps him for his snubnosed revolver and shoots Conrad dead. Then Gunther attacks Buzz for the gun while Amy runs for it. Gunther gets hold of the revolver and shoots Buzz dead. Gunther chases Amy into a room filled with hydraulic machinery and tries to kill her with a crowbar, but hits the fusebox and electrocutes himself. He comes after Amy again, but is caught between two gears and tries to drag her in, as well. Amy tears herself free as Gunther is crushed to death. At dawn, Amy exits the funhouse. An animated fat lady laughs uproariously as Amy - her clothes ripped, her makeup running, her shoes gone - proceeds to walk home.



The Funhouse opened in 814 theaters in the United States on March 13, 1981, and earned $2,765,456 in the opening weekend and grossed $7,886,857 in total. Film critic Gene Siskel of the Chicago Sun-Times liked the film and gave it a positive review. [1]

Composer John Beal's score was praised by critics, and the soundtrack CD later became a collector's item.[2][3]


A novelization of the screenplay was written by Dean Koontz, under the pseudonym Owen West. As the film production took longer than expected, the book was released before the film.


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