THE FUNHOUSE. Universal Pictures, 1981. Elizabeth Berridge, Kevin Conway, William Finley, Cooper Huckabee, Miles Chapin, Sylvia Miles. Directed by Tobe Hooper.

   This stylish, if somewhat mediocre, horror film might as well have been entitled The Good, the Bad, and The Very Ugly. Because let me tell you: the monster in this Tobe Hooper directed feature is not just ugly; he’s very ugly. Hideous actually.

   Unfortunately, aside from the shock value of the creature’s disfigurement and the crisp photography, there’s not all that much that makes Funhouse an overly memorable horror film. That’s not to say that it’s a particularly bad film. It’s just that, overall, the film lacks both the character development and requisite memorable dialogue that could very have made it something that stood out from the pack.

   There were just so very many horror films released in the 1980s, many of which followed the standard plot of a final girl facing off against some sort of evil figure that it’s difficult to consider each one without reference to all the others. Indeed, in this particular regard, the plot of Funhouse doesn’t stray too far from the proverbial straight and narrow. There’s a female protagonist who, against her better judgment, gets caught up in a life-or-death situation and who, despite her meek nature, ends up defeating the evil antagonist. She is, in every respect, the final girl. The one who ends up surviving all the mayhem that transpires throughout the course of the film.

   Amy Harper (Elizabeth Berridge) is a small town girl who lives with her parents and her kid brother. The latter is a prankster and something of a brat, it would appear. Against her better judgment, she ends up going with her friends to the carnival that has recently arrived in town. There, she and her date, as well as another couple, will make the fatal decision to spend the night in the funhouse.

   But, alas, something lurks – and drools – in the funhouse. And it’s not fully human. And it kills. This is essentially the entire plot. One, it should be noted, that doesn’t truly come into fruition until at least thirty or forty minutes into the film.

   Now again, don’t let me make you believe that Funhouse isn’t worth seeing. In many ways, it is. It’s actually, believe it or not, a fun movie, one that thankfully relies far more on atmosphere than gore to convey a general air of creepiness at the carnival.

   Harper, along with Sylvia Miles who portrays a fortuneteller, are strong female characters in a movie filled with overall unpleasant or just plain dull male characters. So the movie’s got a few things going for it. Just not enough to make it one that’s especially compelling, or one that stays in your mind for any length of time after you’ve left the movie theater. If you like horror movies set at carnivals, however, this one’s definitely worth checking out.