The Funhouse Massacre presents itself as just another indiscriminate indie-horror flick, but as someone who’s been fooled by many similarly crafted duds, I can assure you that this roadside slaughterhouse is a much more enjoyable beast. Writer Ben Begley, who also plays a bumbling deputy, is not only able to craft a horror flick that’s loads of hellish fun, but this colorful massacre remain consistently funny throughout – not an easy task for scary comedies these days. While Begley’s tongue-in-cheek antics become a bit overplayed in a few instances, it fares far better than most jovial copycats of the same ilk, and holds its own against modern gore-chucklers with much bigger budgets. In the vein of a much more over-the-top The Houses October Built, The Funhouse Massacre is one of 2015’s hidden horror gems despite a smaller-format rollout, loaded with guts and bursting with psycho-carnie ferocity.
When I think haunted attractions, I immediately see hayrides, funnel cake, and costumed actors scoring cheap jump-out scares. The Macon County Funhouse strives to up the game, though, basing their various themed rooms around local serial killing legends who reside in a state asylum not too far away. In the spirit of Halloween chaos, someone frees the killers right before Macon County opens their attraction, and unlucky crew members are “relieved” by each scare zone’s living inspiration. Droves of adrenaline junkies pour into the funhouse for a good scare, but have absolutely no idea that each kill they witness isn’t just stellar special effects. True horror event lovers yearn to be pushed far past their limits, and they’ll certainly get their thrills in Macon County.
Begley and director Andy Palmer hit upon a wildly freeing scenario that allows consequence-free killing for the first half of the movie, and then contained anarchy when manipulative mastermind Mental Manny (Jere Burns) announces each lunatic’s presence. In addition to the crazed cultist, there’s a deadly dentist who goes by Dr. Suave (Sebastian Siegel), a cannibalistic chef nicknamed Animal (E.E. Bell), a career-ending wrestler named Rocco (Mars Crain), a terrifying taxidermist (Clint Howard), and a doll-faced clown killer (Candice De Visser) who stitches her victim’s openings closed before death.
Together, these deviants comprise a team of professional killers with unique methods of deadly entertainment, whose personalities layer to create actual villains, not just fear-worthy monsters. Each character is wackier than the last, making The Funhouse Massacre feel like a Saturday morning cartoon meant for excited horror fans – just with more dangling organs and sliced-opened gullets.
In the same respect, each vicim is more contrived than the last, yet their obvious horror roles gel effortlessly given every actor’s ability to work freely in a world focused on horrific comedy. From Matt Angel’s awkward pining over the virgin final girl Laurie (Renee Dorian), to Christina’s (Chasty Ballesteros) sexpot debauchery, every stereotype is represented. The jock, the stoners, the nerd, the minority – but who cares when each character flows with the rhythmic beats of self-indulgent laughs?
Attendees are mostly dressed in costumes, which gives Gerardo (Erick Chavarria) the chance to be more than just the token Latino – he’s Machete! These getups give each character a little more flavor, and the costume-based laughs are used sparingly enough to make them count when utilized. Sure, Angel’s stammering and Begley’s ineptitude finds itself overplayed in some scenes, but unlike most indie horror, all the actors here bring their A-game, and make sure we’re never taken out of the haunted atmosphere by wooden, lifeless performances.
Of course, amusement park horror wouldn’t be complete without tremendous amounts of gore, which The Funhouse Massacre has no problem delivering. Your expected throat slits and broken necks squirt liquid death, but more devious slayings like a bathroom stall coathanger puncture elevate the stakes of Palmer’s direction. Of course, it wouldn’t be an enjoyably freakish sideshow without a few themed deaths as well, which Rocco ensures by bringing his Final–Fantasy-sized hammer down on an unfortunate soul whose head is plopped on the bottom of a strongman carnival game (hit the pad, try and make the bell ring on top). There’s no shortage of dentist-drilling, stomach-gutting and face-stiching insanity when Begley’s miscreants start offing funhouse guests – a feat that once again challenges today’s popular studio films in terms of special effects execution.
Without fail, here’s another fresh horror concept that’s ignored by studios in favor of another crappy remake – yet The Funhouse Massacre is 10x more fun than any mainstream horror junk that’s been tossed our way this year. Begley not only shows a talent for comedic plotting throughout this murderous maze, but a very obvious love for horror cinema respects its audience instead of leeches off them. With cameos by Robert Englund, Courtney Gains, and Clint Howard, we’re called back to retro-horror that’s all about gleefully carving up patrons with a sick sense of humor, hitting upon nostalgic 80s notes that are more than welcome. So much creativity is injected into each torturous scene, from a psychedelic neon tunnel leading into Rocco’s domain, to a pearl-white classroom that the doll-face killer treats as a new canvas for her bloody artwork. You just can’t help but fall for this slasherific throwback to the golden age of horror.
It’s a treat to find something this sinfully sweet in the indie horror game, and it’s our job to spread the good word so success stories like this one get the recognition they deserve. Remake A Nightmare On Elm Street as many times as you want – but don’t push great original content like The Funhouse Massacre to the side in the process.
The Funhouse Massacre is a charismatic sideshow from Hell that horror fans shouldn't miss. You'll laugh, you'll scream, and you'll have an absolute blast with each scare zone that this killer attraction has to offer.