The Funhouse (1981)

funhouse poster 1981 movie
5.5 Overall Score
Story: 4/10
Acting: 4/10
Visuals: 6/10

Goofy, fun monster

Plot does do much at all

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Funhouse

Studio:  Universal Pictures

Genre(s):  Horror

Release Date(s):  March 13, 1981

MPAA Rating:  R


For once the big dumb jock guy isn’t the real problem…nerdy white guy is!

A carnival is coming to town, and Amy Harper (Elizabeth Berridge) and her friends Buzz (Cooper Huckabee), Liz (Largo Woodruff), and Richie (Miles Chapin) have gone for a night of fun against her parents’ wishes.  When they decide to spend a night at the carnival by hiding in the funhouse, they encounter more scares than they expected when they witness the murder of a fortune teller (Sylvia Miles) by a masked monster.  Now, there seems to be no escape from the funhouse and the kids who have disappeared in neighboring towns might have met a similar fate.

Directed by Tobe Hooper, The Funhouse was a low budget horror film.  Often listed as an adaptation of a Dean R. Koontz novel, Koontz actually wrote the book as a screenplay adaptation (under the pseudonym Owen West) but due to a delay, Koontz novel was released before the movie.  The film has gained a cult following over the years and recently has been released on Blu-Ray.


I see death…in the funhouse…I don’t know how to interpret that however…

I read The Funhouse by Dean R. Koontz before seeing the movie and had anticipated a scary monster horror movie.  I was surprised to find that Koontz had added a lot to his story which wasn’t covered in the movie and was a bit disappointed by the final picture.

The story of The Funhouse is almost nonexistent.  The kids sneak away to the funhouse and get killed…there really isn’t any development, any explanation of the killer, or any twists or turns.  There is also a side story with Amy’s brother Joey (Shawn Carson) sneaking away to the carnival that goes nowhere.  He gets scared and is sent home with his parents…it should have had more direction.


Hey you guys!!!!! (Sloth’s even uglier cousin)

The acting for the movie is pretty typical for a movie of this caliber.  It does have two time Academy Award nominee Sylvia Miles as the damned fortune teller Madame Zena.  Elizabeth Berridge did go on to have a bit of success immediately after this film as Mozart’s wife Constanze Mozart in the Best Picture winning Amadeus in 1984.

The movie is one of those great goofy monster movies.  It is revealed that the killer was born with deformities and is a monster.  He pursues the kids through the funhouse and the final scene with his attack on Amy in the gear room of the funhouse is quite fun (though it was pretty obvious from the beginning that he was going to end up caught in those gears).  The movie also does employ some creepy carnival characters though I think the clown on the poster is scarier than some of the imagery in the film.

The Funhouse just isn’t as fun as you’d hope it would be but it is decent ‘80s horror with jumps scares and monsters.  I wish there had been more plot and more development, but the picture is fast and sweet.  If you want a better telling of this story read Koontz adaptation…it isn’t great but it is a different version.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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