J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Funhouse Massacre: The Clown is the Deadliest

For some reason, serial killers develop fannish followings, especially among goth rockers and leftist radicals like Bernardine Dohrn. This Halloween, karma will come around good and hard for the grusomely voyeuristic when some of the worst serial killers ever escape their Arkham-esque psychiatric prison and take over the new haunted house, conveniently featuring attractions based on their murders. It all goes according to their mastermind’s evil plan in Andy Palmer’s Funhouse Massacre (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New Jersey.

To dissuade a muckraking reporter from writing an expose, the Warden gives her a good look at the five psychopaths in his custody. Unfortunately, she is no journalist. She is the daughter of the prisoner Mental Manny, a mesmerizing Jim Jones-ish cult leader responsible for a notorious local mass suicide. Known in her own right as the serial killer Doll Face, her M.O. is stitching her victims’ eyes and mouths closed, because she is crazy. They are off to the new Funhouse, along with her father’s fellow inmates: Chef Jeffrey Ramsees (a.k.a. Animal the Cannibal), Walter Harris (a.k.a. the Taxidermist), Bradford Young DDS (a.k.a. Dr. Suave), and Rocco the Clown (backstory unknown, but at least he also has a trade), specially prepared for them by the arrogant horndog owner. Doll Face saw to that.

Against their better judgement, Laurie and Morgan are joining their oversexed co-workers Christina and Jason and a couple of other dudes on a trip to the horror show. As you might expect, it all looks unusually realistic. The cops will not be coming anytime soon thanks to some strategic crank calls received by the spectacularly unintuitive Deputy Doyle. However, his boss, Sheriff Kate will start putting the pieces together. Since she has some history with the psychos, she understands what they are dealing with.

I’m sure you’re rolling your eyes right now, but Funhouse is way more fun than you think. Screenwriter Ben Begley nails the late 1990s Kevin Williamson attitude and dexterously mines the macabre situations for dark (occasionally gory) humor. Renee Dorian and Matt Angel are also surprisingly engaging as the innocent Laurie and earnest Morgan. Chasty Ballesteros continues to show major scream queen potential as Christine. Maybe next time she will even get to be the final girl. Of course, Robert Englund does his thing as the Warden, while former sitcom star Jere Burns’ Mental Manny is surprisingly sinister.

Palmer and Begley give the conventions of 1980s slasher films enough twists to draw blood. While not as inventive as Todd Strauss-Schulson’s The Final Girls, it maintains a suitably manic energy level. Recommended with unexpected enthusiasm for horror fans, Funhouse Massacre opens this Friday (11/13) in the Tri-State Area at the AMC Jersey Gardens.

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